Let it be known before I begin...
1. I hate being late.
2. I don't like flying.
3. I do like children - most of the time.
That's the truth as I see it.
1. I hate being late (thus my usual early arrival at airports, weddings, doctors appointments and work). Call it courtesy. Call it obsession if you must. Time is priceless. Once it is gone, there's no refund, no going back. Waiting needlessly is just plain idiotic. In accordance with this belief, I figure if I am early, I should get the treatment that reflects my efficiency. I believe, given that I have not caused any distress through tardiness, that I have not pressured any taxi driver to attempt land speed records to arrive at my destination on time and I have not been required to bribe or flirt with any local officials to avoid speeding fines, that I should get first dibs on the benefits of being first in the queue. I believe I have these rights before those who take their own sweet time and don't care if they keep people waiting. I believe this is how the world should work. What I believe and what is reality is (of course) sometimes POLES apart...
2. I do not like to fly. Despite what anyone tries to convince me, it is not a natural state to be flying 30,000 feet above the earth, and the fact we are encased in a metal cocoon, weighed down with fuel and copious amounts of luggage does nothing to comfort me. Despite being squeezed into a sardine tin with wings however, I do see it as a modern requirement which is as practical a form of transport as it is convenient. Fear not I tell myself, it is safer to travel by air than by car (though far further to fall). And so it is with some anxiety that every now and again, I step into another airport, onto another plane and outside of the comfort zone.
3. I like children - most of the time. Kids can be cute (and quiet) and happy (and quiet) and well controlled (and quiet) and they are fine travel companions. They can easily sit in their seats or on their parents laps and not reach the seat in front of them with their temper tantrum toes. Put them in a plane in a seat directly behind me with their little shoes digging into my lower back however and my delight in their chocolate coated faces and cute clothes quickly dissipates.
Children and travel do not a happy union make. They like their freedom. They like to make noise. They don't understand that other passengers prefer quiet and an uninterrupted read of the in flight magazine. It is not their fault that I do not like to fly within close proximity of anyone under the age of 4! But for me (and surely a lot of parents out there too!) it is to be avoided at all costs...
And so, the saga begins...
The airport was almost deserted. Cleaners were finishing their work, moving buckets and mops to hidden cupboards. Officials were emptying their first cup of coffee for the day and chatting at airport security. Two orange uniformed women waited patiently at the check-in counter, greeting us with superficial smiles and heady perfume. It was early, just after 7am and true to form we were there over an hour before departure.
We went through check-in. The obligatory showing of photo id followed and I ignored the disbelieving, (rather judgemental) scan from the attendant as she compared my driver's licence photo (obtained after much hair straightening and a dusting of make-up) to my some what sleep deprived tussled look prepared lazily one hour earlier. We shared little conversation and as we walked away with a reflex thank you, I pushed my boarding pass into my bag.
It was not until we were about to board that I realised that we were seated at the back of the plane. Row 28. And to make it even worse we were stuck on the aisle without easy access to a window view. Row 28. Seats B & C. The furtherest from the exit on arrival, and the closest to the area often reserved for families with small children.
There are moments when I fly, that I wish I were a child again. There are times I want to scream when the plane is landing and taking off. Noise increases with acceleration. The land shifts. The plane lifts and banks. Ears pop. This is not a pleasurable experience. Screaming at full volume seems like a reasonable response. I too want to stretch out and push my feet into the seat in front of me. Have a hissy fit about being uncomfortable, about the elbows of the passenger beside me, unmoving on a shared arm rest. I want to tear in-flight magazines down the spine and throw them around the cabin for entertainment. I want to pull the hair of the person in the seat in front of me. I want to. I want the hostess to smile and soothe my nerves with a free pack of crayons and colouring book. But as a fully grown adult, more than anything, I just want to get to my destination with the least disturbance.
SO. We were EARLY. We MUST have been nearly the FIRST to check in. We should have got prime seating - we deserved it. We should have been seated close to the front for easy disembarking at our destination. And we should have been far far far away from screaming kids, with their sticky fingers, their leaking drink bottles and their pointy toes! And yet for this flight my theory on 'first in best dressed' was shot down in flames. Yes - our luck was in - there were children behind, to our right and directly in front of us. There was NO ESCAPE! We were surrounded.
And then - as if to top it all off - the flight was late.
Aye aye aye.