It was as I lay on the floor in Singapore airport with my legs in the air that I vowed not to get into an aeroplane again for a very, very long time.
I was stretching after six hours of economy-induced agony. Feet above my head, I attempted to shake off the invisible boa constrictor that had wrapped itself around my calves during the flight and to deflate the balloons now attached to my ankles. “Never again”, I thought to myself as I kicked my legs back and forwards, catching the (bemused) attention of the elderly couple sat opposite me.
Sadly, I was about to board a 14-hour flight. Even more tragically, I hadn’t been upgraded to First Class.
Australia is a wonderful country and I feel incredibly lucky to have spent two weeks there visiting family recently. But long distance air travel is the disappointment to an ended birthday party, the hangover to a good night out and the pain after a won race. You aren’t allowed to complain, but it sucks.
It started at security with a beep and the ensuing invasion of my personal space. I think it was my bunny rabbit pendant that set off the alarm. Not exactly the talisman of a terrorist, but I suppose when safety is at stake one mustn’t make a fuss.
After passing the security test, it was through to the gate. We sat and waited, until that magic moment when, like dolphins detecting sonar rays, a silent, invisible signal told one passenger to stand up. A Mexican wave spread around the departure gate and a queue suddenly trailed around the chairs where the passengers had just been sat. There is just something about a gathering of people that makes you feel like the child left out of the party unless you join in.
“We will shortly be boarding the plane by seat numbers, will you please return to your seats,” said the overhead announcement. Everyone sat down.
“May passengers with young children please begin boarding at gate 22.”
Everyone stood up. (“Your young children either don’t exist or are locked in your hand luggage. Either way you are not convincing parents.” I thought to myself.)
After the passengers with young children came the row numbers. If your seat is at the front of the plane, chances are they will start calling from the back. And vice versa. Naturally.
Once I had eventually been herded onto the plane, it was time for the real fun to start. My favourite part of any long-haul journey is the humiliation of walking through First Class. I feel somewhat like a circus act arranged for the amusement of the champagne-sipping First Classers. “Look at the poor people, how quaint,” their faces say as they gobble their Beluga caviar and stretch back in their seats/beds. OK, perhaps that is an exaggeration. Maybe they don’t serve caviar.
On the other side of the economy-curtain (in case we steal any champagne) I found my seat. I was sat in the middle seat, which meant being chained there until it was absolutely necessary to go to the toilet. This happened when the woman next to me was rather inconveniently asleep. I managed (rather athletically, I might add) to climb onto my seat and leap over her and into the aisle without her batting an eyelid. On the way back I was not so successful. The poor woman woke to find me hovering over her – one leg in my chair and one leg in the aisle, true splits style and nearly sat on her. To make matters worse she didn’t speak English so my ensuing apologies didn’t go down too well. I think I frightened her.
I then pulled my eye-mask over my face and pretended to be asleep for the rest of the journey.
When I arrived in London my hair was aeroplane static, my face bore the signs of 24 hours without washing or reapplying my make-up, my ears were popping and I was temporarily deaf, my feet looked like puffer fish and I felt exhausted and disoriented. Rather as if I had just spent the last few hours in a large tumble dryer.
Never again, I thought to myself.
I am writing this sat on my bed after several weeks trapped here by glandular fever. Outside the sky is the colour of a sigh and it is raining. I watch a plane rip through a particularly grey cloud. And suddenly I would give anything to be sat in it on my way to somewhere sunny. I would even risk a pair of puffy feet. Because do you know what? I think my feet just look like that anyway.