I boarded the flight out of Chicago in awe that I was really on my way back to Hong Kong. At the plane door, a male flight attendant greeted me with a smiling and energetic Happy New Year. His look was fresh, clean, confident, ready. All that in one greeting, yep! After a smile and a look of pleasant surprise, I greeted him brightly too.
Earlier that morning I found myself back and forth between methodical final packing and small bursts of euphoria in anticipation of this trip. It had been 20 years since I boarded a flight to Hong Kong to spend a year abroad as a Rotary scholar. Little did I know when I boarded that flight, I would choose to stay in Hong Kong for six years.
To spend New Year’s Eve at 33,000 feet this year was a new thing for me and a perfect way to launch into a New Year that I intend to fill with good stuff (meaning, experiences, people). It was a full flight, so in booking this ticket, I learned I was late to the party when it came to knowing that New Year’s Eve is a cost-effective way to fly.
The mandatory pre-takeoff narcolepsy set in, and when I opened my eyes we were flying down the runway and I was able to experience lift-off. I love this part of a flight — when your body is pushed back into the seat, legs are still comfortably relaxed and wonder washes over you. Thank God for the brilliant minds who engineer all things aviation, allowing a lumbering 747 packed with people and baggage to lift off like a regal silver bird.
I was skipping out on the traditional festivities by flying on New Year’s Eve, but I still wanted to have a little champagne to mark the occasion. Only a short time after take-off, I heard one flight attendant tell the ladies in the row in front of me that there was already no champagne left. Hm.
I turned on my light and read for a while then got up to stretch my legs. Near the back of the plane, I asked another flight attendant if it was true they were already out of champagne, adding that I thought it would have been fun to clink glasses with my row-mates. She said conspiratorially, “I will see what I can find.”
About 45 minutes later, she showed up at my row. “There you are! I have been looking for you!”
She handed me three small chilled bottles of champagne and some plastic champagne glasses. I passed one of the bottles to the ladies in the row in front of me and returned one to the gracious flight attendant to give to someone else who may request it.
I poured a small glass for each of my row-mates — one who was on her way to Singapore on sabbatical and another who was returning home to Shenzhen after six months of study in the United States. We clinked our tiny bubbles and wished each other a Happy New Year 2013.