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Airplanes and Flying

Average: 3.5 (14 votes)

I have a love-hate relationship with airplanes. The 'love' part is fairly straightforward, so let's get that over with right away...

I love airplanes because they get me from where I am to where I want to be in a relatively quick and easy way, in a straight line from A to B, across the C.

There you go. I told you it was fairly straightforward.

What I hate about airplanes is pretty much everything else.

You may be wondering, at this stage, why I'm rambling on about airplanes. Well, there are two reasons. The first is fairly straightforward, so let's get that over with right away...

I have to ramble on about something, otherwise there'd just be a large, blank, article-shaped space where your eyes are right now. And airplanes are as good a topic as any. In fact, bearing in mind that, in the past, I've banged on for two thousand words about why the month of January shouldn't exist, why I hate toasters, and why I'm going to win the lottery...the topic of airplanes is probably better than most.

The second reason is far more interesting, at least for me. You see, it is, right now, three thirty-five on a Sunday afternoon, and I happen to be sitting in seat 16D of the flight KM490 to Zurich as I write this. A stewardess with a wonderfully soothing voice has just advised us, in the unlikely event of an 'emergency landing' - and you can hear the inverted commas falling neatly into place here - to assume the 'brace' position, which involves, apparently, sticking your head between your legs and clasping your hands around the back of your neck. Maybe it's just me and my cynical nature, but the possibility of the brace position having any life-saving potential whatsoever when your plane drops out of the sky from thirty-five thousand feet seems a hell of a lot more unlikely than an emergency landing in the first place. In fact, I'm fairly certain that the sole purpose of the brace position is for ease of identification later, where they can retrieve your teeth from where they're neatly embedded in your groin area.

'But these are not thoughts upon which I wish to dwell right now, as the plane has started to taxi down the runway, which means that we'll be experiencing 'that moment' very soon - and were I speaking instead of writing, you would have heard the inverted commas falling neatly into place...

You see, I really don't think that airplanes can fly, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There is no way that 85 tonnes of aluminium alloy and titanium should be able to glide through the sky like a swan, no matter how many engines you stick onto it. And there is one moment during every take-off... 'that moment'... where the airplane itself seems to realise this and pause to deliberate this fact; not quite in the sky but no longer touching ground; and come to a split-second standstill halfway, as if posing for a photo.

And at that moment, it is not the engines that gets us up, but the sheer willpower of the more nervous passengers, myself included. Look around you the next time you happen to find yourself on a plane during take-off - you can spot the infrequent fliers by the look of intense concentration on their faces as they attempt to convince 85 tonnes of aluminium alloy and titanium that it can, in fact, glide like a swan.

I look around. Everyone appears to be incredibly relaxed. I guess it's up to me...

So as the engines switch from whine to whoosh and we accelerate and the nose of the beast points skywards, I grip the armrests and send out positive 'you can do it' thoughts to whichever part of the engine is responsible for defying gravity. The plane pauses to deliberate, a few feet of the runway...

"Hang on a minute..." it says slowly.

"Wow. Check out those groovy clouds up there!" I think at it frantically. "Wonder what they feel like?!"

"Ooh, clouds!" says the plane, momentarily distracted... and we're up.

I know that all of the above is absolute nonsense, of course, but nevertheless I can't help looking smugly at my neighbours in seats 16E and F and mouthing 'You're welcome' at them. They give me an odd look, and go back to doing what they were doing. Which, in the case of 16F, is being huge, fat and sweaty while muttering to himself angrily in French every three minutes. As for 16E - a youngish guy with a serious iPhone addiction - he is trying to place himself as far away from Fat Angry French Guy as he can by leaning into my airspace. He seems to have a fairly good grasp of English, because he's just read what I've written, and is giving me a dirty look.

I smile at him and mouth the words 'poetic licence'. He leans towards Fat Angry French Guy, obviously prefering his company to mine, and goes back to clicking and flicking his iPhone.

Two hours to go...


And now we're an hour in, and are eating 'lunch'. Now, if 'that moment' and my uncanny ability to always end up sharing a row of seats with the freakiest passengers on the plane have served to sow the seeds of my dislike of flying, then it is the compost known as 'airplane food' - there's those inverted commas again - that really made those seeds flourish into the thorny-branched poison ivy of hatred.

Lunch consists of a bread roll, a couple of alternating slices of tomato and possibly mozzarella, some diced zucchini which looks quite forlorn about being diced, and a block of lemon curd cake. I pick at the zucchini and wonder what the vegetarian option is, and how it can be any different from what I've got. Maybe the tomato is given local anaesthetic before being plucked from the plant...

iPhone guy has just nibbled at the bread roll and returned to his iPhone - possibly to download an app that will provide him with better food, which is not as impossible as it sounds. Fat Angry French Guy has polished off the lot, including the plastic tray and cutlery, and has gone back to being fatter and angrier. And possibly Frenchier. I close my eyes, sit back, and try to keep the splitting headache I have, as a result of the cabin pressure, under control. After all, I have a plane to land very soon...


And now we're here, in Zurich. We have sights to see and lots to do, and two weeks in which to see and do them. But first, I need a decent cup of coffee, or as decent a cup of airport coffee as I can get. That seems fairly straightforward - 'kan ich bitte eine Kafe bekommen? - so let's get it over with right away...

With any luck, we can dispense with the inverted commas from this point on.

Lesson by Danny, teacher at EC Malta English school.