The flight back home from Shanghai was one of the most disorienting flights I’ve ever been on. I like to stay up all night right before I travel so I’ll be able to sleep on the plane, but this time my plan backfired. My flight was delayed by three hours, so I was stuck in the Shanghai airport, fighting to stay awake (this actually isn’t the first time this has happened. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but I am a stubborn child).
I ended up watching the Conjuring on my laptop to pass the time. Jumping and screaming in terror is much better than falling asleep and missing your flight. I highly recommend watching scary movies during layovers.
Anyways, my flight from Shanghai to Chicago left at around 8:30 pm on a Thursday evening. Every twenty minutes or so I would open the window shutter to look outside at the ocean and the stars. At night near the mainland you can see the lights of all the fishing boats and everything else is so dark that they might as well be their own constellations. Flying over Japan at night was especially beautiful because I could see all the lights from the islands and the pathways that connect them in the water. That, on top of it being a cloudless night, meant that I had ample reason to be constantly looking out the window.
Also, there was complementary wine on this flight, which means that I wasn’t just looking out the window because I was bored; I was (drunkenly) blasting my eyeballs with beauty from the sky every time I opened the window shade.
I don’t know why I didn’t just leave the shade up. I think all the drunk people in my head decided that we couldn’t handle the intensity of that view for more than a few minutes at a time. In any case, every ten or fifteen minutes I would take off my headphones, raise the window shade, gape in awe at the sky and ocean, and then close the shade and go back to the squid documentary I was watching.
Eventually I got sleepy, so I closed my eyes and dozed off. I don’t know how long I was asleep, but when I woke up, the first thing I wanted to do was look out the window. Drunk and bleary-eyed, I lifted the shade, expecting to see more stars. Instead, I was hit in the face by a blinding shaft of light and I threw my hands up over my face as I squinted at the window in confusion. Why was the sun out? We left Shanghai at almost 9 o’clock at night.
It was actually a very beautiful sunrise. The sun was just coming up and the light was reflecting off the ocean. The clouds were streaked with red and the ocean was a shimmering gold surface that stretched into the distance as far as I could see. A sane, sober person might have taken a moment to appreciate the beauty of it all, but since I was neither of those things, I mumbled, “Well, that’s confusing,” and then slammed the shade down and went back to sleep.
The next time I woke up, I slowly lifted the shade and peeked under it, expecting to be blinded again. I think we were still over the ocean, but the sun had already gone down and it was dark again, except for a faint blue glow on the horizon. I had no idea what to make of this. I had gone from pitch darkness to sunrise to sunset in about 8 or 9 hours.
Flying is weird.
Finally, the plane landed in Chicago at 8:17 PM on a Thursday night. The same Thursday night that I had left Shanghai on at just after 8:30. I remember wanting to run up and down the aisles screaming, “It worked! It worked!” but people were pulling their luggage out of the overhead bins, so instead I sat there quietly and contemplated. Now that I was a time traveler, what did I want to do with the extra 13 minutes I had been given?
It doesn’t really matter what I wanted to do with those extra 13 minutes, because I ended up using them to wait for enough people to get out so I could reach my luggage.
In the end, it took about a thousand dollars and fifteen hours for me to travel 13 minutes back in time. During those extra 13 minutes, I was poor and cramped and a little grumpy.
Time travel really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.