Flying, And The Criminal Act Of Exceeding Your Baggage Allowance

Last week was not an easy one in terms of anxiety, because I had a flight booked at the end of it. So what should have been a week of relaxation – the first of (for the most part) a two-week staycation – culminated in sleepless nights as I catastrophized about the terrifying superpowers of seagulls, Trump’s craziness, and the week of unsettling windy weather that settled upon Sydney.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

I have never liked the wind – especially when I’m about to board a plane – so it’s not surprising that my anxiety levels had hit the roof by the time I reached the airport on Friday morning and learnt that my flight was delayed by three hours as a result of strong winds. This news, on the back of a week of menacing emails from my airline about my baggage allowance sent me straight to the airport bar – answering my question of who the fuck drinks at ten in the morning.

As an increasingly intolerant middle-aged woman, I am highly appreciative of good customer service ie. follow up emails about the details of my flight, special offers etc. However, I do not appreciate being hounded to “manage” my travel booking on an hourly basis, especially when we all know that “manage” is airline code for getting you to spend more money.

I’m not certain which part my airline didn’t understand about my choice of the cheapest flights to get me from a to b for the weekend, but obviously they still believed they could bully me into purchasing their soggy banana bread, my seat on the plane – or extra legroom – or some extra weight allowance for my baggage.

‘We noticed that you only have 7kg of baggage,’ they warned me threateningly in several emails leading up to my departure, as if the worry associated with getting on a plane and expecting it to stay in the sky wasn’t bad enough.

What they no doubt didn’t realise was that the words “baggage allowance” are already a trigger for me since my last trip to Queensland, when I mistakenly picked the standard 7kg max baggage allowance option without really understanding what the weight means in woman terms; henceforth initiating a personal quest to fit in every variable of clothing, beauty product, and accessory I might need for two days into my tiny case. Fortunately for me, my talent for being such a stickler for detail (AKA anxious), meant that my baggage did come in around the 6.99kg mark at its final weigh-in – something to do with wearing eight of my twelve outfits, I imagine. But then my sister foiled my plan by returning a book to me at the airport – the thickest fucking novel ever – and insisting that I take it home.

That weekend marked the start of new rules imposed by domestic airlines about hand luggage allowances and I was hauled over the coals publicly for being a few grammes over my allowance and forced to layer my last four outfits before they would allow me on board.

Not that I disapprove of the new laws. It used to get on my tits whenever passengers turned up with whole sets of suitcases as hand luggage.

But that’s why this time I was on guard. I took a large bag as opposed to a small suitcase – which weigh around 2.5kg before you put anything in them, ie. an entire outfit option including boots – and I started to pack my bag several days before I was leaving, safe in the knowledge that should I veer over my cheapskate limit, I could always leave my niece and sister’s gifts behind.

However, that didn’t stop me fretting and waking up at night to obsessively-compulsively re-measure the Borrower-sized quantities of my beauty products and re-weigh my bag. Stupid, really. I mean, it’s all a load of bollocks in the grand scheme of things, isn’t it? Because when I’m up there in the sky at the mercy of the elements, or birds – seagulls, I presume – that fly into the plane’s engines, Kamikaze-style – will whether I packed both sets of hair straighteners really make a difference to my chances of survival?

The Secret To Surviving Long-Haul Flights With Anxiety

colton-jones-561163-unsplashIt wasn’t quite the Love Actually airport moment that I had anticipated when I spotted the old man waiting for me at the wrong exit of Sydney airport after my latest grueling long-haul flight, and I wasn’t amused. 

It seems appropriate to compare the torture of such flights to being forced to a Republican Thanksgiving family gathering with an (as yet) undeclared same-sex partner and a cold sore. Jet-lag aside, perhaps the most daunting aspect of the ordeal is being forced to share one’s personal habits in a very small space with potentially four to five hundred strangers, any one of whom may:

  • Be carrying a potentially lethal virus.
  • Be a terrorist.
  • Have children.
  • Smell.

Small children are perhaps the biggest crime. I mean…WHY? Small children do not fare well when restrained for long periods of time – least of all by sleep-deprived parents that lose all lucidity and any sense of responsibility after the first eight hours – and they have a natural tendency to cry all the time when they are tired, when they can’t do or eat what they want, or when they don’t feel safe – a perhaps understandable reaction when every other passenger on the plane is eyeballing them with unsuppressed hatred.

