Hello again

Hello again, hello, hello, hi… I don’t want to start off awkwardly but get naked, cover yourself in honey and go stand next to an ants nest in the full sun for eleven hours and fifty minutes.

Ok, you have just had a more pleasant day than myself. It would seem that the German people have not improved their method of transporting large numbers of people since they were busily shoving Jews into overcrowded train carriages, hosing the outside down to stop them from dying and nicking the gold fillings of the ones who did. The trouble started at the Bangkok airport. At gate D4 we were all shuttled into a cubicle sized glass room which let in the blinding sun. Oh, sorry, I changed a few flights about after finishing my climb early and suffering a strong desire to be back in Denmark. As Qantas and some other airlines are barking on about union trouble I was forced to change flights and go via Berlin, with Air Berlin, the world’s worst airline, I say this despite that fact that I have flown into Lukla Airport with Yeti Air in a 1960’s Twin Otter.

Anyway, our box gave us a lovely view of the sky corridor (the walkway to the plane) just ending without a plane attached. I stood there in the glass room amongst fat business men who were sweating out last nights whiskey and numerous screaming children who fit the prescribing criteria of Ritalin (see movie; “The Exorcist”) I clocked five young mum’s holding babies and a few incontinent looking old couples. None of whom I wanted to be seated with, on long flight there is only one person I like being seated with, Jette, other than her I just pray for three or four empty seats located near the front of the plane so I can get off quickly after landing. I hate nothing more than being on the ground ready to get off the plane but having to watch short people making really hard work of lifting their huge hand luggage cases out of the lockers above. Seriously, two words; Hand. Luggage. If you cannot carry or lift it above your head it can hardly be called hand luggage now can it. While I am on this thin ice offending people I might as well jump up and down a bit….

I think that instead of making a blanket rule of 20 kilograms checked luggage and 7 kilograms hand luggage, airlines should give a total weight allowance for the flight. “Sorry fatty kind of used up your total weight allowance there, you can only take 5 kilograms, suggest you go and make friends with skinny baldie over there….” Well, the plane has to fly. Anyway enough of this, no just a little bit more, things I have learnt in flight about different cultures;

  1. Arabic people have terrible smelling feet and they don’t care, they also hog the armrests
  2. Chinese people fart, a lot
  3. French people complain about the food
  4. Nepalese people sweat nervously and are jumpy (as they were on the to Doha to be used as practically slave labour.
  5. Italians drink too much whiskey and kick the seat in front of them.
  6. Argentinians go out of their way to piss on the floor of the toilet and
  7. Ok, enough now

As no explanation was given for our lack of plane I could only assume that some last minute mechanical problem they didn’t want to us to know about was being patched up. I did get a chuckle when the Captain and Co-Pilot followed by babbling cabin staff purposefully strode down, past us and into the sky corridor. Hugely disappointed to not see the Captain fall off the end, Monty Python style, I again chuckled as I pictured them huddling in the corridor speaking in whispers not wanting to walk past us all again after their grand entrance.

Finally the plane casually rolled up like a petulant child with no explanation and docked with the corridor. This made me wonder who was driving as our Captain was currently huddled in the sky corridor. Like with cars, the mechanics probably draw straws on who gets to drive around in the machine they have just fixed. Anyway, they did over half an hour of pre-flight checks which convinced me that the delay was mechanical. We were left waiting in our glass box before being let us onto the plane.

To my great disappointment, but not surprise, my seat was in the crappy middle section with four seats, to my right an Asian lady was loudly munching on Pumpkin seeds and burping pumpkin burps and to my left was the aisle. Numerous German folk rubbed various body parts onto my left shoulder as they lent over me to rummage through my bag in the over head locker. Usually on takeoff the Pilot shows off a bit, does a bit of “Check out how powerful my plane is” for the ladies. You are pushed back in your seat as the Pilot uses less than a quarter of the runway length to be in flight, within seconds you whoosh upwards, ears popping and enjoy the flight comfortable in the fact that this machine which is currently suspending over two hundred lives, has the power to stay up. Think about it, it is really quite an amazing thing to be sitting in a seat, in the air, listening to music or drinking a coke, don’t you think?

Anyway our takeoff was somewhat slower, I heard the rush of the engines winding up but didn’t feel that powerful backwards push, we trundled down the runway slowly gaining speed. It would be easy to imagine the Pilot sitting up there, yawning to the Co-pilot to wake him once we got up to takeoff speed. Just before we turned left onto the city ring road we escaped the clutches of gravity and the ominous squeaking stopped, it was obviously a suspension issue which we don’t have to worry about again, until landing. The squeaking was quickly replaced with the high pitched squeal of the wheels retracting, this noise dominated the cabin for over half an hour.

