The Flight Back

“I didn’t understand a word she said”, the bloke opposite me at the airport laughed last night. “And I’m Chinese”, he said, in response to the woman on the public address system at Hong Kong telling us it was time to board our flight. As I looked around the room during this announcement people were either in stitches laughing, as we were, or looking completely bewildered by the announcement. Her English wasn’t good, let’s just put it that way. “Thank god I can understand the Chinese version”, my airport friend commented.

I had a similar smile from a bloke sitting nearby when I got on the plane. At about the same time we had both noticed how strong the air condition was on the flight. You could literally see the fog (or whatever it is) coming out of the air conditioner as we boarded. I thought for a moment they might have been acclamitising us for a flight to Antarctica, not Sydney.

It was the first time I’ve flown Qantas long-haul (well aside from the Sydney-Perth trip) and I was reasonably impressed. The meals were good. The inflight entertainment was excellent. And I had plenty of room, with a vacant seat next to me.

Even though the woman in front of me also had a vacant seat next to her, that didn’t stop her from putting her seat back to within a couple of inches of my face as soon as the seat-belt light went off. The two women sitting next to me in the four-seat configuration and I looked at each other in disbelief. “How rude”, I thought to myself, that she just plumped the seat back to its maximum recline.

In my less assertive days I would have just sat there and complained. But with a new found confidence, I actually leaned forward and politely asked her if she could keep the seat upright until after the meal. She was shocked, and completely at a loss for words when I asked her, and didn’t actually respond. She did, however, put her seat up. “All you’ve got to do is politely ask”, I thought to myself, having achieved my goal with dignity.

For whatever reason I hardly slept. Partly I put it down to excitement at the return journey. Partly I put it down to the great inflight entertainment system they had on board.

Coming back through the airport was painless enough, though I did have to wait for quite some time for my luggage to arrive. While waiting I started chatting in a friendly kinda way to a bloke next to me. “I’ve just been to Belarus”, he told me, “to meet a woman I found on the internet”. At that point, I think I’d already recognised it was a conversation I didn’t really want to have, though I was kinda curious. He then told me it had been a bit of a disaster because she spoke virtually no English. He was upbeat, however, since he’d met another woman while visiting there.

On arriving home I’ve made a few phone calls, have slept a fair deal and I’ve watched a bit of television.

  1. The airconditioning phenomena you have mentioned is common whenever a plane is starting from a humid place. I used to find it quite amusing to watch the tourists panic every time I flew out of Darwin – a lot of them assumed it was “smoke”.

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  2. Ugh. I’m always sitting behind the first person on the whole plane to put their seat down. And there are normally poorly trained children behind me kicking my seat, and a screaming baby nearby.

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