Captivating Economy

26 November 2010

The airline allowed only a single piece of hand luggage on the plane.

“Let me help you with that” said the flight attendant.

It had been a long day at the airport and now an hour’s delay was announced. The cabin was full and I was penned in at the window. My personal items, I realized, were all in that one piece of hand luggage: helpless captives locked up, tantalizingly, over my head.

A long time later I was still trying to make myself comfortable when I noticed the netted pouch in the seat-backs were missing. The airline was right to remove them. I would have been tearing at mine with my teeth by now, I am convinced of it.

They had dismantled sources of comfort in anticipation of just such ungrateful lunacy. Reaching in to my coat pocket, I found a pencil stub and small notebook but was promptly advised that, although we were delayed from take-off, I was not allowed to use my tray-table as a desk to scribble about my increasing anxiety. I humphed indignantly,  mumbling that these were conditions of prisoners-of-old! As the attendant turned, I glanced sideways at the window, wishing to scratch out the slow, passing minutes. Instead, somewhat sullenly, I used my knees as a table: words staggered across the tiny page. Occasionally an unlucky few fell off the far edge.

Then, out of the blue, a little theatre. Round eyes of bored attendants who trussed themselves up and tugged at their (orange) props. A ghostly mime of the damned: the safety demonstration played out like a surrealist’s Hallowe’en play.

To distract me from my noticeable agitation, my father handed me his book to read while continuing to attended to a crossword. For the last half hour, he had been throwing out random nouns in expectation that obedient synonyms would come flying back to nest in their small white boxes. He hadn’t looked up at all. The book’s title was Last Chance To See.  It was all about highly endangered animals with suggestions for particular moments at which each creature might have lost the plot.

Finally the plane began to move. Backwards.

“I hope he’s better at reversing than you are,” I remarked.

All my accidents happen when I reverse” sighed my father, without shifting his eyes in case any letter should escape its pen.

Forwards now and we taxied for so long that I began to consider whether, like the kakapo parrot I was reading about, this plane had in fact forgotten how to fly.

kakapo parrot

What wings? (a kakapo parrot speaks)

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