29 October 2013
It was going to be a long flight.
Charles took his seat in the cylindrical cabin of the low cost airline’s flight back to blighty. Knees thrust into the seat in front accompanied muttered prayers, that the seats on either side of his allocated 22B would remain empty. He opened his legs as far as he could comfortably, in the region of 45 degrees to reduce the force being exerted on his patellas. To the other passengers he looked as if he was burdened with tennis ball sized testicles, the poor, poor fellow. Around him passengers shuffled and squeezed into their seats either thrusting their carry-ons down by their feet or forcibly ramming small suitcases at the bleeding edge of regulation dimensions into the overhead compartments.
A young couple approached and slowed by row 22, his row, looking left and right at the legends above the seats. “Keep walking, keep walking”, Charles mouthed to himself. The male half of the couple made eye contact with Charles and spoke, “Think we’re here”, while his finger pointed and oscillated between the seats either side of him. Charles narrowed his legs to a cool 25 degrees and began to extricate himself from the middle seat and into the aisle. “Do you want to sit together?”, “Thanks!” the baggy shirted male replied surprised, before turning his attention to the open overhead compartment. He began wrestling his bag into Charles’ as if re-enacting some kind of mating ritual, a pair of one ton bison were slamming themselves together for the good of their species. Charles winced at the imagery he’d conjured up just as a crunching sound emanating from his bag gave entry to the bison’s mediaeval courting. The young female companion followed the baggy shirted man to their seats. Charles piled in closely behind and carefully lowered himself on to his seat, making an effort not to free his knee-caps from their fleshy housing against the hinges of his tray table.
The plane was still relatively empty with the whole row behind him unburdened by posterior action. They had Charles’ name on them, and as soon as they were in the air he would maneuver into position and strike, glutes-first on to his target, 23A,B & C. Soon he’d be asleep and he’d be home, it was as close to luxury as he could hope for on this flight.
Quiet, followed by some kind of kerfuffle towards the front of the plane caught his attention. A man bounded down the otherwise empty aisle towards him, his rotund belly moved unpredictably beneath a tight red & white “prison stripe” t-shirt, his naval peeking out occasionally as if gasping for air. A pair of Ray Ban sunglasses, with the lenses swapped out for those accommodating short-sightedness, rested upon his now flustered cheeks. His grey hair flip-flopped with every clumsy step in his salmon coloured Toms and his record bag rapped the seats to his right, like a playing card in bicycle spokes. Charles imagined this is what hipsters would look like if you introduced them to a lifetime’s supply of organic vegan (and gluten-free) pies and gave them a solid 10 years to “tuck in”. Behind him followed a visibly stressed woman in a floral ankle length dress, her torso strapped to a baby that squirmed, teary-eyed in it’s rucksack-style carrier.
They zeroed in on the seats behind Charles with no regard for anyone but themselves. The mother all the while giving her child, who couldn’t have been more than a year old, a running commentary of what was happening. In the form of questions with child-talk inflections.
“Is daddy putting our bags in the overhead compartment?…
“Are we on a plane, teacup?…
“Has daddy remembered to pack your nappies?…”
“Yes, of course I bloody did”, the pie man snapped.
Charles closed his eyes and put his headphones in his ears, turning up the volume until the middle-aged woman’s nattering was drowned out. A deep breath followed by another and another finally resulted in some semblance of calm. Slowly a wave of tiredness swept over him and his head dropped to his chest. “Yes!”, he thought, “Let me sleep through this turgid journey and it will all be over soon.”
Then a gentle tap on my shoulder threatened to disrupt his peace, but he refused to let it. “I’m asleep. Yep, keep those eyes closed and whoever is tapping will bugger off.”
The tapping stopped!
It was only as a thick fog of fecal particles invaded his nostrils that he realised no sleep was to be had, no peace to be found. Charles was in no doubt that the baby had soiled itself thoroughly.
The tapping resumed, more forcefully this time and he could ignore it no longer. Charles ripped the headphones from his ears, which were immediately flooded with the sounds of shitty baby, and turned to face his tapper. It was a steward and Charles knew there and then what was coming as he had heard it many times, “Sir, please turn off all electronic devices as we prepare to take off.”
It was going to be a long flight.