Cows Flying High

First Published in:
Di Skoorsteenki

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.