I like the idea of it – holiday international air travel that is. (Or at least I did until recently when peri-menopause kicked in – and several planes dropped out of the sky and into the Atlantic, but let’s not dwell on that.)
The buzz of the airport, the promise of an exotic locale, and the lure of duty-free bargains.
It doesn’t matter that I don’t need another perfume, lipstick or that one litre bottle of Midori. It’s the thrill of buying at less than retail. I feel like a winner! But every time I go overseas (okay, it’s not often), I spend a few hundred dollars I can ill-afford, on make-up and other paraphernalia I don’t need and more than likely don’t even want. I once bought a pure Merino woollen shawl that subsequently was given to the dog! I always justify my purchases by saying, ‘It was a bargain. I couldn’t say no.’
Once seated on the plane, I accept everything the flight attendants offer.
Yesterday’s newspaper? Yes, please.
How about a pair of paper-thin cotton socks that don’t keep your feet warm or protect you from the perils of the bathroom floor? Absolutely.
We’ll just add that to the booty of ear-plugs, annoying head-phones that never sit on my head properly, and the eye mask I acquired as I was walking down the aisle. The plane hasn’t even taken off yet, but I’m feeling pretty darn pleased with myself. Yes, I’ve spent all my money buying duty-free frivolities but look at all the freebies I’ve been given. And I haven’t even mentioned the miniscule pillow and threadbare navy rug I’ve commandeered. Squished into an uncomfortable cattle-class seat, surrounded by useless goodies, I can’t move a centimetre.
Inevitably, the man seated beside me weighs a tonne and his right arm encroaches on my armrest and I can only stare out the window for fear of making eye contact and having to start a conversation with him.
Usually, but not always, it’s raining when the plane starts taxiing down the runway. And as it takes off, I’m thinking, ‘Is this it? Am I going down?’ Usually these fatalistic thoughts are fleeting because I know the most dangerous time for crashes is during take-off and landing. (I’ve since added Severe Electrical Storms to that list. And in my mind, a light sprinkling of rain is close to a SES, and therefore sufficient cause for hysteria.)
When I hear the wheels fold up into the under carriage, I’m still thinking, ‘Am I going to die on this plane with all this ridiculous make-up I’ll never wear and Midori, I’ll never drink?’ Part of me, most of me, actually, wants to rip the top off the Midori and start guzzling but that’s rather undignified, so I refrain. I couldn’t even if I wanted to because the man beside me will be snoring and given that I’ll be in the window seat, prime viewing for when disaster occurs, I can’t reach the overhead locker!
So I calm myself down by perusing the in-flight duty-free magazine and congratulate myself on the restraint I have shown so far. There are so many gadgets and trinkets: Opal encrusted koala broaches, for example. Nothing anyone would ever want but obviously, they sell!
At 40,000ft, flying over the sea, I’m feeling more relaxed, thanks to a couple of glasses of bubbles and a heavy head. But suddenly the plane goes deathly quiet (poor choice of words?) and I can no longer hear the roar of the engines. How can the engines be operating if there’s no noise?
What the hell is keeping the plane in the sky?
After waking my snoring neighbour and forcefully grabbing a passing flight attendant’s jacket, I explain my concerns. She rolls her eyes and assures me that everything is ‘normal’ and that the engine is in perfect working order.
Likely story! I gaze up at the overhead compartments. Time to crack open the Midori and lipstick. Maybe a dab of perfume. If I’m going down, I might as well go down, drunk, but smelling fragrant and with my lippie on!
*PS As luck would have it, I’m off to London in six weeks! Six weeks! I can barely contain my excitement!