Fourth Row

January 14, 2010

I’m on a plane. An A319 plane fans. And, plane fans, you may have seen the title of the post and you may be laughing the laugh of a plane fan who knows what’s coming.

I’d booked my seats online; both for the two flights out from Gatwick to San Francisco (changing at Charlotte) and the two flights back to Heathrow, changing in Philadelphia. But those online things stand for, as my 7 year old nephew William might make up, jabba zazoo wack poo. So, when I check in and am given seat 87P (or 141T… all seats that don’t exist, but you get the drift) I have to ask nicely to see if I can get an aisle seat.

I like aisle seats. I can’t claim to have a condition, but I really get sweaty and confused and desperate if I’m trapped in. I’ll start to rock and hum to myself and, given time, I’ll punch out the window, climb out, and start eating the wing.

As I say, it’s not a condition, it’s not a phobia. When I have analysed this… thing… the only sense I can make of it is that it has been passed down through the genes of my mother, who didn’t like hiding in the cupboard under the stairs during the Blitz. That’ll be it. And it’s a thing I have, not a condition, not a phobia. A thing, nothing more.

Oh, and I’m not really a fan of watches, or belts, or shoelaces. When I go to events where they make you wear those wrist-straps that can only come off by snapping and that you need to wear to get in and out (like at Glastonbury or the Vauxhall Caravan Park Interleague Pool Competition) I have to have them loose enough to be able to slip over my wrists without snapping them. I can keep them on, but I have to know that if necessary I can get them off. Even if it means dislocating my thumb.

It’s not a problem. I’m not crazy. It’s not a condition. Or a phobia. Just a little thing. A quirk.

I’d hate to be in prison. Locked in a cell, day after day.

And I’d hate handcuffs. That would be unbearable. I’d stop breathing just to bring it to an end. And legcuffs. Hobbling along in an orange boiler suit. Wait, I wouldn’t mind the boiler suit.

I wouldn’t like my hands to be handcuffed behind my back. That’d be bad.

I’d hate to be a gimp. With a red snooker ball in my mouth.

Other than that I’d be fine. It’s not really a problem. I’m cool. It’s a character trait. It gives me personality. It’s not a phobia or a condition.

It’s just that, given the choice, I’d choose an aisle seat.

And so, despite the early hour and my grumpy half awakedness, I am all sweetness and light when I meet the US Airways check-in lady.

I’m a little nervous of course since a previous blog post was a lightly humorous but disparaging take on US Airways cabin staff (though calling Virgin cabin staff pornographic would not commonly be taken as a compliment). A critical comment left on the post may well have come from one of their staff. I may be on a US Airways Top Ten Most Wanted list.

But no, things go smoothly, my seat is changed, I am given an aisle seat, and my seat number is D4.

D4! That sounds good, possibly great. Could it be that I have been upgraded? After all, the best seats are upfront. (Ok, not quite the best. The really best best are upstairs. I’ve never been upstairs on a plane… I can only dream of going upstairs. Everyone upstairs stands around at bars drinking cocktails. There’s a dancefloor. An Imax cinema. A petting zoo. You get to sleep in a rotating circular bed. With a stranger you’ll never see again. The cabin crew make you have sex in  the toilets. Upstairs is upstairs for a reason; it’s the bedroom of the plane; it’s Heaven.

This plane doesn’t have an upstairs. But it does have a Business Class. D4 has to be in Business Class. Surely.

Ha ha, laugh the plane nerds with their superior knowledge of the insides of an A319. Business Class is rows 1 to 3. There are 12 seats in Business Class. I’m the next row down. I’m unlucky 13.

Still, at least I have an aisle seat. I can relax. I’m not wedged, scared to even go to the toilet. I can come and go as I please. As long as my movements are backwards.

Forwards is a no go area. A curtain is drawn to cut me off from the toffs. But it’s a weird meshy curtain, like a fine chain mail. The kind of thing Arthur would wear in Merlin if it were made by Poundstretchers instead of the BBC.

It’s see-through. Like gauze, or gossamer, or a Virgin Stewardesses baby-doll nightie. I can see straight through it. I can see the man one row ahead of me watching Lord of the Rings. And worse; I can see a motherly stewardess in a Slanket handing out food! I am on a five hour flight, but because it’s domestic I get no food! Those business types are being offered hot hand towels. Me? I have to suck my own fingers clean. Not that they’re messy. No food!

And they’re drinking. Alcohol! Free booze! I can buy it, but it’s not the same. I settle for a tomato juice. My steward isn’t motherly. He isn’t fatherly. or brotherly. Although he does look a bit Monkerly. He’s wearing a fuzzy US Airways jumper and I bet there are really coarse horse hairs on the inside.

He gives me my drink and then, unbelievably, tips a whole jugful of ice cubes over me. I am covered in ice cubes. He tries to pick them up, fumbling around my nether regions, scratching under his jumper, but he can’t get them all. He does his best to apologise but I don’t feel as if his heart is in it. There’s an easy way to apologise in situations like these: Free booze!

I’m still finding stray ice cubes ten minutes later. Thirty minutes later my feet are in a puddle. And I’ve taken my shoes off.

At least the seatbelt signs gone off.

I hate being strapped in.


5 Responses to “Fourth Row”

  1. Andrew said

    Do you think there is a Medieval Re-enactment Society who has some chain mail armour missing. Or perhaps a Shark Cage Diver, as they wear chain mail swim suits. I sympathise with your confinement issues. I freak out if my zip gets stuck near the top on an overcoat. Its as though the zip is linked to your oxygen supply…

  2. Stephanie said

    Does Trev liked being tied up? I’ve always fancied doing that to him!

  3. Shujin said

    I hate being trapped too. I’m a frequent flyer who will not travel unless I have an aisle seat.
    We should start a club.

  4. Samantha said

    That gauze curtain is such a tease! You’re there, but you’re not!
    (Really great entertaining post by the way)

  5. Trevor Neal said

    Hi Stephanie – You can’t expect Simon to answer a question like that – I would have responded sooner myself but I’ve been a bit tied up recently.

    Very enjoyable blog post Simon – I’m a bit behind the game here – looking forward to reading “Stewart Lee” next.

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