Monday, 16 August 2010

On board

I don't know about you, but I always step on board an aircraft with trepidation. The way I look at it, this could be the last few hours of my life, so I am right to be cautious.

Early on, there is that brief practice session for how you need to behave in the event of an emergency - but this early moment is called getting to your seat in economy class. Elbowing your fellow passengers in the face, assaulting them with your hand baggage, blocking all their ingenious attempts to pass you - simply by the strategic placement of an enormous backside - these are all methods I might need later in getting to the emergency doors first, so I try them out now while there is still time.

Then there is the fear. You might be forced to sit next to someone who can only sit comfortably if they sit in half your seat too, or someone who makes chuffing sounds, or someone who snores, or glances at you then turns away in disgust. Or maybe someone who scratches themselves before examining the undersides of their fingernails and, while you watch in horror, glances at you and pauses, with their fingers hovering about their lips. All these are true of family members too, so I choose wisely in the seat allocations.

And if I choose the lesser of the optional evils and sit next to the mini human who needs two seats and is capable of making buffalo sounds while swinging off doorhandles, then I must find a hundred things to do, just in case I need to be motherly, and distract them while we take off. Or maybe while we taxi back to the terminal because one of the passengers has sustained a head injury already and needs to be offloaded to have their head examined.

With an hour to kill while their bags are offloaded from the plane, and ours hopefully returned, I can peruse the seating space I have, which I note in passing is probably less than the space I will get for a coffin, and I begin a tour of the delights to sustain us for a twelve hour journey.

Admittedly these are vastly improved from the time even I have travelled, but they are yet still meagre at two buttons, a non-turnoffable overhead lightbulb, and a flip-down tray. Nevertheless I go about declaring these the solutions to all our lifetime problems, probably as if they were to deliver us the second coming.

I cry to my fellow passenger who is already deeply engrossed in button pumping, This button will make the film happen! My fellow passenger glances at me in disgust and scornfully says she already has the entertainment system worked out thank you very much and it would assist her greatly if I moved over a bit and turned off my overhead light.

After contemplating the buttons, the space my left leg requires and how that is mathematically impossible unless I bend it at right angles two inches above the calf, I can look forward to the inflight meal.

Now this has much improved, hasn't it? I have learned not to choose vegan, because that is the option where they remove everything edible from the plastic tray, including the bread roll, packet of peanuts and salad dressing, then pass you an apple. Dinner comes early, delivered by a crew member who looks like he holds down a part-time job as a nightclub bouncer. The gash on his forehead is probably last night's clientele, or maybe the offloaded passenger who never got further than Heathrow.

So we travel. I sit there half dozing, twitching, bending my left leg round corners, watching scenes of Shutter Island backwards, drifting in and out of consciousness, passing time with paranoid schizophrenics, cabin bouncers, migrating apples, and buffaloes who snuffle and grunt, and all the time anticipating death or safe arrival in a house on an island, up a hill with a town below, and a jungle behind.


Rachel M. said...

Perfect summary of economy travel on long flight!

sharon said...

Just add the bit where, after those 12 hours, you get to sit in a foreign airport for an indecent amount of time, before getting on another plane and going through the whole sorry saga again! And there you have another reason for my unwillingness to 'go back home' for a holiday! However, lottery win and first class travel and I'll be on my way ;-)

Hope the new home is comfortable and everyone settles down quickly.

Grit said...

hello people, thank you for staying with me!

kellyi said...

Glad you got there OK.

I am now put off travelling by air with small people completely

emma said...

Your post "unknowing" just moved me to tears.

You are supermum. You can help your girl transition if anyone can.

sharon said...

Re 'unknowing'. So sorry Tiger is finding the move so hard. I'm sure this will improve given a bit more time. What did she enjoy when you were in HK for a holiday? Would visits to those places help to reassure her that HK has its benefits?

Rachel M. said...

Re 'unknowing'. I'm so sorry Grit, I feel so much for Tiger. Now might not be the time to tell her but this is the year of the Tiger in Asia, something good has to come out of this year for her!

Green V-Neck said...

It sounds so hard right now. Stay strong, Mama Grit, and don't smoke too much.

Grit said...

hi people, thank you for your comments. i am turning them off few a few days on my Tiger posts while I focus on her, and we make this bumpy transition. but your thoughts are much appreciated. the funny ones, all the more. x

VisforLisa said...

I hope you find some smooth to go with your Grit... I feel like I'm missing you - but I am very glad you're still here. All very peculiar xx

Kelly said...

Hi Grit. Just catching up, as I have been madly proofreading the past couple of weeks. Oh, I do hope Tiger starts to like it better. Brian was 9 when we moved to Victoria, the oldest, and he hated hated hated leaving his life in Toronto. I thought he would never forgive us, but eventually he did. He's 22 now, and moving back to Toronto, as a grownup, next year, when he graduates university. I'm happy for him, but I'm glad we kept him with us when he was 9, even though he hated us.

We lived on Cheung Chau for a year when we were first married. HK can be frustrating, loud, and fascinating. I'm so glad you all picked an island to be based on. I think we went to Lamma once, but I have no memory of it. Hint--when I was there, the ferry terminal English bookshop was excellent, and the American library was a lifesaver. Hope they are still there. Good luck, and have fun.

Kitty said...

Hey you. I have just been catching up with your posts and wanted to say that not only do I admire your parenting, but that you write so well - with honesty, strength & integrity. Hang on in there; I know that feeling of frustration at not being able to make it better for one's child. And the feeling of guilt for one's part in their distress. x