A similar sense of helplessness is experienced by those of an anxious disposition; those who catastrophize every aspect of their life, but particularly the daunting unpredictability of being locked in an aircraft over a long period of time. It has been found that poor control in connection with the obvious threat of crashing, certain death, and becoming the main course for the posse of tiger sharks waiting in the waters beneath them is typically the trigger for such anxiety, although there are several others associated with traveling in such a non-sensical mode of transport.

These are:

Will they make their connection?

Will there be space directly above their seat for their carry-on luggage, or will they be forced to ask a stranger to lift it down for them in that panic of disembarkation when it is imperative for everyone to get off the plane immediately?

Will their cabin stewards hate them and lie about there only being the fish left when they want chicken?

Will the passenger next to them have Spanish influenza or Bird flu?

Will they talk, snore or dribble in their sleep?

Will they be able to work out the door handle to the toilet or be forced to test their bladder control in the most public of places?

Should they eat the bean and pasta starter and risk embarrassing wind issues that have nothing to do with the Gulf stream?

And if they do succumb to diarrhoea, what are their strategies for minimal embarrassment. Do they, a) push their way to the front of the toilet queue? b) Stew quietly in their own poo? or c) kill themselves?

Fortunately for you, I have survived this type of trip more times than I care to remember, and so, as the holiday season looms, I share with you my curated list of tips for getting through what can only be described as a hell greater than eating a dodgy oyster:

  1. Wet wipes – Never underestimate the multi-faceted powers of the wet wipe. If you thought their sole purpose was to wipe spag bol off the faces of kids, you’ve never been on a long-haul flight. From spilled food and make-up removal to VERY personal hygiene – are you with me, menopausal women? – these handy little towels have saved my life more times that I can remember.
  2. Jumper – Don’t make the mistake of boarding a plane in a hot country and assuming that you will stay warm. Airplanes are colder than Westeros in winter and airline blankets are thinner than the new Apple MacBook Air. Survival rule number 1: locate all air con nozzles directed at your seat and disarm immediately.
  3. Select your seat carefully – because…children and toilets. When flying solo, I like to pick an aisle seat in a three-seat row, leaving a space next to me.  If the plane is fairly empty, sniff out the terrain for rows of empty seats as soon as all passengers have embarked. But be quick, Australians are as nifty as Germans and sun beds when it comes to seat appropriation.
  4. Headphones – Forget the ones provided by the airline, which wouldn’t block out a silent fart from the pilot. Invest in a decent pair of noise cancellers so that you can hear every word of that Middle Eastern film you selected by mistake before your touch screen stopped working.
  5. Drink wine with every meal, even breakfast. A long-haul flight is an excuse to get pissed at any time of the day because no one knows what the fuck the real time is anyway.
  6. Avoid all eye contact. You do not want to make friends with anyone who is going to see the state of your sorry arse after fifteen hours of sleep deprivation and an excess of cheap Sav Blanc.
  7. Medication – take whatever works for you. Nothing so strong that it incapacitates you in an emergency – meaning that mothers and kids get off first – but strong enough to ensure it sends you to sleep singing The White Cliffs of Dover.

You’re welcome!

 

 

Man Spreading, Bread Rolls And Lesbian Sex: The First World Issues Of The Global Traveller

I’ve moaned before about the Everest of all tortures; that is the twenty-four hour long-haul flight from Sydney to London. One that rivals any agony ever to be invented for breaking terrorists by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay. appetite-1238406_1280

 

Well, somehow we survived it.

 

Unlike childbirth, it’s not so easy to forget every moment spent gritting your teeth on the cusp of your body’s breaking point once you step off the plane. From the wails of desperate children ringing in your ears and the sight of true desperation of their parents trudging aimlessly around the economy deck, to the queues for putrid toilets and cold, congealed scrambled eggs, if any teenager needs a lesson in humility, this is it.

 

Uncharacteristically, the Gods looked down on us for the first leg of our journey this time, by offering up a half-empty plane and all the promise that brought with it – by my calculations, a reduction in the toilet queuing time by half and double the potential for free booze. Even they must have realised what a truly shite couple of years we’d been through, and how deserving we were of a bit of slack.

