Lessons Learned the Hard Way – No. 96

28 05 2008

Never assume that having your name called by the gate staff just prior to boarding is a good thing.


I was in the lounge about to board a very long flight and watching with venomous hatred as fellow passengers were called forth and upgraded from economy to business…or beyond. Each turned and waved to the little people left behind, then headed down the walkway towards the aircraft with a sickening spring in their step and a jaunty smirk on their face.


Suddenly, my name was echoing through the hall as if sung by angels playing golden harps.


Hurriedly, I gathered my things and headed to the desk like an actor accepting an Oscar. As I stepped around over-sized carry-on bags and dipsy-do’ed through a minefield of teething babies, I rehearsed my acceptance speech: “I would like to thank all the people who made this possible…”


As bidden, I surrendered my boarding pass to a quizzical gate agent who fed it into the machine. I was already mentally in my newly-acquired reclining throne, glass of champagne in my hand, attendants fanning me gently while peeling grapes.


“Not quite sure why that change was made”, she said, curiously, surveying my new boarding pass.


I thanked her profusely and bounded down the gangway, assuming that my new seat – 99G – must be upstairs in the bubble and affording utter luxury in more intimate surroundings. It was only when I was directed towards the rear that my heart began to sink. After a demoralising trek past row upon row of seats that seemed to get smaller and smaller like Alice’s doors, I reached the very back where the interior narrows to a constricting stub – not to be confused with the opulent pointy end found at the front.


And my seat was by the toilet.


Fighting back the tears before I sat down, I tucked my book and water bottle into the pocket before me, and strapped myself in for the 13 hour odyssey ahead. After take-off, I plugged in the headset and settled down to watch the screen at the front of the cabin, only to realise that I was three inches too short to see it without sitting on a telephone directory. Something I had foolishly not brought along. With resignation, I took out my book and flicked on the reading light…only to find it unresponsive. I desperately beckoned a flight attendant and explained my dilemma.


“Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll check the fuse” and headed for the galley.  A few moments later she returned with a perky smile on her face.


“Well, it’s not the fuse”, she bubbled, with a radiant smile. “So it must be the bulb. Unfortunately, we don’t carry extra bulbs but we’ll have it repaired at our next stop.”


Before I could point out that was 7500 miles away, she was gone. With movies and reading out of the question, I opted to recline my seat…the one inch it would move before colliding with the toilet wall. Without any empty seats available, I took two anti-nausea pills and sought the refuge of the defeated: sleep. Alas, to complete a perfect trifecta, each time I was on the brink of the velvet embrace of Hypnos, my seat was emphatically thumped by someone visiting the toilets, my brain rattled by the incessant bang of the cubicle door and my nostrils mauled by noxious scents.


Eventually, emotionally battered, spiritually spent and utterly exhausted, I drifted into a comfortless and fitful sleep, haunted by visions of the luxury of a normal economy class seat like the one I had briefly possessed but had willed away in hope of something better.


Who ever said “A bird in the hand…” had likely been sitting in the malfunctioning last-row of a trans-Pacific flight in the pitch-dark, devoid of entertainment and constantly jostled and harangued by the flatulent and be-bladdered masses.



Post by: Simon Vaughan © 2008