FEAR OF FLYING PART 1

I’m moving address on Wednesday. It’s not a major move by Australian standards; just two thousand eight hundred kilometres across the desert.  
During that time you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t answer comments straight away; I won’t have access to the internet for most of the trip. In fact, I have to make the right stops or I won’t have access to fuel or water either. There will be camels and wedge tail eagles, though. And wombats. You know about wombats from the quiz, right?
Australian Removalist Company

I would prefer to have flown, but I need to get the car back and she’s too low slung for the train apparently. It’s kind of a relief though, because I have a fear of flying. Not the oh my god we’re all going to crash and die sort of fear. What scares me about getting on a plane is not knowing who I will have to spend the next three and a half hours with. 
I have concluded that about half the world is relatively normal and the other half are allocated the seat next to me from Adelaide to Perth, or from Sydney to London, or wherever I’m going. I have made a study of the phenomenon and come up with the following classifications. 
See if you recognize any of them:
THE DRUNK:
Drunks are always the last to board, carried on by friends, singing either a heavy metal or a Michael Bublé song at the top of their voice. As they collapse into the seat next to you they will try to kiss you or fight you, depending on which song they’ve been singing. The main problem with drunks is they are (a) amorous, (b) liable to vomit (c) unpredictably violent or (d) all three. Cabin crew routinely ignore them, even after they’ve started a fist fight in row 28. The only recourse is to raid the drinks trolley and get drunk yourself. Then it won’t seem so bad.
photograph: Steven
THE EAR POPPER:
Ear poppers have problems with cabin pressure. They chain suck candies; they yawn and swallow constantly, and during ascents and descents they try to clear their ears by holding their noses and blowing, often inadvertently blasting their Wurthers Original into business class. They create a constant symphony of subtly different clicking noises; it’s like being underwater next to a submarine. Put on your headset, close your eyes and try not to get shot in the arm with a butter rum lifesaver.  
photograph: Adam Zivner
THE SICKLY CHILD
This is the kid that gets bends from getting out of the bath too fast. The main problem with sickly children like this, of course, is that you just know, one hundred per cent, that they are going to vomit. The only variable is when and in what direction. For some reason the mother of the sickly child always sits on the other side of the aisle and/or in a different section of the aircraft. Try and swap places with an ear-popper.
THE TALKER
They start talking to you halfway down the aisle, even before they have stowed their hand luggage – for some reason Talkers always have at least two overnight bags, an umbrella, a guitar, and a shopping bag with a green overcoat in it. 
By the time they sit down you know their name, the names of their children/grandchildren, their tax file number and the colour of their bedroom curtains. I once sat next to a woman who talked non-stop from Dubai to Melbourne, even whispering during the safety demonstration and hardly pausing for breath during heavy turbulence over the Bay of Bengal. She later shouted at me through the lavatory door, a dreary monologue about her husband’s problems with his prostate gland, while we somewhere over the South China Sea.  
In this situation the headset is virtually useless. A halfway competent talker can shout over Nice n Easy and even Luciano Pavarotti on 10 …

Look out for part two of the post on Friday, when we talk about Sweaty Virgins, High Fliers and Belchers. Feel free to suggest any of your own. Hopefully by the time you read this I’ll be out of the desert and not stranded in the Nullarbor thinking about having to cook up a wombat to survive …

About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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