 

In real terms it meant that the old man fucked off to a row of empty seats, leaving me to the treat of what was effectively a bed, and what I imagine is similar to the sleeping arrangements of Business – without the Champagne, canapés and sycophantic smiles of the hostesses.

 

Having slammed it in the past as a leftie luxury only available to the ‘more money than sense’ classes, I now fervently believe that Business is one of life’s necessities.

 

However, to be spoiled so early on set us up to fail for our second leg, where wedged between two long-limbed males with major man spreading issues, I struggled to straighten either leg for the entire eight hours and at one point believed my knees had permanently locked into the pap test position. Not even Cate Blanchett in ‘Carol’ could help me through the seven hour ordeal, (which really should have been a breeze after the previous seventeen). When your body is deprived of deep sleep, your back has been reshaped into the shape of a car seat, your stomach is a bloated carb mountain from the number of rolls forced into it to stave off boredom and the hosties have a three hour round trip to bring your first drink, it’s hard to digest the possibilities of lesbian sex.

 

Sod education, sod the migrants, sod Waleed for Prime minister, it’s time our government invested in a decent transport system for the cattle classes.

Long Haul, Long Hell

English: Tambo Long Haul Arrivals
English: Tambo Long Haul Arrivals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like childbirth, it is fortunate that some inherent, natural bodily mechanism allows us to forget the torture of the long-haul flight once we land on terra firma.

Until a few days before the next flight, that is.

Controversial I know, but in my middle-aged, humble, thankfully-beyond-small children opinion, there should be a law against little buggers under the age of five being allowed onto long haul flights.

Long haul flights are not a humane mode of transport for even the most patient and tolerant among us, (of which I am definitely not one). It defies the realms of normal physical endurance to remain in an upright position for 24 hours, sleep-deprived and forced to consume food every two hours, and still remain sane.

But add a screaming child into the equation, and you create your own personal purgatory. Frankly, I would prefer to stick needles in my eyeballs than take a small child on a long-haul flight – actually, that’s exactly how my eyeballs felt after the twentieth hour of my flight to London, anyway.

Any parent will understand just how debilitating lack of sleep is, so it’s hardly surprising that having been awake for over sixteen hours, I might have entertained the idea (in my most private of thoughts) of what would be the most violent death for those children in row 36 who prevented me from nodding off.

Up until that family of four, which included one grizzly toddler and a very hungry newborn, boarded, I had strategically planned my journey and decided I would catch up on my sleep on the last leg to set myself up for mint physical condition for my new time zone.

The best-laid plans and all that…

But I have to give it to those siblings, for they harmonized beautifully together for that whole eight-hour flight, and although I did feel some distant pity for the parents for about one minute of the journey, most of my pity was self-focused.

Which is why I have already begun to contemplate the journey home. There have been some noticeably worrying, different palpitations in my chest area.

New Babies, Flying And ADHD

 

Flying With ADHD
Bubba courtesy of crakerk69 at http://www.flickr.com

Kurt and I are going on a mini break together to meet his newborn cousin today.

 

He is very excited. I have some concerns.

 

My son has never met a real, live baby before. I am trying to put the concerns I have about his preconceptions about them to the back of my mind.

 

Here are a few random ones:

 

He thinks they are born with a full set of teeth.

He still believes that taking a baby for a walk involves a leash.

He refers to her as ‘it’.

He doesn’t understand why we can’t leave her at home when we go out.

He is still confused about whether she is his niece or cousin.

He can’t remember her name.

 

His biggest fear is catching sight of his auntie’s nipple while she is breastfeeding. My sister is a raging hippy and will definitely whip them out at every opportunity, so I have tried to prepare him.

 

My other concern centres around traces of illegal substances, lighters and weapons being found in his bag at the airport so that I look like a ‘bad mother’ in front of airport security – like I did during the BB gun incident in Bali.

English: Security checkpoint at Seattle Tacoma...
English: Security checkpoint at Seattle Tacoma (SeaTac) International Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I have had to put a post-it on my bag that reads ‘no tweezers’ because I always forget and I ALWAYS get stopped and searched. It’s one of the few times in the new, middle-aged existence where I am not ‘invisible’. It’s like I have this beacon on my head that says ‘search me – I could do with a good grope!’

