Sunday, December 02, 2007

Flight From Hell

I was in a bad mood to start with. That morning, after having just finished applying my make-up, the tears started flowing, allowing freshly applied mascara to course down my cheeks. I didn’t want to go back home so soon, I didn’t want to leave FP again, and I'd spent hours doing my make-up only to find I looked even worse than when I started. And so the tears flowed freely and they never really stopped for the rest of the day. I’m pretty sure I lost a good few litres of water that day due to my eye leakage.

At the airport there were simply Too Many People. FP and I sat in the café surrounded by tables full of rowdy Scottish men in kilts and football shirts. They were loud, drunk and vulgar. One of the men spilt a glass bottle of beer on the floor, laughed and walked away from the scene of the crime without a care in the world while the rest of his crew laughed as one of the staff slipped on the sodden floor ('ha ha ha Jimmy yer a pure riot by ra way'). It was the first time I felt ashamed of my own nation and it made me cringe. I gave a weary sigh as I realised that I would have to spend an hour and a half on the same flight as these men and, because I was officially having a V Bad Day, I figured I would probably have to sit next to them on the plane too.

As I said goodbye to FP I bit my lip with a force until I tasted the metallic blood in my mouth. But there was no stopping those tears. They brimmed my eyes until I couldn’t see anymore, before spilling over when I blinked. We said our goodbyes, embraced and he turned and left, stopping to look over his shoulder one last time. My God, I thought, I love him so much.

I avoided eye contact with everyone, keeping my head down, and swearing under my breath. I beeped as I walked through the beepy thing at security and endured the feeling up done by an over-keen lady with cropped dark hair gelled to her skull and a generous bosom who I would put £50 on being a lesbian. Up the inside of one leg and down the inside of the other she touched me up and I sighed as I watched another airport official raking through my bag, tipping the tampons I'd stashed in the side pocket out onto the desk for all and sundry to see. Of course he put none of it back himself, no, that was left for me to do, which is impossible to do in any sort of organised and dignified fashion when you’re being forced to ‘move along, move along’ by Security.

Thank God my plane is expected to leave on time.

The drunk football fans were sitting in a tangled mass of kilts and sporrans, their red faces laughing at vile jokes and such (‘That burd was a pure beezer by ra way, a’d have her any day so a wid’). I avoided them and sat on the opposite side of the lounge until my flight was called.

I was pleased I’d paid extra for that Priority Boarding Pass in the end because the flight was full to overflowing. Who would have thought that a flight leaving at 11pm on a Friday night would be so full? I scurried onto the plane and hid myself away in a seat at the front, buried my nose in a book and avoided eye contact with all the passengers who walked by. Soon the two seats next to me were taken up by two – Oh in the name of…it was Jimmy the drunk who had smashed the beer bottle and another of the kilted football fans. I bloody well knew it. Could today get any worse?!

Of course it could get worse. Things can always get worse. Always.

This day had now been officially downgraded to a V V Bad Day.

Jimmy sat next to me. He was overweight and frankly should have had the right to two airline seats – he was taking up half of my seat anyway. I was forced to squeeze my body tight against the wall of the plane, my face pressed against the little porthole window, and I tried hard to hold my breath for as long as possible to avoid breathing in the melange of stale sweat and alcohol that was emanating from these punks’ pores.

Jimmy and his mate, who turned out to be called Rosco, if you were interested, were not peaceful passengers. At one point Rosco turned to his friend and slurred ‘Yer ma best mate, ye ken that?’ which would have been dead sweet in other circumstances but I was a tad worried in case I was going to be forced into witnessing the confession of one man’s undying love for another. The rest of their group were dotted about the plane, and the pair next to me enjoyed lengthy conversations shouted to and fro at full volume.

At one point there was a lady who was causing a fuss towards the front of the plane. She was standing in the aisle having a full blown dispute with a young air stewardess, complaining about something to do with her bag not fitting into the overhead compartment and God damn it she wanted to move seats and she wanted to move seats now. Her face was contorted into some kind of permanent grimace and there were several veins jumping in her forehead. She was being totally unreasonable, and I could feel that horrible bubble of anger beginning to boil in the pit of my own stomach. Why doesn’t she just shut up? Just sit the hell down and stow your bag under the seat in front. I wanted to stand up and slap her. And then Jimmy’s mate Rosco muttered under his breath, ‘Just shut up and sit down. Man, what an arsehole,’ to which several of the people surrounding us voiced hushed noises in agreement.

I decided there and then that Rosco was a better man than I had first given him credit for.

An hour into the flight and things seemed to have settled down. The football fans had all either fallen asleep or were just beginning to hit their hangovers so weren’t in the mood to talk. Jimmy was snoring next to me, which was a pain, but certainly preferable to his guffaw that startled me and made me jump. I just hoped he wouldn’t end up laying his head on my shoulder, because if he touched me I couldn’t be held responsible for my actions.

