In life, I have always been an anxious traveler. Paranoid about missing connections, or getting delayed on my way to a mode of transport which will not wait for me, I tend to build hours and hours of redundant time into any journey I plan to take.
I’ll arrive at the train station thirty minutes before my train departs, booked on a train that gets to the airport five hours before I am due to fly, safe in the knowledge that even with several delays and cancellations I can still arrive at the departures lounge without having to watch the clock as I go through security.
I would always arrive way too early, and have to sit around in an airport terminal eating overpriced full English breakfast, than risk even a moment of panic that I might miss my flight and ruin a planned trip. I once agreed to an eight hour layover in Toronto, out of fear of missing a one hour connection. i know how to waste time waiting for a flight.
So, it seems oddly perfect that right now, on Microsoft Flight Simulator launch day, I am sat around with an estimated eight hour wait to take my first in game flight.
So, how did this happen? Well, in short, the preload on Steam for Microsoft Flight Sim on Steam only downloaded around 1GB of game files, with the remaining 92 GB of files needing to be downloaded on launch day, once the game was booted up, slowly, direct from Microsoft’s own servers. The downloads are not only slow, but also bottle-necked by the fact that seemingly only a certain number of players are able to download the game at a single time. I spent 90 minutes resetting the game, just to get it to start the eight hour download it was going to need to work through.
So, now it’s a question of how to pass that time. Thankfully, I have spent enough lengthy mornings in airport terminals waiting for flights to take off that I am completely prepared to make this an immersive part of my pre-flight experience.
Firstly, I went and had a very slow and lengthy breakfast. A couple of slices of overdone toast, some fruit tea, and some endless social media scrolling to pad out the time. I make sure to really drag out breakfast by sipping on my tea long after it’s cold, and trying to force an interest in the news.
I notice my download window has closed itself. I ask the flight attendant what has happened, and they inform me that they overbooked the flight. I will have to join the queue to fly right back from the beginning.
From there, I put on a podcast, and just sort of walk around in circles, just because I am tired of being sat down. I walk past the same set of rooms multiple times, not going into them for anything, just sort of looking at them as I walk past. The true departure lounge experience.
Then, I attempt to get some work done. But, to make the airport experience more authentic, I wedge strangers suitcases to either side of my legs so I have no room to move, and play a bunch of recordings of crowd noises. Perfect working conditions. I put my laptop on my knees awkwardly and try to pretend I’m getting something productive done. I know I’ll probably need to redo this work once the noise has stopped.
When will my new departure time be? Who knows. It keeps getting pushed back further and further. Airport staff are uncommunicative. Everyone is eager to just get sat down on the plane already.
I know I ate only a few hours ago, but i go and have another, slightly more filling meal. I mean, there’s basically nothing to do here, and i can’t exactly leave, so I guess I’ll just eat away the hours. I prepare a large and fancy drink, so I’ll have something to keep me busy, and sat down, for a bit longer.
I look over to my second monitor, where I have a video of planes taking off and landing at my local airport. I sit and watch it for a while, much like i might watch planes while waiting for a flight at a physical airport, and imagine how lovely it would be to not be stuck here, but already up in the air.
I look to Twitter, the closest thing I have to a selection of fellow passengers, and am almost relieved to see they’re as frustrated as I am. It seems like everyone is in the same boat, delayed flights, overbooked flights, aircraft technical issues, and huge delays to their journey. I see everyone grumbling. Not because they hate travel, but because they’re eager to get up into the air. The journey is so close, yet so far, and that’s a tough feeling to manage.
I see the staff who manage Microsoft Flight Sim’s departures dealing with a huge queue of people asking for support. I feel bad for them. There’s only so much they can do right now to help people get up in the air. They’re trying their best, a lot of people are asking a lot of them right now.
I look back at the clocks, and see I still have hours to go. I would just go to sleep, but I have been warned that the download client will close if your monitor goes inactive. I can’t risk sleeping too long and missing my flight entirely. So, I resign myself to watching YouTube on my phone and trying not to focus too much on the wait.
Eventually, I realize the answer. While I can’t take flight myself yet, I can enjoy the experience vicariously through others who did manage to board their flights. I boot up Twitch, and find some nice, calming videos of other people playing Microsoft Flight sim to pass the time. Sure, i can’t get into the air myself yet, but there are so many other people out there as passionate about air travel as me, and maybe a little of that excited energy might rub off on me. Maybe that’ll scratch the itch, while I wait to take flight.
So, I pull up a Twitch stream on my phone, chill out to the calming sounds of a cross Atlantic flight, safe in the knowledge that soon, my wait will be over, and I’ll be able to board that flight myself. I’ll just tuck into some overpriced chocolate bars from the local corner shop shop (for that authentic duty free feeling, this is work, I swear).