Finally in the air I noticed that the cabin had something of a different atmosphere to the one I just flew in with Thai Air. Thai Air cabins firstly smell nice (from the flower scented super bug killer they lace the air with), the upholstery is spotless, looks brand new and is colored purple, yellow and other pleasant tropical colours. Thai attendants glide about the cabin with a small smile playing around their mouths and attend to your every need. As soon as a drink is finished they either whisk away the empty or refill it, if you sneeze they get a tissue to your nose before you are done. Oh, and the food is amazing, especially if (like I always do) you tell them you are either Vegetarian, Vegan or Muslim. This also means your food comes out first and you can enjoy your meal as the others around you watch the regular trolley’s glacial progress up the aisle.

This current plane kind of smells like raw potatoes and boiled cabbage, the upholstery is threadbare and depressingly dark blue, my cushion is 3 microns thick meaning that my ass is already numb, I have been sitting in my chair for less than twenty minutes. The attendants are kind of scary with angular features and that unnervingly penetrating blue eye stare Germans do going on. Mid-daydream, the attendant who glared at me throughout takeoff suddenly appears at my side and barks out an order in German. Cowering in my seat I plead; “ITWASN’TME-I-SWEAR”. Oh she is just offering me a drink, “Yes please I would like a coke” The Asian lady to my right and her boyfriend sneak off to the toilet together and return five minutes later, him looking very smug. I barely resist leaning over and saying; “Dude, that little effort falls outside the official rules for Mile high Club, go and try again champ” but just chuckle to myself.

Watching the ice melt in my glass, boredom starts to kick in. The hours slide by, second by slow second. On long haul flights, which this one is definitely going to be, normal airlines instal those wonderful little screens on the back of the seat in front of you, with a retractable controller in the armrest. You have a selection of Television shows, documentaries, video games, recent movies and cartoons for the little ones. This plane has two central screens which has shown repeats of the 1980’s hit series ‘Cheers!’ and ‘Friends’. The problem is that I cannot hear what is being said on the screen as earphones are three Euros each. Next thing they will be charging for snacks, I check the menu and find out that they are; 6.90 Euros for a cut sausage in gravy and 10.90 Euros for a cut sausage in gravy… with rice. My travel agent had better have a fat roll of notes as a refund waiting for my return to Tasmania.

Waking with a thoroughly cricked neck I wish I had smuggled in the Diazepam I bought in Laos for a back issue at least I would sleep soundly with relaxed muscles. I decide to look for better lodgings. I reach the very back of the plane where usually there is either a fruit platter or snacks and spot an empty double over the opposite side of the plane. Not wanting to wake the people sprawled across their hard seats in the middle I decide to sneak through the rear galley, nick some food, maybe get a drink, and enjoy my new seat. I pull back the curtain and indeed there is a fruit platter, surrounded by air hostesses’s, which is clearly not going to be shared with the rest of us. I flash a smile, which is returned by a blank, pale skinned stare, and ask; “Mind if I just sneak past to a different chair”. The leader of this Air-Hostess-Wolf-Pack looks at me and says, with no word of a lie; “You go other way like rest of people” I turn and walk back down the aisle, wake a poor soul to sneak past and just beat the skinny balding man to the free double seat, nice… take that baldy.

We are now flying around Katrachan, (never heard of it either, looks sandy) and I have just go to thinking, as one does when spending eleven hours and fifty minutes on a plane, I am thinking;

“If the pilot got bored, what is to stop him from taking a shortcut over Bagdad, apart from fighter jets and Derka-Jihads of course? Do the pilots get better food than the rest of the us? Why were air hostess’s in the sixties and seventies so good looking but now the standards have slipped, is this an equal opportunity initiative for uglies? Now might be the time to see what really happens when you smoke in the toilet? Why was I frisked three times in the Kathmandu Airport yesterday – maybe he just liked me?, What is that incessant squeaking noise? What to do for the next four hours?, If someone really got naked, covered themselves in honey and stood next to an ants nest, would they be able to sue me as I told them to?”

I ponder these big issues as the plane rattles on it’s detour around Baghdad, slowly bringing me ever closer to seeing my lovely Jette who I have not laid eyes on for way too long. This slight discomfort will be easily worth it.

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