There was a beep and a camp steward said over the tannoy, ‘Ladies and Gentleman could I have your attention for a moment, this is an emergency.’ My heart froze. ‘If there is a passenger on board who is a doctor or nurse could you please alert the crew by pressing the call button on the panel above your head.’

At that heads bobbed up from sleeping positions and eyes searched for the sick person, or indeed if there were any passengers who pressed the call button above their heads. There was one. I tried to look behind me towards the back of the plane where there were several stewardesses and passengers forming a small crowd but I felt like a nosey old woman so I had to stop. I crossed my fingers and hoped it wasn’t serious.

The air crew were rushing up and down the aisle, one carrying a glass of water, another carrying an oxygen canister, some stopping to reassure other passengers. The camp steward made another announcement; was there anybody on board with a first aid kit?

Bloody hell, I thought. Aren’t they supposed to carry their own first aid kit? I became slightly agitated. Nervously I gripped the one arm rest that wasn’t sunk into the side of one of Jimmy’s ample love handles and watched as my knuckles slowly turned white.

We were around thirty minutes away from landing in Glasgow when the tannoy came on once more. This time it was the captain. ‘We have a medical emergency. We need to divert to London, Stansted.’

Now, I had a great deal of sympathy for the medical emergency sufferer. But in the end it took longer than thirty minutes to land at Stansted because we had to circle the airport while waiting for air traffic control to allow us to land. I wondered whether it may have been a mistake to have chosen to land here instead of just continuing on to Glasgow where we would have arrived earlier. What was worse was even after we had landed in London the paramedics came onto the plane and treated the guy right there in front of everyone while we all sat waiting and being nosey bastards trying to get a look to see what was going on. Poor guy.

After an hour of this, Jimmy and his crew began to get impatient, and I am ashamed to admit that I was too. The fact was we weren’t allowed off the plane. We found this out when a young French man (who I despised straight away because he was evidently an eejit) had immediately stood up from his seat as the plane had landed and had tried to push his way out past the paramedics who were only just entering. ‘I need a cigarette’, he’d screamed out. Hellooo there’s a medical emergency and you’re pushing your way past the doctors for a fag? You selfish gobshite. He begged the staff several times before finally going back to his seat in a huff. Half an hour later he tried again. Fifteen minutes after that he tried again. I wished they’d let him off and then left him behind in London.

We were allowed to stretch our legs by walking the teensy tiny aisle of the plane and we could use the toilet but I was boxed in by my friend Jimmy and my bum was completely numb. I literally could not feel anything from the waist down and when I wiggled my toes it sent an electrical current of pain to my fingers. That was kind of freaky.

Eventually the paramedics and the guy who was ill disembarked the plane, around two hours after we’d landed in Stansted. I tried hard not to blame the boy, after all it really wasn’t his fault, but I bet the poor lad could feel the blame radiating from the majority of passenger’s pores as he left.

Another forty-five minutes later and we were still there, sitting quietly on the runway. We were waiting for fuel. And when we had fuel, we were waiting for some ‘agent’, although it beats me what that was all about. And finally, finally! we headed for Glasgow.

I arrived home at 4 am, my poor mother had waited for me at the airport all that time. I raced through the corridors of the building in order to get to the front of the queue for Passport Control. Fifteen minutes in that queue stuck next to Jimmy, Rosco and several of their other kilted pals and everyone was in foul moods. One of the kilted boys stated rather loudly ‘Aw fur f**k sake man, they let 30,000 Polish intae the country, how come they’re bein’ sae strict noo?’ Which I thought was rather rude.

As I recounted my hideous flight from hell to my mother in the car on our hour long journey home, she couldn’t help but laugh. Rolling her eyes she turned to me and said, ‘it could have been worse…’ she then told me about a colleague of hers, Anna, who was on a flight to Australia when a man died on the plane. Just like that. Just stopped living. The plane was then delayed for 24 hours, passengers were not allowed off the plane for over five.

The worst thing?

Anna was sitting next to the man when he died.


Zannie said...

Aww, that sounds horrific. I get antsy on planes at the best of times, hate sitting about not able to do much but read the incredibly boring in-flight magazine over and over again. Alternatively you can examine the safety sheet, which, let's face it, if the plane is about to crash, the brace position really isn't going to be much use. Ah well, you're back in sunny Glasgow now -bloody freezing don't you think?! I think you're very brave to cope as well as you do in between seeing FP, don't worry, he'll be over here before you know it and the grand introduction can take place! Love ya lots x x x

Ghosty said...

I have never met a woman more in need of her own private jet. :)

ColbyPants said...

that sucks. . .

Is it bat that I was sitting here drinking a beer in a scottish soccer jersey(hoops, #25, Nakamura). Am I a bad person? do you hate me now?

Lesley said...

It's at times like that you wish you'd taken the train. (PS. Thanks for reminding me of that great insult "gobshite". I should use it more often)

Teuchter said...

Living away from Scotland, I spend a lot of time remembering my compatriots very fondly - Wha's like us, etc.
One forgets that Scots can behave just as badly as every other race. Your seat companions sounded charming - NOT.

