I’m writing this whilst up in the air on a plane toDelhi. Having been completely separated from my family because airlines don’t seem to think that families need to sit together, I’m squashed into ‘cattle class’ next to a Bangladeshi who likes to sleep with a large amount of arm room and with a TV screen in front of me that does not even offer Solitaire as a game and thinks that Bollywood movies are appropriate to list under “entertainment”.
Such a time enables one to reflect on things and certainly a lot has happened to reflect on. Air flight never fails to surprise and astound me. Certainly, over the last five years of regular long distance flying I have never had the same check-in and boarding experience twice. This time, for the first time, they decided after numerous screenings of our hand luggage that right at the boarding place they would search through all of our luggage. They have never done this before and were doing it with everyone. Still, to this day, they have never weighed our hand luggage at any airport though a recent Facebook survey I took amongst my friends revealed that I seem to be in the minority with this. As I knew that our hand luggage was likely to be severely overweight (by about 10kg) I was rather pleased that, yet again, I continue to belong with the hand luggage virgins.
What was also new was my wife having to be sent to another ‘special’ computer desk at Passport control because recently she had come into Bangladesh through a different border control up in the north when returning from Darjeeling. The fact that the kids and I did the same journey and have identical passport and visa documentation seemed not to deter the control officer involved. Just my wife had to be checked out.
An hour later and we got straight on to the plane (apart from the afore-mentioned search of the hand luggage) which is also new for me. Normally we sit for at least an hour in the lounge before the inevitable call for ‘women and families’ first which is always ignored by the Bangladeshi men who just cram themselves to the front. My wife and I always make sure we wait to the end to get on to avoid being shoved around. After all, we all have tickets with our seats pre-arranged. There really is no advantage to pushing ahead. Still, they do. Do they think the plane will leave without them if they are last on or something?
A young friend of ours, however, was not so lucky with all of this. We lost him at the first check-in desk as it transpired that somehow he expected to be able to stay 3 days in India before catching his next flight to get him home all without an Indian visa. Now, being British, my first thought was “Fool. Of course he will never get on the flight without the correct paperwork.” But I did not allow for one very important fact that proved my friend’s cunning. He’s American. Every American I have ever known has been capable of smiling their way through anything they need. The Brits scream, shout and grump their way through things and, if they avoid arrest, usually get their way just so people can get rid of them. Americans, somehow, make everyone love them – including, it would seem, without a valid visa.
With a Bangladesh visa that was running out today (and therefore in danger of causing an even bigger headache for the airport officials) they ran around as though he was a major politician to sort something for him. My friend smiled sweetly and, sure enough, he made it onto the plane. Some people get all the luck.
Which brings me to my last thought and my largest gripe of all about air flight.
Why is it, out of all the people we’ve ever known – singles, men, women, other families – everyone but everyone gets upgraded to first class except us? Seriously, I’m beginning to get offended.
What is the secret? Is it luck? Do I need to give some kind of secret Masonic sign at the check in desk? Do I just need to announce boldly “I’m an Aid worker helping the poor – have mercy on me!”? Nothing seems to work.
Feel free to tell me the answer on this blog – I really do want to know. Until then, I shall just gentle lift up the arm belonging to the happily sleeping gentleman next to me so I can turn this laptop off, stretch out my legs another ½ centimetre so they are almost unfolded and decide which of the two Bollywood movies on offer on the TV screen I will watch to help me sleep.
I suspect I shall dream I am strapped up in my hand luggage looking at everyone stretching out in First class. They’re all Americans and they are smiling.