Friday, 6 July 2012

Slow Bloke To China: 3. Cockroaches At 33,000 Feet

Even an ignoramus like myself knows that single figured flight numbers are usually valued by the airline and go to interesting places. Pan Am 001 circled the globe going from JFK to London to Frankfurt to Rome to Beirut to Istanbul to Tehran to Karachi to Delhi to Bangkok to Hong Kong to Tokyo to San Francisco and back to JFK. Depending on which day of the week it was it omit some and go to other airports. Or was it the other way round? I don't know. I can't remember.

But there were a succession of interesting flights. TWA had them. United took over when Pan Am went bust, Air New Zealand's NZ1 used to do it too as, I think did China Airlines of Taiwan at one time.

BA 003 was a mere infant, only going to Rome, Delhi and Hong Kong and possibly on to Tokyo. You forget how far airline travel has comein a short space of time and that planes could not go too far before the necessity of refueling arose.

You never knew who was going to sit next to you. I was rather relieved to have a classy Italian in the next seat for the 2 hr 20 mins. hop to Rome. My last two flights had been memorable, but for the wrong reasons, namely the bad behaviour of my fellow country folk.

'Ooooooooh, I'm going to be sick,' said the schoolgirl sitting opposite me as the Dan-Air DC9 dropped suddenly on its route through the mountain tops to Geneva Airport. The trouble with Dan-Air in those days was that the front seats were facing each other like on a train.

'Oh no you're not', said her friend firmly, but not in a panicky way.

'Oh yes I ................'  Too late. I won't bore you with the precise details, suffice to say that it was truly awful and my shoes needed a polish when the plane landed.

The second bad flight was on a British Airways to Pisa. When I get on a plane early and there is an empty seat next to me, I tend to look at all the passengers walking up the aisle and thing......'OK, could do worse, not you, no, definitely not, OK, when's the next flight, please God Nooooooo.............'

He pointed at the empty seat. He had curly hair and a beard with the residue crumbs from an earlier pie or pasty embedded into the wiry hair.  He was big. Wide too. He had his earphones in and his Walkman was turned up to the max. This was the passenger from hell. Had I been rude to the check-in girl to have her put this lump next door to me? I didn't think so.

He cleared his throat, picked and eat his bogies, farted and kept pushing my arm off the armrest. Probably things I do the whole time too, but not on an aeroplane.

before the engines had started, he had tucked into his duty free, sinking a bottle of wine, a quarter bottle of some evil looking Alpine Schnapps and then he started sipping his whisky. When we were airborne, he had two bottles of wine and three mini bottles of port from the trolley, before he returned to his whisky.

When we were somewhere over Dijon or Lyon his headbobbing to the disco music stopped abruptly and he passed out. I left him unconscious when I got up out of my seat after landing at Pisa and rather uncharitably did not mind the fact that he probably had an appointment with a man in a white coat who possessed a strong pump.

Flight BA003 was bound to be different. After sweltering on the tarmac at Rome, without being allowed to get off the plane, the person in the seat next door to me morphed from an Italian to an Indian, who was going to Delhi.

As we went back up into the blue skies, I started to relax. Then the flight took on a different meaning as a Stewardess came out of the kitchen and sat momentarily in my lap. All kinds of good thoughts go through your mind, when something out of the realms of fantasy turns into reality, and in your lap as well. But before the possibility of joining the Mile High Club had sunk in the real reason of her intimacy was revealed. Another stewardess, following closely behind, had ran out of the galley screaming and in the process had knocked the other girl into my lap.

As the stewardess stood up and brushed herself down, she turned to me and said:

'There's a cockroach in the kitchen, can you kill it?'

I did.

'Is this normal to find cockroaches here?' I asked.

'Oh yes, they like the heat from the ovens.'

I sat down again, picked up the menu and viewed the Afternoon Tea with different expectations.

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