My last blog featured Hetty Avebury, heroine of Only a Hero Will Do. She explained the perils of early nineteenth century travel on a Man of War. So, today I want to reassure Hetty that 200 years later long journeys can be just as uncomfortable.
Wedged in the middle seat of the middle row of a 747 for upwards of twelve hours, my mind dwelt on the fact that bobbing along in a post chaise, or swinging in a hammock below decks, could not be much more agonizing then traveling economy on a long haul flight.
I use to enjoy airplanes. I could happily gaze from the window seat marveling at anything that appeared through a chink in the clouds. But my recent flight to Australia was a test of both mind and body.
It all starts to go wrong at check in. I cannot secure a window seat, the flight is delayed and when we finally get to board…
Gripe 1. The trek through business class to get to economy.
I openly salivate over the spacious seating in business class as we are herded down the isle to steerage. The occupants of those designer cubicles tantalizingly stretch their limbs and flex their toes as we pass. I avoid their apologetic eyes and pitying smiles.
Gripe 2. Hand baggage
This appears to have evolved in the last few years from modest shoulder bag to sturdy case complete with wheels. As they are being hoisted, with a great deal of grunting and thrusting into overhead lockers that are clearly not built to accommodate them, the boarding process reduces to snail pace. Why do they need that much hand baggage ? There’s not room to swing a cat let alone unpack and utilize a case full of gear.
Gripe 3. Invasion of space.
The passengers sitting either side of me have claimed the hand rests rendering me straitjacketed in seat. Even worse a rogue foot is gradually edging its way into my allotted leg space. I try to stem the steam from my ears and reflect how lucky I was on my last flight when I sat next to the perfect passenger. He was totally besotted with his female companion and they seemed to merge together in one seat- thereby leaving me a nice lot of space. Not sure what he was trying to achieve in such a restricted area. But if they were fidgeting (so to speak) they were at least being quiet about it.
Gripe 3. Reclining seats
I have the desire to lop something heavy into the seat in front when it descends back into my already limited personal space. Batman Returns is now being viewed two inches from my face. I can’t focus on the screen so switch it off, put my head back and try to relax.
Gripe 4. Touch screens attached to back of seats .
I don’t begrudge the small person behind using their touch screen even though they have not quite mastered the art. The incessant tattooing vibrates on the back of my head. After fifteen minutes it is clear they can find nothing to amuse them on the TV or film menus. The assault stops and I hold my breath willing them to go to sleep – but alas they have become bored and proceed to drum their feet on back of my seat. My unscheduled full body massage is now complete.
Gripe Five. Food.
I manipulate the multiple contents of tray carefully, arranging the most promising item in secure position. However as I unpack the plastic cutlery I decide to take Food off gripe list. Its arrival has caused the person in front to get their seat out of my face and the tattooing on the back of my head to stop.
There is, of course, an upside to this journey.
As the plane transports me to the other side of the world, my fellow passengers doze off. I can now switch on my Kindle and in my forced confinement indulge in reading the latest releases of some of my favorite authors.
And of course, as we finally arrive at destination, all gripes evaporate in the warmth of the Aussie sunshine.
In 2013 I will be showcasing some of the great authors from Musa Publishing – so please drop by again.