Sunday morning and I’m sat in a car park not too far from Stansted airport waiting for the AA to come and pick me and my still broken car up to tow it home. (Buying new AA membership was less than half the price of paying for Green Flag to tow me home or to hire a tow truck. My dad is a genius!)
Sporadically planes fly close-by, taking off to or coming back from destinations infinitely more glamorous than Birchanger service station. I feel a stab of envy at each plane.
But not for long.
Air travel has always made me nervous. My lack of understanding of physics has obviously meant that my comprehension of aerodynamics equates to ‘it must be WITCHCRAFT.’ So I’ve never really trusted it as a means of travel.
I’d have loved to been an air steward in my younger days – days before Ryan Air and EasyJet sucked any glamour from flying, before terrorists threats, when an upgrade meant proper cutlery, not a plastic knife and fork. Not that I ever got upgraded, but there was always that hope.
The only problem would have been the actual flying.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…except the chance of actually properly dying when things go wrong when you work in the air was too high for me.
But, even for the less nervous flyer 2014 has surely brought some doubts. The complete disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17… At the very least don’t fly Malaysia Airlines!
So as each plane flies by I half expect it to spontaneously combust and fall to the ground, the flying voodoo having worn off.
I try to take my mind off my wait and expectations with some light reading. A copy of November’s Vanity Fair and yesterday supplement from The Guardian. It doesn’t taken long to realise that I’m glad I’m staying grounded.
Vanity Fair, pages 108-117: The Endless Holiday, a feature on the jet set lifestyle of the rich and famous of the 50s and 60s. Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Jackie Kennedy, Taylor and Burton, Grace Kelly in sharp tailoring and fur stepping off private jets.
The so-called beautiful people flitted about with unprecedented ease.
*Sigh* Where did it all go so wrong? Why isn’t flying like that now, rather than becoming more akin to airborne cattle transportation? Nobody would have been wearing bright orange nylon and charging £5 for a plastic cup of water back then. Luggage would have been large and matching, rather than as light as possible to meet hand luggage restrictions. It would have gone in the hold and made it to the other end. You would have travelled without mile high copulations hogging the toilet, shrink-wrapped plastic meat in gelatinous sauce and without having endure someone’s head in your personal space for the duration of the flight (plus time spent waiting on the runway) because they just have to have their seat fully reclined, whilst a small child persistently kicked your seat for 12 hours.
Result of said reading: abject envy and despair at how much air travel has changed to the worst.
But worse, Vanity Fair, pages 158-165 & 193-197: The Human Factor, or how, in the event of an emergency you will die as the pilots won’t know how to cope (and have probably been too busy partying and shagging around to function properly anyway).
The incoherence of the pilots seems to have been rooted in the very advances in piloting and aircraft design that have improved airline safety.
And, although ignorance is bliss, my betting is that if you were sat at a Departures gate confronted with the article, you couldn’t NOT read it.
Thus, result of said reading: abject horror and despair at having to ever step on an aircraft again. Someone pass the tranquillisers!
And for any poor sod who bought The Guardian to bide the time waiting for a flight yesterday, the fear would have only been compounded by reading page of the Weekend section: Experience: I was on a plane that blew up. Which was pretty much as it sounds. Ok, exactly as it sounds. And not Malaysia Airlines this time.
…There was a huge bang…The plane had been torn in half…most of the back seats were no longer there….I looked down and saw a body on the runway.
Result of said reading: yep, I’m happy never to fly ever again!!!
So, all in all, it ended up that, even with the lure of Duty Free, I was happy to NOT be jetting off anywhere and instead watching my car getting hitched onto the back of an AA van.
Which is probably just as well, as if the car is as buggered as I fear, I won’t be able to afford a holiday anywhere for a very long time yet.