the state of things

 

It Was A Warm And Lazy Afternoon...

by Douglas Lindsay - 22:29 on 10 September 2008

Flew back to Scotland yesterday for a family funeral. As school had just kicked off, and TPCKAM was busy at work, I got to travel on my own. Travelling on your own is generally ok. When you're used to travelling with two kids, it's like Christmas. Long queues, packed waiting rooms, flight delays, turbulence, and all the other general awfulness of air travel, just drift away into nothing. You can switch off, read a book, listen to Bob on your iPod, and not have to deal with squabbling or bored spawn every few minutes.

I read The Ghost by Robert Harris on the trip. I don't read much, but a friend gave it to me last week. After about two pages I realised that it was covering similar ground to Lost in Juarez. A dodgy PM, the effects of the War on Terror. I panicked briefly, but fortunately, as I read on, it became obvious that it's nothing like Lost in Juarez. At first I also panicked because I thought it was a million times better, but after a while I scaled that down to a wee bit better.

It is written in the first person, and as I sat on the plane, I began to think about everything in that first person's writer's voice that you start to think in when you're reading a book written in the first person. It's inevitable. In my head I described the stewardesses walking down the aisle, dishing out the food. (Or, since it was a budget flight, selling the food.) In my head I described the movement of their buttocks, the swish of nylon. They edged towards me, they seemed to not notice I was there. Despite the fact that I had lowered my table, had a menu in my hands, money out and a look of quiet desperation on my face. Finally, just when it seemed they would leave me an emaciated wreck, they looked down and asked the question. Can we get anything for your, sir? With the commanding confidence of a man who's reading a book written in the first person, I ordered wine, water, a cheese sandwich and peanuts.

The wine had an absurd piece of plastic over the screw top. I couldn't get it off. When I finally achieved the impossible, I spilled wine liberally over the table and my hands. Then, with the wine poured, the water poured, and the sandwich open, the guy in front shoved his seat back.

More wine spilled. I had wine over everything, including me. I knew at that point that for the rest of the trip, I was going to stink of alcohol. I was going to get off the plane, tired and drawn - having been woken at 3am that morning by Two of Two and not having slept since - reeking of booze, even though I'd only had one insignificant bottle of wine, most of which was soaked into my jumper. I'd walk past customs and security, waiting relatives and paparazzi, and they'd look at me and think, there's one of those alcoholic business guys who drink the entire flight, getting pissed on company expenses.

In my head I described how I stood up and whacked the bastard in the seat in front of me over the head with a brick.

Putting the seat back just after they've served the food isn't the most ignorant thing to do on the planet. There's worse. But the fact that there's worse, doesn't mean that it's not incredibly ignorant all the same. All planes should be fitted with one of two devices. Either:

Device A: There is a block placed on all the seats so that they can't be pushed back until half an hour has elapsed since the food was served, or

Device B: A machine gun is placed in every pocket, so that you can riddle with bullets the seat of the guy in front of you, if he has just knocked your drink over.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, good idea, but it's not like they're going to allow machine guns on planes. Think of the hijack scenario. Here's the way round it. You put a label on the machine gun stating: Not To Be Used For Hijacking. Any Attempt to Use For Hijacking Will Lead To A £50 Fine And Possible Arrest Upon Disembarkation


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