Getting up at 4.30 in the morning is not exactly my cup of tea, but knowing there’s a journey at the other end of the ordeal makes it all worthwhile. Arriving at the airport with ample time to spare, I queued up to check in and soon found myself face to face with a girl with and admiringly pleasant attitude, considering she was working at this unseemly hour, at least I was going on a vacation/writing spree. I asked her if it would be possible to have a window seat on the left side of the plane (don’t ask!), but she was sorry (really, she was) to say that she didn’t have access to the seating system, but advised me to check with the crew at the gate.
I went through security, stripping down to the bare necessities, and as a freak exception, was able to pass the “test” with flying colors, that is with no body- or other searches. This is not, I assure you, business as usual for me. Normally, even when I have rid myself of every tiny piece of metal, drop of liquid and other potential bomb materials, I tend to be the one picked for a random check. I know this is done by an automated system, but it has in periods made me just a tad paranoid.
When the gate was about to open, I went over to bring up the issue of my seating and was a little bit confused, because the person the lady at the check in counter had been referring to, was, well… herself. Now wearing a heavy coat and a yellow west. Of course it conveniently spared me the bore of repeating my request all over again. She just acknowledged me with a conspiratorial grin, and started checking the system. After a short while, she indicated “mission accomplished”, and, by the way…, she had upgraded me in the process. I thanked her profoundly and wished her, if not eternal happiness, so at least a very nice day.
I boarded the plane, and sat down, feeling share bliss; relishing lots of leg space the prospect of free food and drinks. Little did I know that this would turn out to be a blessing in disguise…
As it happened, the lady in the seat next to me had, according to herself, a mild case of aerophobia. She had, she confided to me, already had a relaxing shot of Baileys prior to boarding the plan. For medicinal purposes of course.
But the self-medication did not stop there: When the flight attendant appeared, the lady asked for the full free quota, and got three bottles of red wine. These she “forced” down with heroic determination, one by one. At the beginning of our flight, she had been a little snippy with her travelling companion sitting on the aisle seat. But as the wine level in her glass sunk, her mood lifted. She was soon chatting about this and that, seemingly not having a care in the world. In between sipping at her wine (read: swallowing it in big gulps), she also took sips of the carefully concealed bottle of Baileys.
Gone were aerophobia, and every care she might have had in the world. She became attentive and loving towards her companion, and soon embarked on mentally rearranging and redecorating her flat in a way, which if it were ever put into effect, would, as far as I could discern, be a lot more creative than practical… Her friend, now relieved by the convivial atmosphere, agreed to even the most outrageous suggestions, smiling, nodding and patting her on the hand. Fortunately for him, which he must have well known, in a few hours she would not remember the first thing about her own bout of fanciful innovation.
When the subject of refurbishing her home seemed to be exhausted, I lent her my guidebook to take her mind off things (and her glass off her lips). Also providing her with a pen and a sheet of paper, I suggested she jotted down some things she wanted to see and do on this her first visit to the island. She eagerly set about the task, and after a spur of intense scribbling, she showed me what she had come up with. For someone with a fear of flying and, she had related to me, not an insignificant touch of acrophobia (fear of heights) I was amazed at seeing paragliding and a helicopter trip high up on her list. I dare say, so was her friend, but again, he feigned full agreement, well aware of the fact that in a sober state she would rather kill herself than take part in any such kind of activities, being light-years out of her comfort zone as must have been.
While many of the other passengers were by now fast asleep or at least dozing off, I had to admire her stamina. She was still at it, talking, laughing, and…drinking. As we were starting our descent she waved her glass enthusiastically at me, wanting to show me the ocean below, in the process spilling the remainders of her wine on my freshly washed and ironed white cotton blouse.
She apologized profusely, but laughed happily that “fortunately nothing happened”. I figured the pink elephants that were now most likely obscuring her vision, stood in the way of her noticing the bright red spots on my sleeve. I smiled back, what else could I do; she was so thrilled at being on the ground at last, drunk as a lord, but in one piece.
But the next time I’m offered an upgrade I will politely decline the offer, ask to be seated near a teetotaler or…what the heck, just be sensible and wear black.