(I speak from experience. Two of them!)
First off, some context: I wanted a cheap, quick and almost punctual flight home from Ireland today and, to my airline’s credit, they provided a service that was cheap, quick and almost punctual! And considering each airline and passenger is different, this post will focus on the bastardry one inevitably experiences from one’s fellow passengers on such a flight.
First of all you check in for your outgoing flight in a luxurious, expansive airport with a lot of impressive-looking security but really can’t tell that a passenger carrying a bag of liquids in his hand (for diabetes, of course) might be worth checking considering all the big ‘no fluids allowed’ signs plastered on walls with more omnipresence than Big Brother. Once you navigate the oversized metal-detecting doorway of impartial security checks, you’ll be groped by a range of large white males in scenes that eerily resemble their parodied versions in the excellent Come Fly With Me, but if you’re white you’ll probably get off with a pat on the shoulder and an understanding nod.
With your passport number appropriately recorded for being a threat to international security, you’ll then wander through 672,593,091,586 tiny stores located in boxes along the sides of every corridor you’ll see for the next four hours, offering everything from food to upsettingly expensive perfumes. Then you’ll buy a sandwich from WHSmith because you’re a pleb and can’t afford anything fancier than cheese and literal tramp shit on wholemeal. You’ll munch this as you contemplate the idea of scale, that people around you are jetting off to Dubai for the most functional of conferences, while you blew all your savings for a flight to some village in Scotland full of rain and piss and misery that your friend pulled out of because they realised sticking forks in their eyes for three straight hours was probably a marginally cheaper way to spend their holidays. You can still taste the tramp shit.
Once on the plane, following a Loony Toons-esqu chase around the departures lounge as the local sniffer dogs have decided you’re the one carrying four pounds of cocaine today in scenes far too amusing for me to cover, you’ll take your seat and hope your suitcase won’t be jettisoned out of the hold somewhere over Altrincham for no particular reason. Your seat will, of course, be surrounded by babies (the epitome of narcicissm, loudness and general unpleasantness), extroverts travelling alone (who will dictate their life story to you on the flight out, somehow end up next to you on the return flight and repeat the sermon because they have the brain capacity of a sieve made of noodles), and as much leg room as is offered to war veterans who have had both legs blown off doing something far more dangerous and commendable than choosing to book with the cheap-and-shit airline instead of just the shit one.
Then the plane takes off, the cabin crew do the dance of their people in which every exit is pointed out in scenes that resemble a cross between the sort of interpretive dance nonsense people discuss on Radio Four and the children’s game of I Spy, in which the answer is always ‘where we’ll all fall out of the plane to our doom!’
Then you’ll land a mere eighteen years after you were supposed to arrive and the taxi driver who came to pick you up has literally died of old age waiting as their fee meter clicks to £999.99 with the gaunt, hollow ring of endlessness and the passing of vibrance from this cruel godless universe. But the holiday’ll be nice!
Having passed that oasis of pleasure in the desert of administrative piss-ups that is short-range international air travel, you’ll show up for your return flight nine seconds before it departs because you’re in the middle of butt-frak nowhere and you could only get to the terminal through a combination of horseback, tagging along wit a group of dwarves looking for some mountain, and riding on a cow pathetically dangling a leek from a stick in front of it to make it walk. You’ll then breeze through airport security, because if the Orkneys have become the narcotics hub of the Western World they’ve done a better job keeping it under wraps than the state of Illinois and all the kick-ass bands it produces. And no-one has heard of Icon For Hire so the Scottish drug cartels are safe from investigation, and your crotch is free from a sniffer dog’s tongue.
Then you’ll fly home, and it’ll be as crap as the first flight except with none of the sense of adventure and promise of difference that made the first one borderline bearable, and land so late the Earth is about to be engulfed by the Sun as it bursts into a supernova at the end of its lifetime; should have spent the extra five Europe on Apocalypse Insurance after all.
Finally, you’ll collect your bags from the whirling game of chance that is the baggage reclaim at any airport ever which is, let’s be honest; the only time you’re likely to come into contact with anything harder than a black coffee that you only drank because you forgot to buy milk. Then it’s off to the exit, in one of those seemingly driverless shuttles that still manages to surprise me in the era of such useless commercial inventions as the powered walkway at Canary Wharf Underground station and the anti-masturbation cross. You’ll be spit out, at long last, in a dark road somewhere just outside of London, and you’ll have to pay like twenty-five aid for a cab into the burned-out wreckage of the city you once loved as home, where the cockroaches outnumber the people, and the whole thing bears an every resemblance to a combination of Eliot’s The Waste Land and the fourth Llamas With Hats video on YouTube.
Should’ve had a staycation.