What a total nightmare of a flight.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Zannie I can't wait for the grand introduction, it's been a long time coming!

Ghosty you are completely correct my friend. Perhaps I should open a paypal account and start up a private jet fund?

Tom you have made me so proud! Right now I should be off Scottish folk and their drinking habits and rowdiness and football strips and loud voices but I'm just too damn proud of you! You really did choose the best Scottish team to support :-D

Lesley haha the word 'gobshite' comes in handy when faced with a load of - well, gobshites!

Teuchter I'm the same, when I'm in France I honestly believe with all my heart that the Scots are always polite, always friendly, always a good laugh, so it's disappointing when you realise there are exceptions. Booooo. But of course they were footie fans. That explains it all.

T.D. Newton said...

WOW! Count your blessings, I guess, right? Usually the worst thing when I have to travel by air is a crying and screaming baby. I've seen a few flying drunks in my time, two even sat next to me once on a flight to Las Vegas (but since they were female, attractive and buying, I didn't complain, not that I was interested). I do try to read but mostly during flights I sleep. I don't get motion sick, I get motion tired. Sometimes I wish they would put me next to the annoying people just so they can save someone the frustration; I promise I wouldn't notice.

It is inevitable that I will get annoyed every time I fly because there are those people in the universe who think one carry-on is too few. There are people who are literally afraid to check their bags for fear of some mis-routing problem. There are people who will stand in the aisle, shoving their bag in the overhead bin, completely ignoring the huge line forming behind them and thereby completely nullifying the "boarding by zone" system.

I could rant for days about this so I sympathize. I haven't traveled to Europa just yet (Toronto was my first International flight) so I can't really speak to your experience but I've been flying for quite a few years now and the frustration is inevitable. I think that's why Valium was invented.

I still love your vocabulary but other people beat me to the punch.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Ha ha! Well I wish you'd have been on my flight so you could have taken Jimbo and Rosco off my hands! Personally I couldn't fly when drunk, I think I might feel a tad ill, not that I get sick in planes, but it just wouldn't feel right. I think I'd worry because if I did feel ill during the times when the seatbelt sign is on I wouldn't be able to go to the toilet. That would make me really anxious. No, it's not for me drinking and flying.

And man I DETEST those folk that stand in the middle of the aisle stuffing their too-big bag into the evidently too-small overhead compartment oblivious to the mounting queue of foot-tapping people behind them. That drives me potty!

sugar007 said...

Am I right in guessing this is one of them low budget flights, that I love and hate in equal measure. As a frequent flyer, I never get this sort of shenanigans on 'proper' airlines (stroking wood furiously as I speak) but with low budget ones anything is fair game!!

T.D. Newton said...

Coming back to Denver after a layover in Atlanta, I had a drinking-and-flying experience with beer (Vegas was different). It was incredibly difficult to make it to the restroom so I would not suggest it to anyone.

Sometimes I think they should just do away with overhead bins entirely. If you can't fit your bag under the seat in front of you, it's too big to be brought with you. If it's not a purse/bookbag or laptop, you don't need it. You're not going to be showering and changing clothes while on the damn plane. Your stuff can wait.

Anonymous said...

My my, what a flight! You'd think post Sept. 11th blahblah blah they would at least carry a first aid kit!

Oh, yeah maybe they were but they at to give it up at the custom cause it probably contained weapons of mass destruction, such as scissor and stuff :D

Poor you... you seem to go back and forth a lot, and leaving any side is never fun. I know.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Sugar you are correct in thinking it was a low budget airline - Ryanair to be precise. I like the fact that I only had to pay 1 pence for my seat but they really do feck up on a regular basis don't they!

TD I want to agree with you about the bag thing but helllooo didn't you see my bag meme! Us girls carry a whole ton of shit with us on a normal day, that shit multiplies by 10 when travelling!

Zhu you crack me up! I totally agree with you, what kind of plane doesn't carry a friggin' first aid box?! That freaks me out...

T.D. Newton said...

Even if your bag is a tote size, it will still fit under the seat in front of you. I'm talking about rolling suitcases. If your bag has wheels by necessity, it needs to be checked.

Princesse Ecossaise said...

Well that's true. But I remember back in the day when I was allowed to carry on a backpack as well as my handbag I often had to stuff the backpack in the overhead bin and the handbag underneath the seat in front. The thing is that they only let you check in 15kg of luggage and anything above that must be paid for in extortionate amounts so if you're taking quite a lot of stuff with you you've no choice but to carry it on. I blame the airlines. Man, they do my head in!!

ColbyPants said...

I just haaaate flying. The country I live in is two damn big, which makes just going to visit my parents (a 1234 mile trip) a giant, airplane riding, ordeal!

But what I really wanted to say is that Celtic advanced in the Champions League Today!



Princesse Ecossaise said...

Hip hooray hip hooray! 'Mon the hoops!

It's so crazy to me to think that although your parents live in the same country as you they are further from you than FP and I are from each other when I'm in Scotland (that make sense?). America is HUGE.