Saturday, 6 March 2010

On Travel........

OK, hands up who likes travel? Go on hands up, let me see those hands.

Everyone says they do but I suspect that in reality like me you enjoy destinations much more than you enjoy travelling to them.

There are enjoyable ways to get from one place to another but unless you're aboard the Orient Express or on afloat on some luxury super cruise liner the whole travelling experience is a fairly miserable one. If your travelling by air then you usually need a holiday at the other end just to recover.

There are two primary reasons why air travel is such a soul destroying, mind numbing experience.

The first reason is quite simple. The clue is in the words 'public transport' and the answer is of course, the public. Maybe it's just me but whenever I go anywhere near an airport I seem to be surrounded by people who look like they have never seen an airport before. The kind of people that still point at aeroplanes in wonder.

The problem starts at check-in when after the obligatory queue it becomes apparent that all vital travel documents are buried deep in the bowels of the inevitably oversized baggage that people carry. These portable wardrobes are frantically emptied, the contents searched through and eventually passports and tickets are located.

Then come the questions.

“Did you pack the bag yourself?”

The excruciating pain of thought is etched on the face of the passenger. Did I pack myself? Maybe someone else did it. My wife placed a shirt in my case. Does that still count? As a general rule, unless you live in a large country estate with staff catering to your every whim, the answer to this question is usually yes.

“Could anyone have interfered with your luggage”

Again, deep computation washes across the face of the respondent. Could they? Maybe the taxi driver did something when he was removing the cases from the boot of his car. Perhaps I was hypnotised by a drug baron who then planted half of Columbia in my vanity case whilst I was under his influence. Again, for the avoidance of doubt, the answer to this question is “No”

So it goes on until tickets are issued, which the traveller then hides in their hand luggage ready for the next stage of this whole tortuous process. The security scan.......

This stage of the travel process has become a whole lot more painful since the feckless idiot shoe bomber Richard Reid tried to blow up an aeroplane with a pair of Clarkes brogues. Thanks to that muppet, we must now remove belts, shoes and watches before proceeding half naked through the scanner like a new entrant to a concentration camp. But first another question....

“Do you have any liquids or gels in your hand luggage?”

Now that is a tough one. Can I phone a friend? Could you define liquid?

Inevitably, the person in front of me chooses this moment to reveal the true extent of their stupidity.

“No, just some aftershave, and a bottle of water”

“I'm afraid you can't pass through with those, you'll have to throw them away”

“......but that bottle of Blue Stratos was a present from my wife in 1978”

“Well I'm afraid you can't take it through. Technically it's a gas judging by the smell your giving off but despite being 80 years old and seemingly infirm you could well be an Al Qaeda operative hiding some super invisible terrorist weapon that we haven't thought of yet in your bottle of aftershave”

Eventually after discarding nine different kinds of liquids and gels the apparent first-time traveller is allowed through the scanner inevitably tripping the alarm with their large bunch of keys, unfeasibly large mobile phone and Big Ben sized wristwatch that they had somehow forgotten about.

By this point my will to live has already got in a taxi and gone back home leaving me to endure the remaining torture.

Fellow passengers then draw out the enormous sums of money from the cash point required to replace the bottles of water and cheap aftershaves they were forced to abandon before finally making their way to the departure gate.

It is at this point that people realise that the £20 they spent on a priority boarding pass was wasted as everybody else has done the same and there is only one person standing in the normal boarding queue – namely me.

Here, the second of the two reasons for air travel being such a miserable experience becomes apparent. The Air Travel industry itself.

These people consider their occupation to be at the very top of the self-importance tree. Just the look in these peoples eyes reveals that somehow they look down from their moral high ground on everybody in the world bar none.

Doctors? Puh


Nobel Peace winners.....tree hugging wankers.

Nobody comes close to their level of importance in the world. These people are on first name terms with the pilots, the ultimate masters and you are just minions, amoeba floating in an enormous tin can.

Passports and boarding cards are checked twenty times in order to assert their dominance over you. You are now their bitch and they will tell you exactly what you are to do, when you must do it and heaven forbid that you get it wrong or ask a question. Male or female they wear their twenty layers of make up like a tribal battle dress as they go to war with the very people who pay their wages.

Boarding itself is perhaps the most tortuous stage in the journey with 400 people snaking their way across the tarmac and up the steps whilst the one passenger who has actually made it on board carefully removes their scarf, coat and searches through their bag for the John Grisham novel that they have been reading since 2004. This process is then repeated until the final passenger (me again) eventually gets to sit down three seconds before the flight takes off.

The in-flight safety demonstration ritual soon gets under way. You know and they know that in the event of an incident blind panic would ensue but it is seemingly incredibly important that you know where you whistle is on your life jacket. If you have just plummeted 30,000 feet whilst still clutching your oxygen mask to your face and dispersed yourself over a wide area your going to struggle unless you know where that whistle is. So pay attention......

Once you are finally in the air and you are familiar with the steps you must take prior to imminent death, the timeshare style sales pitch can then begin.

All Airlines do this now though Ryanair have now elevated this stage of the journey to new heights. Satan himself (Micheal Ryan) and his little imps (his employees) have realised that once on board you are literally a captive audience and that once you are safely in the air, their marketing assault can begin.

“Our staff will shortly be coming through the aircraft with a selection of hotdogs, pizzas and other food which reflects your probable poor diet.”

“For those coffin dodgers who are unable to last our short flight without their Benson and Hedges, our staff will soon be swanning down the aisle with a selection of smokeless cigarettes”

“For those of you with miserable lives and aspirations gleaned from hello magazine, our staff will shortly be selling scratch cards”

…......and so it goes on. Beaten into submission, passengers spend the rest of the flight incapacitated by raging indigestion, covered in silver crayon from the scratchcards, puffing on imaginary cigarettes and wondering if the seventy eight euros that they now have remaining will last them the rest of their holiday.

Eventually the flight reaches it's destination and after standing for forty five minutes in the aisle whilst fellow passengers collect their belongings from each others overhead lockers and reverse their undressing routine you eventually disembark the aircraft.

Passport controllers are always friendly people ready to welcome you to your destination and after failing to get a single word from them you must then partake in the final and potentially most humiliating stage of your journey, the baggage carousel.

Seemingly about fifty percent of the population really enjoy this process. I don't, I hate it more and more the older I get. Swarms of people crowd dangerously close to the carousel, straining their necks for a brief glimpse of the bright pink ribbon that they tied around their suitcase handle to aid identification.

“It's there, I can seem mine, there it is look!”

“I can't see mine though, it will be last off. It always is....”

“I know that if I wait for one minute it will come to me, but if I run round the other side barging people out of the way I could save thirty seconds, come on follow me”

And so the journey ends, tempers frayed, relationships in jeopardy, wallets emptied and the miserable experience of air travel is over at least for now.


  1. Laughed my head off .... and OH so much like my experience Monday! As you can imagine, I'm getting really excited about tomorrow journey home....:-(

  2. Great blog, Alan! Sums up the whole flying experience perfectly - I couldn't stop guffawing!!

    Nigel (hants_bluepants)

  3. Thanks Nigel. You always give me great feedback! Really appreciated.