Land Sick: What happens when you’ve sat in the same place for too long. Typically characterized by squirrelly and restless behavior. Often accompanied by feeling of days running together and lack of productivity.
I include this definition because maybe you haven’t heard it, and it’s relevant to today’s post. As you can see from the quietude here at my blog, I’ve been staying home. It’s overrated, and it’s made me land-sick. Right then, time to get out of town! Where to this time? Ireland. But before I can tell you about Ireland, I have just got to tell you about the trip over. I couldn’t make this stuff up.
What follows is an awkward tale of people-watching, and Brits behaving badly. Usually it’s the Americans making all the trouble, but not in today’s story (unless maybe you count me)! It all started on a British Airways/American Airways code-share flight. Thanks to poor computer communications between the two airlines, I could not check in until I got to the airport. Therefore, I had a middle seat the whole way to London. Oh boy. Not exactly a great start. Next to me on either side were two men who were of reasonable size and hygiene, luckily. But in front of us were a couple who were loud, rude, argumentative (found this out first hand), lusty and probably alcoholics. The rows of seats were really close together, and almost immediately after take-off, the woman (seated in the window seat, in front of the man to my left) decided to go into full recline. Strangely, she was sitting far forward and not using any of the space she’d taken up, instead simply putting my neighbor into misery. Me being me, I decided something should be done. Cue the music, the poop is about to hit the fan.
When I asked her to put her seat forward a bit so my neighbor could eat, she exploded. Oh dear. But I stood my ground and said that we had over nine more hours together and we needed to work it out. She continued to be belligerent and so did her boyfriend. Mostly they yelled at the gentle Swiss Balinese man next to me – he hadn’t said a word! I interrupted and insisted they take it up with me since it was my idea to say something. They got less brave at that point, since I am a bit scarier. Eventually, after more persistence, I found out she had terrible back problems and was allergic to medication, and was trying to put some physical distance between her and the person behind her. This finally enabled my neighbor to understand the problem and get his personal space returned, and hopefully the woman was in less pain since the nudging desisted. Overall, the argument seemed worth it for a ten hour flight, and my neighbor was able to physically eat his dinner thanks to the seat movement, but still, it was hard won and created tension. My neighbor and I went on to have a nice conversation about Indonesia and politics. Mostly though, we enjoyed some guilty pleasure at the stupidity and complete tackiness of the people in front of us. Because the flight got more interesting as time wore on.
The woman’s back problem grew puzzling because we could see that she was contorting in all kinds of ways for the man. How could she maintain such positions and still have a bad back? Specifically, we saw her stocking feet up in the air above the headrests and his body clearly over on her side of the seat. Her badly bleached hair was spilling down the side of the window seat armrest, and there was some evidence of slow gyrations. We began to wonder if perhaps a child was being conceived. When they were in the aisle (together, of course) they could not keep their hands off each other. They did take a break to argue loudly about his wife (!!!) who did not seem to be present. Oh my, oh my. I suspect they would have been quieter had they not been so drunk, but who knows? The empty mini-wine bottles eventually began to roll back down the floor of the aircraft in a steady stream. The stewards were taking their time about delivering more booze to the couple, and were reluctant to sell them bottles of whiskey from the duty-free sales trolley. No apparent reservations about the big box of cigarettes, though. By the time dinner service was over, the woman was so drunk she couldn’t figure out how to turn on and off the light, or how to call for the flight attendant, so she took to pushing the light bulb overhead repeatedly and eventually asking anyone who’d listen to buzz the attendant. I was so tempted to mess with her. The real problem was that the armrest control was unavailable since they’d raised the armrest between them (for that baby-making mentioned earlier). The controls were right in front of me, as it happened. I totally wanted to push the light bulb control to mess with her as she pushed on the light bulb overhead. Then I could maybe turn it off again, just to make her wonder what was happening. But it would have been like poking a wasp’s nest. I restrained myself with difficulty. A little while later, the two of them were sleeping like the dead. At a time like this, what does one do? Break out the Sharpie markers? Shave off eyebrows? As adults, we’re no longer allowed these juvenile pranks. I know, I know – our plucky heroine should triumph over the obnoxious drunks. But no. I am afraid there is no satisfying climax to the story; the rest of us behaved in a genteel fashion. The woman in the seat next to them had her sleep mask on the whole way, and who could blame her? What a show. I haven’t had a flight like this in years.
Once off the plane in Heathrow, having carefully put some distance between me and the crazy people, there were busses to take and queues to stand in. I was very sleepy and a little punchy, having had no sleep in that middle seat, but I wasn’t in Ireland yet, so I had to stay upright and keep moving. Eventually, I got to the correct gate area, and it was old, run down, and looked like a different airport than the rest of Heathrow: smaller, dirtier and closed in. Then, perhaps in remembrance of the Irish Republican Army, I went through personal inquiry, biometric inspection, and X-ray security, all twice, with lots of direct questions and a hand inspection of my luggage and its contents. Even on the way out of the Dublin airport, customs wanted to talk to me. Everyone seemed concerned that I was arriving alone and found that rather odd. Maybe middle aged women don’t travel by themselves in the UK or Ireland? I don’t know. But the Irish immigration lady was great, and I got a big green stamp in my passport. The taxi driver was a chatty fellow and we got on beautifully. For the first time ever, I was in the company of people more talkative than me. It was a taste of things to come in Ireland and a warm, welcoming feeling. It might not have been easy to get to, but it was worth the effort.