I’M not exactly a confident flyer. So when I book my economy, Sydney to Paris via Abu Dhabi flight, I spent a month researching and re-researching and making and remaking seating requests.
My claustrophobia and fear of what I consider an illogical mode of transportation (they still can’t completely explain gravity, ffs) ballooned as the days prior to my departure drew nearer.
My final solution was to fork out an extra $230 dollars for an exit-row aisle seat — perhaps the only seat that might stop my heart from entering my throat, and to bring along a prescribed bottle of Xanax.
That morning before I left home, I checked the seating plan and was pleasantly surprised that nobody had forked out the extra cash for the middle-seat next to me.
Everything seemed to be coming up Milhouse.
THE FLIGHT FROM HELL
When I checked in, not only was my aisle seat already booked (by a fellow flyer who’s forked out the extra cash) but I was relegated to a seat against the wall, one arm forced behind a weird plastic protrusion, and between us, in the middle seat, was a buff gentleman who had not paid the extra cash, but had merely been allocated the seat.
With one Xanax and a shot of airport tequila in my system, I demanded an explanation. Already marking my position as a difficult flyer, the gentleman in the aisle seat I’d been promised was lovely enough to swap seats with me, but there was still the matter of the fact that unless I veered to one side, to the safety of a single armrest, I would have spent the 14-hour flight elbow-to-elbow with the buff gentleman.
The airline staff was largely lovely, and dealt with this overly difficult passenger with grace. The stewardess and cabin leader were sensitive to my anxiety, but unfortunately a particular family a few rows back weren’t on the same page.
A few more Xanax and a bunch of on-air vodkas later (do not do this, the warnings of alcohol-fuelled benzo blackouts are completely accurate), and I had paid for Wi-Fi in the air, where I wrote nonsensical Facebook status updates about some long-gone ex-girlfriend and sent some crazy iMessages to my friends and family — all of which I didn’t remember until after the fact.
What I do remember, though, is the father of the disgruntled family calling me a pest (I’m sure on some level, he wasn’t wrong), and then threatening to take me outside and give me a good post-flight pummeling.
So, I took a few phone photos of the family for posterity, offered a truce, apologised for my behaviour and rationalised it as due to my severe fear of flying. The man literally blocked his ears and his wife pretended I didn’t exist.
As you can imagine, all I wanted to do was get off that plane.
LET ME OFF THIS PLANE
When we arrived at Abu Dhabi and that seatbelt sign flicked off, every clammy and disgruntled passenger stood and grappled at the overheads, then were forced to wait at least 20 minutes in back-to-crotch standing positions.
Luckily, they weren’t aware it was partly my fault.
Once the doors eventually breathed open, and I stepped out into the corridor, Airport security were waiting for me. The cabin leader had said that I had been taking photos of the family and we needed to settle this with the police.
I was fine with this, as the man had threatened me, so we waited for the family to alight. And waited. And waited.
It turned out they’d already stepped off, and it was time to go and track them down. When we were unable to locate them, I was introduced to a man of authority, in the full white garb, who insisted I follow him into a room so as to take down my side of the story.
I AIN’T ENTERING NO ROOM WITHOUT A LAWYER (YES, I ACTUALLY SAID THAT, BUT IN A MORE AUSSIE VERNACULAR)
I refused to follow, explained my side, and handed over my account of the story, which apparently I’d written down on paper prior to exiting the plane.
The man then disappeared inside the office with my account, leaving me guarded by members of Airport security — who, I must say, were actually pretty awesome. But I feared what awaited me when that man in full traditional garb emerged from the office. Yes, a bit of irrational cultural racism there, one I didn’t even know existed.
When the gentleman reappeared, he held a small piece of paper in his hand. In his 30m walk from the door to my waiting seat, a thousand things ran through my head — was I to be fined for my behaviour? Or worse, was it a note to the police to arrest me and throw away the key?
Remember, I was not of sound mind.
“Sorry for the inconvenience. It is obvious this family were aware of the threat they had made and had left as quickly as they could.”
My heart returned to my chest as he handed over the little bit of yellow paper.
“Here is a voucher for a complimentary sandwich”.
It was the most satisfying (disgusting) airport panini I’ve ever eaten.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Don’t mix Xanax and alcohol. This isn’t a public service announcement — it’s a cold, hard truth. And if you fear flying that much — enrol in an empowerment seminar or phobia course or wait for the invention of teleportation.
I apologise to everyone on that flight except for the man with a penchant for threatening violence, and next flight I’m taking a few vitamins and drinking Fanta, and will perhaps discover God for its duration.