Monday, August 13, 2007

Ze flights

When I write my memoirs they will not be much more than a collection of short and funny and sometimes bizarre stories about airplane journeys.

On the way there:

On a day journey from London to New York two Friday’s ago I sat squashed in my beaten leather-from-the-80s-seat and tried to ignore the milling crowds stuffing their life’s belongings in the overhead bins. Three families, each with two adults and two kids, were traveling together, on holiday from the ugly British weather and school, onward to New Orleans from New York. The mothers spent the entire flight attempting to paint their nails and foist some discipline on their children while doing so. Dribs drabs and wisdom:

Ashley, sit down. SIT DOWN. I said, SIT DOWN ASHLEY. NOW Ashley. Don’t get mummy angry Ashley.

Pete, do not touch that, what did mummy say Pete, do NOT touch that.

No, he will not eat Pasta, give him the chicken. He doesn’t know what he wants, he’s only 6.

New York, we are going to New York. And then in another plane to New Orleans. Yes, New York is in America. ANOTHER plane (mild notes of high pitched-panic at the thought - for the mothers, relief for me as I was NOT going to be on that flight)

Yes we are on holiday darling. No, you can’t have coke till we reach America because that’s when the holiday starts darling. Yes, I did say we are on holiday darling. Ok you can have ONE coke. Only ONE.

No you can’t change seats. You chose to sit with Ashley and now you will have to sit with Ashley. (And then similar string with all 5 other children)

Yes, she will also have the chicken. Don’t ask them, please just give them the chicken.

AJ, don’t hit your sister. SIT DOWN and do NOT hit your sister. I said NO.

Tia, sit down and put on that seat belt. No you can’t walk up and down. No they are not going to show Shrek 3 and no you can’t change seats with mummy.

Do NOT make me say it again. SIT DOWN NOW.

Tara, if I see you pinch him one more time you will be in deep trouble yourself. One MORE TIME.

What part of No did you not understand?

I’ll count to 3. wuuuun, wuuunnnn anna half. Ta-wooooo. Ta-woooo anna haaaalf. NOW. Thuuuuurrrrreeeee. That’s it. You young man, are getting off this plane.

Yes, New Orleans is also in America.

And so on and so forth. For 6 straight hours. In the 7th hour, stuffed with chicken, a variety of snacks and clearly over the hyper-ness caused by the forbidden coke, they slept. Mothers completed the nail painting job and gossiped loudly about their wonderful angelic (read asleep) children.

What did the three fathers do, I hear you ask? They sat together in another row, baseball caps pulled down low over brows, earphones stuck over ears and ignored said wives and children by watching Fracture with Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling and holding intense conversations about golf and the increasing cost of life in the English countryside. Typical!

On the way back:

The flight boarded at 7.30pm just 10 minutes before our scheduled time of departure. Not a minute too soon as I had had to shuffle my baggage along the floor in a disorganised winding line in a hot humid terminal full of irate passengers - 1.5 hours just to check in. And of course I was then ‘specially selected’ for a ‘special security check’. With every bit of me and my hand baggage x-rayed, patted down, checked for spurious substance and declared fit about 10 minutes before boarding time I was exhausted, worried about missing my flight, missed out on last minute cheer-me-up duty free retail therapy and ready to fall asleep standing up.

The flight leaves the gate at 8.10pm, taxi-ing along slowly. At 8.50pm, yes a whole 40 minutes later, we are still taxi-ing along the runway. I think we are going around in circles or squares or rectangles. I don’t really care. All I want is something to drink and the security cartoon to stop playing on a loop. In the seats behind mine is a Gujju uncle traveling with a very well behaved 5andabit year old son. The seat adjacent to mine is empty and I dream of pleasant sleep once we are airborne.

My phone is off in anticipation of leaving (on a jet plane, humming that for no apparent reason) so I stop one of the stewards and ask the time. Its 9.05pm he says. Amidst the dead silence of the exhausted slumbering passengers the little boy behind me asks, “Papa, are we driving to London?”

We take off at 9.30, only an hour and 50 minutes late. Two families flight about one small child kicking the other older family’s seats from behind. The words ‘slander’ and ‘sue me’ are used loosely and repeatedly till the older family is moved to another section of the plane. The child begins to wail and is repeatedly slinking off her seat onto the floor shedding bucket-loads of tears. The mother and father fight, move to separate rows and the child toddles between them for the first half of the flight. The mother insists her child be allowed to sleep on the floor in the aisle and the stewards vehemently disallow. Drama of the Bollywood kind ensues with mother and father uniting to rubbish the airline and claim the rights.

About 3 hours into the flight (ie. 4 hours and 50 minutes after being trapped in the lunatic flight from hell) we all get some peace and quiet. The mother and father have decided after a loud whispering fighting match that separate rows are best. The little girl has cried herself to sleep near her father. I’m so sleepy I’m beyond sleep. Thank god for my Ipod and the History of Love.

My expectations are so low they sometimes frighten me.


  1. you have ALL the luck.

  2. Next time you come to New York, we should meet :-)

  3. Nice to know that its not only Indian kids who go cuckoo in confined spaces :-)

  4. Hilarious (to the reader, not the traveler suffering it). I have a theory around how babies in a flight play tag-crying. One stops and the other starts. For a notoriously light sleeper like me, long flights are a nightmare.

  5. Whoaa! Poor you!
    "Papa, are we driving to London?" cracked me up! Hehe!

  6. Anonymous3:02 PM


    Joy oh joy :).. hope your shopping spree made up for such a crappy flight..
    "driving to london" was so cute :)

  7. Man, the Green Goondas might achieve their aim - ie stopping air travel to reduce carbon footprints - through kids. I wonder if they ever thought of that? :) Every time I get on a plane, I PRAY that I dont get seated anywhere near a family with children!

    At least you make it sound funny :)

  8. How, how, how ..... ???

    Mental note: Do not take long flights during school holidays.

  9. Anonymous3:18 AM

    DO NOT FLY IN AUGUST. This is what happens. Poor you.

  10. While all kids get restless on flights, I find the Indian kids the worst because their parents seem more inclined to indulge them (which again is a surprise to me because are Indian parents renowned for beating their kids?). I'm sure the request to let child lie down in the aisle could only come from Indians. On that note - happy independence day!

  11. Anonymous6:00 AM

    I once sat next to a family whose two kids clearly needed a diaper change. boy was that torture!

  12. Lol!!! Whenever I fly and come across such incidents, i'm reminded of your posts.. and I say to myself, it ain't that bad :P

  13. Ooooh good post! Loved it.

  14. Beks: Indeed I do!

    Sinusoidally: Thwacking myself on the head - why did I not think of that!? Next time definitely!

    ggop: All kids go mental in confined spaces - its just Indian parents that leave theirs at the mercy of everyone else. These were British-Jamaican kids.

    Parth: ipod/ personal screen/ book - and in a loop again....

    Shub: He was such a lovely child I cannot tell you - well behaved and a credit to the parents.

    SO: Hmm, shopping made up for most of it, not all of it.

    Shyam/ Pea/ MG: Lesson learnt - I cannot imagine why I thought it would be a good idea?

    Bride: Sadly the request to lie down in aisle was from blue-blooded Brits!

    Chakli: Poor poor you!

    J: I am the standard for bad flights. Such a low benchmark for other bloggers/ fly-ers

    Iz: Thanks

  15. maybe I should check and book on your flights with my babies - just to add to the fun and games you know... :p

  16. I take it you do not have kids. Ah the pleasure of flying without appendanges unattached to self....