Waiting for God only knows what, in an airport from hell
My sympathy to all those travellers stranded at various uncomfortable airports over the weekend.
But as the nation echoes with complaints about the difficulties involved in getting from Point A to Point B, I can’t help but wonder whether our expectations about the ease of flying are becoming a tad unrealistic.
After all, air travel is supposed to involve gross inconvenience and burlesque mishap. That’s air travel’s job. And no amount of insurance, meticulous advance planning or industrial relations tranquility will protect you.
Inconvenient Air Travel Truth #1: the departure time printed on your ticket will bear no relation to the time at which your plane/chopper/commuter zeppelin actually leaves its terminal. Any overlap here is purely coincidental.
Inconvenient Air Travel Truth #2: there is a direct – but inverse – correlation between the amount of information offered about a potential mishap and the likelihood of it occurring. Thus you will receive endless communications re inflatable chute protocols post ocean ditchings, but zero guidance about what to do in the event of, say, Inconvenient Air Travel Truth #1.
Inconvenient Air Travel Truth #3: planes waiting on tarmacs enter a parallel universe in which time travels at the speed of a dehydrated slug.
Inconvenient Air Travel Truth #4: there will always be a wailing baby.
Inconvenient Air Travel Truth #5: if you want the chicken meal, only the fish will remain. (And please note that the airline definition of “fish” is limited, by law, to “textured synthetic shark proteins with fortified Styrofoam”.)
Inconvenient Air Travel Truth #6: the beaming, perfectly formed stewards and stewardesses serving micro-beverages will never take you up on your offer to party on once you reach Bangkok.
Inconvenient Air Travel Truth #7: it is impossible to engage in long haul travel without beginning to smell like a soft cheese that has spent several days jogging in a polyester unitard.
Inconvenient Travel Truth #8: every change in engine noise will seem like irresistible proof that your plane has busted something important and will soon plummet from the sky.
Inconvenient Travel Truth #9: there is no mile high club. There is only the “ouch, my knee’s caught in the paper towel dispenser” club, the “oh *&^% , we forgot to lock the toilet door” club, and the “why do elaborate sexual fantasies so rarely live up to quotidian sexual realities?” clubs.
On that poignant note, let all unhappy travellers remember American writer Kurt Vonnegut’s description of travel’s peculiarities as being like “dancing lessons from God” (though admittedly it generally feels more like waiting lessons from Godot).
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