Cows Flying High
First Published in:
I recently had the privilege to fly to the Cape for a weekend. Of all our great time saving inventions, flying remains amongst those that I appreciate most, albeit infrequently. While the experience is fresh in my mind I offer a few words to the wise from the comfort of Cattle Class (Business Class is for me unknown and hallowed territory).
Realise first of all that the airline industry is ruled and mismanaged by Fat Bats (they fly, radar is involved, and they're closely associated with getting in your hair, blood sucking and vampires). As revealed in the SAA Skandaal of a while ago, the top Fat Bats earn between US$2,5 and US$10 million per annum (on that salary people do not say "per year" anymore).
The Fat Bats have also
creatively re-interpreted the double entry system of bookkeeping to ensure that
we, the passengers, foot the bill with both feet: with the right foot as we pay
the price of the ticket and then again with a deft bounce on the left once a
year when The Receiver collects his Taxes. Every airline that I have ever flown
with is associated with and, as evidenced by last year's spate of airline
collapses, propped up by a government. Governments don't have their own money.
That's what we're here for.
Guidelines for Cattle:
Remember that when checking in
it is customary to convince the staff that your super sized suitcase is small
enough to qualify as hand luggage.
As you approach the security
check, empty your pockets into the scab-coloured plastic tray. This colour was
carefully engineered to add to the cattle theme as it is guaranteed to not only
incense bulls but also cows. Add your belt and random bits of clothing.
Note that as a passenger you
are required to board through a numbered gate, not a door, further embedding the
cattle concept. Locate your gate. Note that the departure "lounge"
will contain five chairs to every 10 000 passengers. This is because sitting
through the three-hour delay is frowned upon and considered lazy.
Boarding the plane is a slow
dance up a rickety metal staircase. Passengers form a long queue and nestle
lovingly in the small of each other's backs, gently prodding one another with
protruding bits of hand luggage. This does not hurt. Much.
Once inside the plane the pace
livens up a bit. Don't be frightened by the narrow passage. Fellow passengers
will hardly feel it if you need to grab their hair for a bit of balance.
Frequent flyers learn very quickly to negotiate the narrow passage with
gymnastic precision, flinging hand luggage into the overhead compartment in one
smooth practised move and without drawing more that say, a pint of blood from
fellow passengers loitering in their vicinity.
The next step, sitting down, is
the trickiest. Getting into a seat is best explained by visualising squeezing a
bowl of jelly through the eye of a needle. There is much to consider while
performing this move and much that can go wrong.
For balance you will need to
hold on to the seat in front of you with one hand while bending your knees to
conform to the shape of the seats, leaning the torso back at a 45 degree angle.
This will enable you to slide gracefully past the first two seats into the one
next to the window. Lubricant helps too.
When you near the proximity of
the window hold on to the front seat with both hands and turn your bottom to
squarely face the seat. Keep your knees bent as you will now be crouching
directly under the overhead baggage compartment and any sudden straightening of
the legs could cause loss of consciousness. Bring one hand around behind you.
Sensually feel over the luxurious upholstery until you locate (airlines are fond
of using the word "locate") your seatbelt. Separate the two ends by
draping them over the armrests.
This is a good time to remember
that the book you wanted to read during the flight is in your briefcase in the
overhead compartment. Slide back across the three seats, retrieve the book
taking care to allow fellow passengers time for bonding while you block the
passage in this way. Repeat the seating manoeuvre as described above. Lower your
bottom into the seat. Sit straight up with your legs next to each other. Under
no circumstances should you attempt to cross your legs. Airlines do not approve
of free leg movement and have thus positioned the seats close enough to each
other to ensure that, if crossed, the jaws of life will be required before you
can again uncross your legs. This is to improve your blood circulation, thus
preventing "economy syndrome" blood clots forming in the legs and
causing messy thromboses.
One of the crewmembers will now
explain the safety regulations in intergalactic gibberish. If you pay close
attention you will hear frequent use of the universal words "locate"
and "flotation device". Another crewmember will simultaneously perform
bizarre and unrelated arm movements with an oxygen mask.
Should you not yet be schooled
in intergalactic gibberish you will find the safety instructions printed in a
colourful brochure conveniently located in the pouch in front of you. Here
safety regulations are explained in reassuring cartoon strips. Notice the
relaxed and near beatific smile on the face of the cartoon woman putting on the
life vest. Practice copying her tranquil expression which you should emulate in
the event of a plane crash. Also note that, according to the cartoon strip, you
are not allowed to carry shoes in your handbag. No explanation is given for this
wacky regulation. Take it on faith. It is not for cattle to question why.
Now sit back, eat the fodder and enjoy your flight. When bored draw on the safety brochure, annoy the passenger next to you with tales of imaginary exploits, test the crew's Serenity Training by faking an anxiety attack. Let your hair down and have fun. Upon arrival at your destination simply follow the above guidelines in reverse. Trust me, you'll be fine.