Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Devil Flies from Heathrow to Seattle

There is no hell hot enough to match the torture that was the flight from Heathrow to Seattle. It was, without a glimmer of doubt, the worst plane ride I’ve ever experienced. The sheer number of things that had to happen, often far in the past, in order to converge on this one experience almost makes one believe in fate. Bad luck alone cannot begin to explain the series of unfortunate events which led to this travesty. It was ten hours of pure, unadulterated, uncut misery. It makes me never want to fly again, lest these veiled, incorporeal fates work against me once more.

We were sitting in a jam-packed 747, my wife on the middle row aisle and me next to her. The traveler on my immediate right was a large British gentleman who barely fit in the seat. He wasn’t fat, but just very tall, his limbs spread akimbo across the armrests on either side. Directly in front of us was what appeared to be a newlywed couple who was not in any way shy about their amorous relationship. This wouldn’t bug me so much, but the woman was an inconsiderate bitch: she spent the entire flight with her seat all the way back, and actually had to be told by a flight attendant to put that shit up before landing. I’ll get to why this was so horrible in a second.

But it was our rearward neighbors who provided the most aggravation: pre-school boys, probably no more than five or six, one behind me, and one behind the lanky Brit to my right. I’ll call the one directly behind my seat Lucifer, and his brother is Baal. Lucifer had a fantastic habit of either kicking my seat or getting out of his seat and playing on the ground, thus impacting my seat every few seconds. He did this for almost the entire flight, give or take an hour at the end. No amount of yelling or glaring could put an end to this behavior. His brother, Baal, had an unhealthy fascination with the seatback tray, driving it up and down with great force, repeatedly, and causing the entire middle row in front of him to feel something like a vibrating mattress. Again, the child’s primitive brain did not comprehend strong social cues that are normally taken to mean, “Stop that or I’ll tear off your fucking head.” The best part, though, had to be the tantrums often thrown by Lucifer, whereupon he would cry, kick, and generally behave like an infant. And then, the part that really roused my ire: the lackluster parents, who sat on either side of the two devils, and did absolutely nothing throughout the flight.

Fun fact: When my brother, Luke (The Boy) was little, he threw the kind of tantrums people remember for years after they end. When we were forced to fly somewhere together, my mother would bring a blanket, cover her and The Boy, and cover his mouth and basically just let him cry it out. Her efforts were appreciated by the rest of the commuters, I’m sure. She also occasionally dragged the screaming kid into the bathroom, where she would cover his mouth in there and let him cry it out.

The mother used the latter trick after about an hour or more of tantrum-throwing, more out of a sense of guilt than common decency. But she didn’t cover his mouth—the whole back half of the plane could hear that little brat attempting to raise the dead. Her apathy was so overwhelming that my wife at one point glared at their father, who shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “I know this experience is ruining everybody’s day, but fuck it. I’m not doing a thing.” These parents deserve some sort of apathetic parenting award. There’s a nice easy solution to this whole dilemma that many people either don’t realize or refuse to accept: Don’t take preschoolers on trans-Atlantic flights! I don’t think this should have to be written down anywhere. It’s the kind of general knowledge that one equates with knowing the Earth is round or that gravity pulls things down. I experienced several gleeful fantasies involving the deaths of those youngsters, but I think slaying obnoxious children on an airplane is at least a misdemeanor.

But there was a third child! A black boy, about the same age (I guessed) as the Satanic Spawns, but he did not scream or kick my seat, he merely wandered the plane, aimlessly, cavorting down the aisles with exuberant glee. To be fair, he spent the majority of his time at the back of the plane near the bathrooms. We discovered that his father was the lanky fellow next to me, and there was a two or three hour period where that bloke was simply not in his seat. I later found that he was in the back of the plane with his son during that time. While his repetitious tours of the plane did not elicit threats of bodily harm from me, it was annoying nonetheless.

The evil whore in front of me, however, caused me physical pain. British Airways features seats that retract a generous amount, and when the person in front of you has their seat back all the way, you basically have to retract yours as well or else risk a forehead injury. So I had to put my seat all the way back, but here’s where the problems start: Despite being able to retract impressively, the seats on a British Airways plane are not the most ergonomically designed things you’ll ever sit on. They encourage a C-curve in the lower back, not a neutral curve, so those of us with back pain are in for a world of hurt. Even sitting straight up doesn’t totally solve the problem, but laying back aggravates it tenfold. This was worrying because, supposedly, that spinal injection I got two months ago should have eased all pain in that region. I can think of only two reasons why the pain was not only present, but intense: I either made my L5-S1 disk protrude again (by being in that position for 9.5 hours), or another disk collapsed. Lilith slept the whole time, though, like a baby, while I squirmed and writhed in agony.

And then you had the old people. The vast majority of the people flying from Heathrow to Seattle yesterday were obese, aged, or in many cases both. This particular group spent most of its time hulking from their seats to the bathroom and back. It would have been more prudent to simply book seats in the bathrooms. Like the black kid, these instances rarely caused my blood pressure to boil, but were simply indicative of a flight that was completely without calm or stillness.

Matters were not helped by inconvenient facts such as these: I: The plane was fifty (50) minutes late to take-off, meaning that our trip to the connecting flight in Seattle was a hasty one. II: Old people are constantly coughing, wheezing, snoring, snotting, and making noises one does not often associate with our species. As of such, I was in constant fear of infection. III: The sharpness of the movies on the seatback screens are worse than my iPod. IV: The water is heavily chlorinated on British Airways flights, so much so that you can practically taste the deep end. V: They give you free food on British Airways, but it’s still airplane food. That might be chicken, but it might also be turkey stuffing. I remember now why I don’t pine for the days where I was given a “meal” on American flights.

The flight back from Seattle was much more enjoyable. Because I wasn’t stuck behind some bitch who wouldn’t put her seat up, I was able to get into my laptop bag and sneak my iPod out to watch “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Interestingly, I noted with some disappointment that the iTunes version of the film removes breasts but not wangs (go figure). By the time the movie ended and I had listened to a few songs, we were home free. And now we ARE home, I’m back on my routine, and everything’s hunky-dory!


Andy said...

Welcome back! It was great to see you guys at SVP. . .

davidmaas said...

You should book with Pakistani International Airline next time, or PIA as they're more commonly known. I believe that stands for "Possibly I'll Arrive".
I watched in awe. It was brilliant in a way. Once cruising altitude was reached the attendants disappeared, barricaded in somewhere safe up front. They knew what they were doing because the whole plane immediately fought for space, staking out space in the aisles, in the back and even under my legs. There was no stopping them. They spread out picnics and sleeping mats, began playing backgammon and - yes, children everywhere.
Can't say it was demonic though... more like sitting in the middle of an intersection in Dlhi for 6 hours.

Trish said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Very young children L-O-V-E incredibly long plane rides. They love the loud noises, they love the motion sickness, and they love, love, love having to sit in a seat for 3+ hours.

Sean Craven said...

Dude, I flew to and from the East coast this last week. I brought a lumbar support pillow. It made a world of difference. Take it from me, if you're going to fly you need one of those puppies.