I was on a long haul flight, my first, and doing it alone, and I was scared, sure I would not survive the trip. What with terrorists lurking and storms rising, not to mention a rogue pilot and metal fatigue, I just knew I would not see England again, probably not even reach America. And if I did get to New York, against all odds, well, I would get white slaved in JFK airport, never mind I was a purple haired nearly sixty year old widow; and if I got through the airport, I would get mugged on the subway, or in Central Park, or worse.
The thing was, I wanted to get to New York, I have a friend there, the father of a transatlantic anthropologist I’d had lodging with me after my partner died. He’d been inviting me for two years, “Come to our side of the pond, I’ll show you the sights, and we’ll do the story telling convention in Tennessee, it’s something, I can tell you.”
The plane was packed, and I was in the worst possible seat, the middle seat in middle row, pleasant young American guy on one side, grumpy older American man on t’other. Packed in as only planes can pack us in, where are the animal rights people when you need them, I realised immediately I needed to throw off the warm throw I was wearing or I would be throwing up.
In front of me was a gay couple, the guy to my right was homophobic, his asides embarrassed me, the film was something with Russell Grant, how much worse could things get? I’d forgotten the food. Something mushy was served, it could have been rice in another life, I wasn’t hungry anyway, and my stomach, which had just settled down after being assaulted by steerage body aromas, was now threatening again to go into revolt.
We were passed a form to fill in and warned of all the things we could not take into the country, amongst them was fruit. I had two apples in my bag. I disturbed the nice young guy on my left to retrieve them; a very expensive looking jacket fell out of the overhead baggage rack. Trying to fold it neatly, turbulence sent me flying onto the lap of a man whose face I did not think could grow any longer, though it did as I tried not to laugh.
Afraid of arrest and ignominious banishment to Britain, I munched the two fist sized apples, to the sighing disapproval of the guy on my right. At least he left the gay guys alone for a while.
I thought I’d try to begin my ‘American Journal’ and found I’d lost my new Cross pen already, given to me as a flying gift by a dear friend.
I tried to watch the next film, something which looked promising, beginning with some up tempo accordion music, which was nice, but it did go on a bit; it took me a while to realize I was on a music channel although lips moving and no dialogue coming out should have been a clue. I tried to change channels but got the volume button; I screeched, my eardrums pounded, nice young guy smirked, grumpy older man groaned.
My hips began to ache, I didn’t dare disturb the guys again, I tried to stretch my legs, the seasoned traveller will know what an impossible stunt that is. Imagine being folded into the boot of a mini for nine hours, that’s it.
However, all this discomfort did serve to negate my fear of flying, I was so busy assuaging my hips, knees, eardrums and other vital organs, that sudden death seemed almost welcome. Finally we landed, I got through immigration, nodded in by a surly but efficient officer and sought my luggage. I descended the elevator, tired but triumphant, and my friend was waiting for me, standing to attention, blowing an imaginary trumpet, to the strains of God Save The Queen. I had been awake for a full 19 hours, and never had I felt more alive.
L E Green