Friday, 11 May 2007

The Great Unwashed Take To The Skies

We're high above the ocean right now….about a third of the way through a nine-hour flight from hell. London to Orlando is our challenge on this sunny morn, and I sit here wondering how on earth I'm going to last through another 6 hours of enforced claustrophobia. I find myself contemplating all the reasons why charter flights should only be undertaken by broke students, honeymooning couples (who are so loved up they don't care where they are) and those on good drugs (valium, barbituates, crack…).

Our taxi picked us up at home just after 7:30 am this morning, and after a pretty easy exit, a swift, overpriced train ride on the Gatwick Express, and a fruitless attempt to get upgraded at check-in (by upgraded I simply mean a sky cot for our infant child), we settled down with a couple of strong lattes, cruised duty free for stupid things we didn't need, and eventually boarded this XL aircraft.

Things to ponder…with airfare so cheaply found these days, it stands to reason that you are going to get all sorts of people marauding through the skies. Some of these people will never have been in an airplane before and will think it perfectly reasonable to remove all footwear and settle in for the duration of the nine-hour flight with sweaty bare feet…stowing their dank footwear in the overhead baggage compartments (where if one is unlucky a pointed toe from a cheaply made boot might imprint itself on an unsuspecting forehead). Others will think it fine to play musical chairs and set up camp in the aisles chatting to drunken friends a few rows back, and taking it in turns to try and wrangle another cheap mini bottle of putrid wine from apathetic air stewards. Still others will loll back in their seats, unpack giant bags full of crap and make like they're in their front room.

Poor Jay has fallen prey to the latter. As we are on an aforementioned charter flight, the configuration is 2-4-2, meaning that Egg and I have two side seats on the right of the plane and Jay is across the aisle. This brought a wry smile from Jay when we first boarded, given that he thought I'd be stuck with the bulk of the childcare and he could happily hook himself up to his ipod, delve into his Bob Dylan tome and generally ignore us while he got quietly and thoroughly inebbriated. However his luck was short-lived, as minutes before the doors closed a group of loud women came thundering down the aisle (it sounded like a herd of elephants but was in fact merely three lively ladies well past their prime but unaware of it – and for all intents and purposes on the ride of a lifetime. Their excitement was audible and their pre-emptive shrieks caused not a few grimaces. When the largest of the three (and by large I mean clinically obese) cast her piggly-wiggly little eye upon row 29, Jay knew his luck was up, and silently cursing, he grimaced as this brunette hulk of a women maoeuvered her massive frame into the seat next to jay, giant rolls of fat settling over into his personal space and causing all four attached seats to groan with the weight. Her two ugly stepsisters (okay, more likely just friends, but looking almost identical in badly streaked blond hair, garish, too-tight clotheing and world weary faces which had lived through too many fags and seen the wrong side of too many empty bottles of chardonney) took possession of the remaining seats and the plane began its ascent and all that was left to do was grin and bear it.

A warning bell should have gone off when as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, Miss Piggy (as jay's seat companion shall hereby be known) reached into her giant baby pink rucksack and extricated a family size bag of assorted crisps (potato chips to those North Americans reading this). She offered her ugly friends a bag, but they declined and she tucked in regardless with great gusto (that may explain why she is obese and they are not….peut-etre?). Crunch, crunch, crunch, and the scene was set…crumbs falling in the crevice of the seat and onto jay's lap occasionally. Munch, munch, munch, and another bag of mini cheddars was opened and consumed with equal delight. And so it went on. I lost interest at this point – due mainly to having an oversized if adorable baby plumped on my lap, and Egg trying to worm his way into my purse for more gummy bears. We all finally began to snooze shortly after take-off, and as my weary eyes closed I made out Miss Piggy nibbling her way through a big box of Cadbury mint cookie sticks. She had a small pile built on her tray table and was happily licking her lips and deftly maneovering them into her gaping mouth – much like Noah and his ark… one by one….each mini chocolate stick disappearing after the other….I drifted off.

About an hour later the urge to visit to toilet woke me from an unfitful nap. Plopping the baby on Jay's knee, I availed myself of the onboard luxury toilet facilities (not – we're talking dribbled seat, stench, and about as much room to maneover as a London tube in rush hour). At any rate, lunch soon followed (something I decided not to partake in, given my earlier snack of apple and some chocolate raisins), and Miss Piggy somehow wrangled not one but four bottles of cheap rose wine. This was to prove lethal a short while later, as she got completely pissed and had what she called a 'tray mishap' (I think in her case it was more of a "flab-alanche" but I can't be sure as I wasn't looking) and spilled a a FULL glass of wine on jay's poor laptop AND his jeans.

He is currently soaked, annoyed, and Miss Piggy keeps trying to mutter drunken excuses to jay and I (as I am obviously unable to disguise my contempt and disgust and can't help craning my neck in horrific fascination) about 'wobbly trays' and is shaking her head like she's an innocent observer and not the perpetrater.

I must now give jay his computer back, content with having squandered another half hour or so that it has taken to write this, and take possession of Ollie Dumpie (who is currently standing on jay's lap making a row of senior citizens right behind laugh). He is very expressive and very alert. Very. God help me.

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