A few days ago I wrote a post about enjoying the journey. Well, I’m now in Kenya after over 24 hours of travelling and I thought I’d share some of the observations I made and the thoughts I had along the way.
I departed York station shortly before noon yesterday. It was a good journey. As per usual I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and ended up exchanging contact details with the man sitting next to me after chatting for the whole two hour train ride! There was an odd moment just outside Manchester when a very apologetic conductor made an announcement about the late running of our train. After much apologising and explanation, he proceeded to inform us that we were delayed by 18 seconds. Personally, I’m not quite sure that was worth an announcement. If you’ve cut it so fine that 18 seconds is a disaster then you probably deserve to miss your flight!
At the Airport
Once at the airport I must have played the part of ‘helpless female’ pretty well as it only took a couple of minutes for a kind gentleman to offer to help with my bags. He accompanied me all the way to check-in despite his own flight departing from a completely different terminal a 20 minute walk away.
So then began my ‘Flying Observations and Annoyances’
In the Airport
Security: There was quite a queue at Manchester so plenty of time to get prepared. Yet the woman in front of me still managed to cause a delay by not getting organised. After waiting in line for 15 minutes, she arrived at the conveyor still wearing her coat, hat, and scarf. Her electronics and liquids were still inside her bag and she hadn’t removed her watch or jewellery. Then it was discovered that she actually had two bags of liquids – totally prohibited. Cue a huge debate with security regarding what she would have to leave behind. I honestly think some people walk around with their eyes shut. There are notices all over the walls between check-in and security, telling you what clothing to remove and what has to be screened separately. I wasn’t in any particular hurry so it didn’t matter. I just found it interesting.
Boarding: The next part that always fascinates me is people’s behaviour at boarding. When it’s close to the boarding time, everyone starts edging towards the front. Then, when the gate opens, it’s a mad scramble to be first through. Why? The plane isn’t leaving until everyone is on board so what’s the hurry? I don’t understand why people are so desperate to leave the spacious seating at the gate to spend more time cramped into an economy seat on the plane. I like to be one of the last to board so I can stretch out for as long as possible. I’ve never encountered any disadvantage to my actions.
(obviously this only applies to flights with allocated seating – fly budget and you’re pretty much forced to join the free-for-all!)
In the Air
Of course, once in the air it’s time to observe the idiosyncrasies of the flying masses. Here are a few of my observations:
- People can’t follow instructions. Turning off mobile phones seems to be impossible for some people. Generally everybody can manage airplane mode, but actually turning them off for take-off? Forget it.
- Ditto keeping seat belts fastened. It always amazes me the number of people who wander around the aircraft during ascent. I counted twelve on my first flight. The crew were kept very busy ordering people back to their seats. There were even people opening luggage lockers, completely ignoring the risk of everything falling on their heads due to the incline of the ascent.
- If it’s free then you have to have it. Maybe it’s the complimentary Turkish Delight that you don’t even like, or the blanket you don’t need because it’s 100 degrees on the plane. The same goes for every drink and every bite of food. It doesn’t matter whether you’re actually hungry or thirsty – it’s free so you take it.
Now for the little irritations or ‘pet peeves’. There’s a good blog post by Roma Small in her blog ‘Roaming Required‘ about the annoyances of flying and I’m not going to repeat it all. However, I have a couple more things to add:
- Water in plastic dishes with a foil lid. Once you’ve opened it, you have no choice but to drink it all. Of course, we’re not actually very good at drinking out of a bowl so half of it ends up in your lap anyway. Give me a bottle every time.
- Meals. Why do airlines insist that we want to eat every couple of hours? Even without considering the ‘snacks’ (cake, sandwiches, mini pizzas), the quantity of main meals strikes me as insane. For example, I got a full meal (four courses) at around 6pm. I can accept that one. It’s a normal meal time. But why do they then serve another four course meal at 2 in the morning? Who actually wants grilled salmon and chocolate pudding in the middle of the night? Of course, see the point above about being unable to refuse anything that’s free. Hence the vast majority of passengers sit there and devour a totally absurd meal.
- Turbulence. This is my proof that God has a sense of humour. I can say, with 100% honesty, that every single incidence of turbulence I’ve experienced (excluding the bumps on descent) has occurred within minutes of being handed a meal or a cup of coffee. I think God is playing games – putting bets on how many people will be coated in tomato sauce.
A Surreal Experience
Okay, now just before ending I need to recount my airport story from Nairobi. I had to transfer from Jomo Kenyatta to a domestic airport. I entered a tiny building where I handed my bag to a guy from the airline who carried it outside and disappeared. I was then told to go to another ‘building’ to wait. I had over 4 hours until the flight would board. The building was basically a shed in the middle of a field with nothing inside except a few chairs. I was super-hot and super-thirsty but, unless I fancied the deodorant from my hand luggage, there was nothing to drink. However, there was a man with a rifle and a beret who I assumed was security and he had two bottles of Coke. I convinced him to sell me one. Time passed. A few more passengers arrived. Then a man walked in with a suitcase and a trumpet. He handed me a bowl of fish and then started playing ‘circle of life’ on his trumpet! It was totally surreal! Oh well, ThisIsAfrica!
The Joy of Travelling
So there were definitely moments of ‘the joy of travelling’ but I have to admit I was so glad to get to my accommodation, shower, change my clothes, drink a gallon of water, and lie down!