It looked like a scene from Mars Attacks. Thousands of cars abandoned halfway up pavements, on yellow lines, in the middle of the road. No sign of the terrified drivers. Inside the airport, things were far worse.
My airline had one person behind the desk and a hundred others in front of it. Most of them seemed to be children suffering from some sort of mental illness that made them behave like hyperactive howler monkeys.
I asked for the bulkhead seat and she looked at me as if to say: “You dumb brute, that seat was booked five years ago.”
There are two hours to kill before boarding. If this were Miami, those two hours would be spent getting a full body cavity search from a couple of Cuban reactionaries. But nobody wants to blow up my airline. Well, nobody apart from the ordinary folk who use it on a regular basis.
So I find the bar and order a beer. After every beer I move to a different seat so that whoever is monitoring the security cameras will think I am a new arrival having his first drink.
I do this because once upon a time there were three not-very-wise men who prevented me from catching my flight. They said I was a potential danger to the crew, the passengers and quite possibly myself. I had spent almost twelve hours waiting at Or Tambo International Airport for a flight to Atlanta and only fell off my stool at the very end. The more I pointed out that aircraft seats were equipped with belts to prevent this very thing from happening, the more they seemed to not want me to fly.
Comes time for checking in and I brace myself for the alarms. I am one of those people who trigger the metal detector irrespective of what I’m wearing or what’s in my pockets. It’s like a default setting. Sure, I have a steel pin in my ankle but let’s face it, how many South Africans don’t have a piece of metal imbedded in them these days?
By the time I make it to seat 749b, there is just enough room in the overhead compartment to squeeze in a pack of playing cards. I am wedged between two people who look like they were personally responsible for causing the famine in Sudan.
It’s not long before a cabin attendant with big white teeth and a small black moustache sashays up to me. He stands in the aisle, eyebrow raised, lips pursed, one hand on his hip. Wagging a slender finger at me, he quickly bends down. I scream and cover my crotch. In one fluid movement he whisks my hand luggage away to another part of the plane where the rest of the cabin crew can rifle through it at leisure.
I turn to the lardaceous blimp next to me and ask her to promise that if I lose consciousness she will make sure that Freddie Mercury over there doesn’t give me the kiss of life. Big mistake. The human zeppelin interprets this as a sign that I want to chat and babbles incessantly from takeoff to landing.
If you had to turn to the person behind you in a bank queue and ask where they were from and what they planned on doing once they left the bank, they would think you were an escaped lunatic. Why is it any different on an aircraft?
Later, the pilot saunters down the aisle in his shiny black shoes, dripping gold braid and oozing charm all over the young girls travelling alone. For airborne taxi drivers who work in the public transport sector, pilots are delusional to a disturbing degree.
Fortunately, not all aeroplane drivers suffer from the Shuttleworth-God complex. There are those who guzzle double brandies until sunrise and then repeatedly stall the plane on the runway, getting themselves banished to the domestic redeye routes where everyone is drunk and nobody really cares if they live or die.
The meal arrives and I have to eat it with little arms. Like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. There is not even enough food to make a bulimic throw up so I order more beer and focus on directing waves of hate at the young mother two rows in front of me.
Women with babies should be banned from flying, if not placed under house arrest. I don’t pay filthy amounts of money to have a colicky blob destroy my central nervous system by screaming from one airport to the next. And I don’t care if its poor little ears hurt. I also get pressure in the head but you don’t hear me carrying on like that.
I am not usually prone to air rage because I know which drugs to take to prevent it, so I lie back, put my headphones on upside down and try to cover myself with a blanket made for a circus midget. That’s when the feral pack rat in front of me hits his recline button crushing my kneecaps and causing my beer to fall into my lap. Quick, more drugs. Ah, that’s better.
The last stop on Dante’s infernal itinerary is reached when the plane lands. I am the last person to board the bus to the terminal. They call it a terminal because that is where it all ends. In tears, usually.
I am the last person left standing at the baggage carousel. One of my suitcases makes a fashionably late appearance and the carousel shudders to a halt. There is no sign of the second bag.
The Airports Company of South Africa needs to contract out its ground services to the Saudi Arabians because Roman Dutch law is clearly not working.
It’s time to chop off their hands.