The Pleasures of Modern (Air)Travel

After a five-hour layover at our Caribbean international airport, we were more than ready to board our flight to Gatwick, London. It was a nice new plane, but the airline’s economy experts must have advised the builders to cram in as many seats as possible to aid the bottom line. Once we were seated, a battle ensued as to who could use the armrest for their elbow since there was only room for one. I was in the middle of a row of three, so my battle involved two armrests. I lost both battles.

As soon as we took off, the movie selection appeared. I chose the latest Oscar winner Everything Everywhere All at Once. It highlighted stress, Kung Fu and ended in All You Need is Love. I was just getting into it when the guy in front of me eased his chair back, so the screen was almost touching my nose. End of the movie; I switched to watching glimpses of the flight path, possibly more entertaining than the other choices anyway.

Lunch arrived and I chose the chicken. I had not perfected the art of eating a meal with a knife and fork whilst my elbows were tucked under my armpits. The plastic knife they supplied wasn’t up to the task of cutting the tough old bird. It broke in two and, in the process, knocked over the plastic cup of red wine, which soaked one leg of my khaki trousers. I very patiently waited for my neighbour in the aisle seat to finish her meal before I asked to be extricated to go and clean up in the toilet cubicle. She was not happy to be disturbed. I waited in a long line for my turn in the toilet – it was then that I noticed the others in line were not there for normal ablutions but had a similar problem to mine – they were all waiting to clean off portions of lunch from their clothing. 

Back at my seat, I must have nodded off… 

Finally, we arrived. The walk to the immigration counter was about three miles (it seemed) and after queuing for 20 minutes, we arrived at the desk where the immigration officer examined my new UK passport. He started asking numerous questions, which included: Where have you been? Where were you before that? Why were you there? How long were you there? What were you doing? Where are you living? I smiled and nodded in as friendly a way as I could muster and said ‘yes’ to most of the questions. My poor wife Monique, from Brazil, had it even worse than me. His hand hovered near the red button, which, once pressed, means that you are escorted into a private room with dogs, where they do whatever they do in interrogation rooms.

We had another five-hour layover to wait for our next flight. We were both dog-tired; we needed coffee. At the rather posh coffee bar my wife selected, I asked the guy behind the counter (a Barista, it proclaimed on his lapel) for a coffee with milk. He pointed to a menu on the wall with about 12 choices of coffees, most of which I hadn’t heard of, and asked me for my selection. Just a coffee with milk, I said, to which he replied with a smile: oatmeal milk, almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk? I was tired and irritable, so I said rather loudly, I want a regular coffee with regular milk from a cow! I finally got what I wanted, albeit with a heart inscribed on the top of the frothy milk, to justify the five pounds cost, I supposed. I remembered nostalgically when, not long ago, five pounds could buy a three-course steak dinner for two with wine.

At last, we were notified of our departure to Faro, Portugal. The almost 3-hour flight was uneventful, with the seats being rather larger than the sardine-can type on the long-haul transatlantic flight. We arrived on time and our transfer BMW was waiting at the exit. The weather was warm and sunny and the driver was pleasant and efficient. We arrived back at our home in Praia da Luz and breathed a sigh of relief. Portugal! What a pleasure…    

Julian Putley is the author of Yes, No Bananas featured in Tomorrow magazine and available on Amazon and kindle


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