I think I am in a minority. Recently I had the very arduous task of having to travel to Cape Town for literally a flying visit. I was there for the grand total of thrity-eight hours. I think a medal for my commitment to my word that I would go there for a meeting is in order. Especially because if you tally up the hours from when I left my house to when I returned, the travelling was longer than the duration of my visit.
This is by no means my first brush with travelling a long way for a short stay. I once went from Birmingham in the UK to Sydney Australia for six days. Stopping in Kuala Lumpur only to fill up with fuel and sitting in the rear of the plane meant that by the time I had adjusted to going native and had folded myself straight, it was time to pack up and head back home.
Over time I have been fortunate enough to sit in comfier sections of the aircraft and even turned left a few times too but at every point I have been consistent in one thing. I find flying, like driving, to be an amazing thing. And this is why I seem to think I’m in the minority.
Firstly, yes, we have to accept that in light of the modern world we live in, there is a need for long security checks prior to a flight. In most airports around the world you can expect the security to range from simply emptying your laptop, coins and belongings in to a tray and removing your belt to sometimes having to practically strip down to your underwear, but what is the point of moaning about it? Have you actually thought of why it happens? Have you forgotten? Of course you have because you live in your own little important world and all of this security doesn’t apply to you does it. The tutting you exude in the line and the shuffling behind me means that you’re so important you should wave us all aside so that we can bow to you and your middle-management IT sector role or whatever it is that you are so important at.
Can I just point out to you though, you moaning little cretin, that if you happened to be so important in the first place, you would be either at the front of the plane and this would be a very different security queue or in your private plane? Since you’re here with me in the scrote queue, pipe down. And if you’re heavy breathing is because you’re late then you should get up earlier. Either way, shut up.
Once we have managed to clear security and either had a coffee or headed to the gate there you are again, on the phone, tapping at your screen, frowning, tutting and still that heavy breathing. Worse still, you are a frequent flyer so you head straight for the front of the forming queue to make sure that everyone can see you’re ‘the guy’.
Onboard, you break out the laptop, you ignore the safety briefing, you look furtively at your watch when the captain confirms the expected flight time and then, once we are airborne you literally appear to shit your office onto the fold out table where you punch the keys of your laptop endlessly until we begin the descent. You’ve ignored the food, a wistful swish of your hand towards the cabin crew rather than a polite ‘no thank you’ results in them still smiling at you although secretly they wish your seat was linked to an ejection handle.
Upon landing, you release your seatbelt quietly so that you can leap out of your chair as if it were on fire to be the first to grab at your bag and your coat and then make your way to the exit. To you, this means you’ll gain valuable seconds on beating us all to passport control but to the rest of us, it looks like you’ve crapped your pants and need to run away from the mess you’ve made.
And here is why I’m in the minority. You see, while you have been staring at your screen this whole time, I’ve been looking out of the window. I’ve been marvelling at the feat of engineering that has allowed me to get from my bedroom to a foreign land in a matter of hours. I’ve also spent it watching you and others like you who seem to inhabit this bubble where some kind of corporate big thinking is happening that us mere mortals know nothing and should never know anything about.
And I think that it’s a shame. You see, I still find it amazing that at forty thousand feet up in the air, I can breathe, I can walk around in light clothing, I can listen to music, watch a television, read a book, eat a meal, have a hot drink or an alcoholic one and all for a very reasonable price most of the time.
But I appear to be surrounded by so many others who see it as a faff. It’s all in their way. They’ve taken what I see for granted and so in the event they are not be able to have their preferred tea or meal then life is over. Should they not be able to have electricity supplied to their laptop/tablet then the airline is positively third world. Or Ryannair. Which is the same thing.
Yet you’re missing out. You fly over lands that you never visit, over mountains you never look at and miss out on being above the clouds while down below the drizzle still falls. I see this every time I get on a plane. And I think that it is sad.
But the same is happening with cars too. In a little over one hundred years the leaps forward in automotive engineering has been little short of immense. But now you all take it for granted. Cars appear to be fashion items to many or a symbol of their pay grade to others. Drive an entry level three-series? Salesperson. Drive an Audi A4 entry level? Junior to team leader. Drive an E-class or a Jag XF? Middle-management. That’s why you get to be miserable on a plane. You just pass reports up and down the corporate tree. The excitable types on a plane in suits are salespeople on a jolly and are overwhelmed that they’re not in the office or ploughing the motorway network.
But it has spread to everyone. Take a look at people in traffic and they look miserable as sin. Yet they are in such an astounding piece of engineering that they should be enjoying it. We’re all stuck in traffic and no massive amount of lane changing or screaming at the sat-nav is going to make it part for you. Did you read that line queue huffer?
So while you’re there, take a moment to look around your cabin and enjoy the toys. Put on some music that helps you remember some good times in your life instead of listening to the radio telling you how bad the traffic is. Sing along at full pelt. People may look at you but why care? They don’t know you and you don’t know them so set yourself free and give it plenty. Better still, ignore the sat-nav, turn it up to eleven and take the next exit and discover a driving route to your destination that you didn’t know. Something new, something daring. Drive. That’s what the damn car is for.
But you won’t. You’ll sit there inching ever closer to the car in front so that no-one can beat you to that bit of tarmac. You’ll sit there, temperature and blood-pressure rising until one day you may be the cause of the traffic because you inadvertently forgot you were driving at ninety miles per hour and have spread yourself across three lanes of black top in a veneer of modern corporate madness.
But could I ask you at some point to do me a favour? When you’re on a plane next, look around the cabin. See the guy with the headphones on, reading a book or staring out of the window with a little glint in his eye? That’s me. And next time you’re on the road stuck in traffic with a small A-road next to it and you see an AC Cobra tootling past with a guy seemingly without a care in the world going by, give him a wave. As that guy could be you.
Recently though, it was me. It’s always me on the plane because I use the time to not cram in more work but to fit in some leisure. I take the roads less travelled because I like to drive and arrive at my destination in a cheerful mood. I get up at stupid o’clock to do this because I manage my time to keep people I love above all else in the world.
The fact that I get to do it in a nice car every now and again, well, that’s just a bloody great bonus.