Next week sees the start of the Bouchercon Mystery Convention 2012. I, along with many hundreds of other crime fiction fans and authors, will be making my way to Cleveland Ohio for the event.
And for the majority of us that means entrusting ourselves to <gasp> the airlines.
Let’s face it, unless you’re one of the rarified few who happens to have a sparkly new LearJet 85 on permanent standby, this means entering the special hell that is today’s modern airport.
Passengers―who are so often viewed as a necessary evil only there to make the day-to-day running of the airline more difficult―are extruded from plastic check-in desk, via Duty Free shopping to plastic departure gate, and squirted down a toothpaste tube onto a plastic aircraft, where they’re told to sit down, shut up and don’t annoy the staff before being fed plastic food with plastic cutlery.
Last month I flew to Greece, into a tiny airport with only two gates. (Well, if I’m being picky it had actually two doors leading from the same lounge.) No tubes, we merry passengers were actually trusted to amble across the tarmac without behind shepherded every step of the way to our waiting aircraft. It had real steps to front and rear doors, with a charming lady checking seat numbers who instructed those sitting closer to the rear of the plane they needed to go “Back side!” to climb aboard.
Ah, it all takes me back to a simpler time.
But the reality of next week’s flight will be having to remove half my clothes to get through security, and allowed to carry on board only a micro amount of anything even vaguely squishy, never mind actually liquid. I’m not looking forward to having to clear Immigration in Atlanta and then make an onward flight for Cleveland. Or trailing luggage single-handed along miles of tiled corridors.
But actually being in the air? That I do still enjoy. For one thing, the views are stunning, of mountains and landscapes that are totally different from the way they appear on the ground. Even the most industrial cities have a certain beauty from the air.
I’ve had some ‘interesting’ flights, sure. I’ll draw a veil over making an unscheduled approach into JFK with one engine shut down and rows of fire engines lining each side of the runway, or the ground crew having to clear the runway of sheep so we could set down by helicopter in the Scilly Isles off the Cornish coast.
Mostly, I think the memorable flights are down to the cabin crew―good or bad. There was one dominatrix on American who came round with the food cart and growled, “Chicken or beef?”
When I had the temerity to ask for more information about the chicken dish, she put her hands on her hips and said, “Honey, it’s airline food. It’s chicken. Cluck, cluck.”
But the best in-flight service is done with style and humour and for that SouthWest wins hands down. I’ve heard better stand-up comedy routines on SouthWest flights than on Open Mic nights, that’s for sure. Here are a few pearls:
“We don’t anticipate any problems with our aircraft today … or I would have called in sick!”
“If you’re travelling with children ― we’re sorry. Fit your own oxygen mask before helping them. If you’re travelling with two children, pick the one you like best. If you don’t like either of them, at least pick the one with the most potential …”
Whispered over the mic after a late-evening takeoff, with the cabin lights low: “You are all feeling very sleepy… You don’t want any drinks… Nuts give you gas…”
“When you leave the aircraft please ensure you have all your belongings with you … or they’ll be on eBay tomorrow …”
And there was that wonderful safety briefing skit on an old UK comedy show called Not The Nine O’Clock News that included the line:
“In the event of an emergency there will be a loss of cabin pressure and a sudden reduction in the number of wings …”
So, Hardboiled Crew, what horror stories or moments of comedy do you have to report from your forays into the air? Come on, give me something to look forward to!
This week’s Word of the Week is propugnation, from Shakespeare, meaning a defence, from the Latin pro for, and pugnare to fight.