 

We are both highly anxious people and flying is not our favourite pastime. The last time we flew together, Kurt projectile-vomited all over me as we stepped off the plane and he has been hyper-focusing on the Malaysian air tragedy since it happened and keeps asking me about fly-zones.

 

I have had to run through our schedule at least twenty-five times already this morning and he has asked me to check his bag daily since he began packing two weeks ago.

 

I have six wiry, new grey hairs that have defied the bleach.

 

I have caught myself looking longingly at the wine rack several times since breakfast.

 

New babies, flying and ADHD.

Come Fly With Me

I haven’t changed my opinion about flying.

English: Taken on Singapore Airlines Flight 86...
English: Taken on Singapore Airlines Flight 866 bound for Hong Kong. Pictured is the now old Raffles Class on the upper deck of a Boeing 747-412. Excellent service provided by the friendly crew of Singapore Airlines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being treated like cattle and herded into a confined space for twenty-four hours with family, small children, reproducing germs and food that is really not fit for human consumption, whilst the rest of the world continues to revolve slowly and painlessly beneath, could be considered a form of torture.

This flight to the Uk was no different in terms of flying experience. I’m a great advocate of getting what you pay for in life and if you pay economy and choose to fly halfway around the globe at one of the busiest times of the year, expectations need to be low.

The tension began to mount at check-in when it took three of us to lift my suitcase onto the scales while the check-in Gestapo asked if the old man’s overnight bag was hand luggage. I furtively tried to conceal the rest of my shoes and fourth coat nonchalantly in my handbag and ignored the look of disgust that the old man threw in my direction.

On the bright side, we were saved from puking, disgruntled and highly irritating toddlers standing up in the seats in front of us and prodding the buttons on our in-flight entertainment whenever their frazzled parents heads were turned, this time. Why anyone would choose to fly with any human for twenty-four hours under the age of ‘normal’ is quite beyond me. And we did all manage to catch a few catnaps at various points of the journey, although unfortunately not in tandem which can make flying an isolating experience when you suddenly jolt awake in the dark in coffee-splashing turbulence whilst the rest of your ship in the sky is sleeping. When the captain puts the seatbelt sign back on, I lose control of my bowels. The imagination goes into overdrive.

Whilst weighing up the meagre offering of films, the ADHDer did at least keep my own in-flight entertainment going by the relocation of his piece of greasy pepperoni pizza, (hastily grabbed on the hop at Hong Kong airport, which due to recent renovations and a new layout seems to have made locating Macdonalds as difficult as finding Wally; although if you want to spend thousands of dollars on a handbag, you are spoilt for choice), in liquidised form promptly into a sick bag somewhere over Asia, during a bout of particularly life-questioning turbulence. Our little friend ‘anxiety’ came along for the ride as we expected he would, and no matter how many times we googled ‘does turbulence cause air crashes’, we never truly got an answer we liked. The very expensive, rapper-style anti-nausea wrist bands, are obviously a con and our hostess could not disguise her disgust as I handed her the bulging sick bag in-between one of her many paid sleeping sessions in the luxury quarters at the back of the plane, in spite of her bright red dress and hooker-style make-up.

In-flight food provided some relief from the boredom and as always I was truly amazed by my capacity to eat during a flight, no matter how unrecognisable the contents of my tray. I even managed to squirrel away a stash of Brioche rolls (stolen from the kids trays, who refuse to eat anything), which I secreted away as emergency rations by the side of my seat and dipped into privately in moments of supreme boredom and anguish, making it necessary for me to loosen my seat belt several times before we reached our destination. The first of the extra Christmas kilos began to gather momentum.

Just prior to the old man strangling the ADHDer with his own headphones, Nerd Queen beginning her tenth book on the quantum physics associated with a Boeing 747, and my eighth Brioche roll, our chirpy British pilot mentioned something about beginning our descent and the ADHDer and I breathed unaided again for the first time since we shakily left Sydney twenty-three hours and twenty-five grey hairs earlier.

It seems that the ADHDer’s preparations the night before our departure, of sitting upright all night in his desk chair to get used to the aeroplane, had been ill-conceived.