Thursday

Escape from AD - part II

Karma and I have a talent.

One that we haven’t seen fit too cultivate, it just seems to be hard wired to deploy any time we get into an airline check-in queue.



If there is ONE person within the terminal that will have some kind of problem, they will invariably find themselves situated in front of us.

Usually immediately in front.

So that even if the line is a long is one, and even if that line is moving with relative efficiency, the guy in front of us will have a problem. It’s never a small problem either.

Not a problem that will involve a couple of key strokes and a bit of smiling, oh no.

It will be a problem that can only be solved by calling a supervisor in. The supervisor will of course be attending to something else, and because our man in front only mentions such a problem part way into the booking procedure, the check-in-counter-person is usually reluctant to want to close the transaction.

So we all wait.

While line B zooms by, no doubt grabbing at all the really good seats in cattle class.. Yes I am aware that this is a fine example of ‘grass is always greener’ but cattle class is so cramped that I, being of a larger frame (that term includes anyone over 5’10”), spend most trips with a niggling feeling that the seat I missed out on is in fact the MOST comfortable seat on the plane.

And someone else is sitting in it. Someone who is inexplicably less deserving than yours most upstandingly.


I hear our hero mutter “This has happened before and it really wasn’t that much of a problem…”

Check-in-dude - “I have to wait for the manager”

Which we do… for what seems like an hour (and 30 seat allocations that are soooo going to be better than our own). Really though, it was maybe 5 minutes.. tops.

The manager arrived, looked at the screen, didn’t say anything more than “hello” to him-who-needs-to-sort-his-crap-out-before-fronting-at-checkin, had what appeared to be a short but brief interaction with the keyboard, and that was that.

Thankfully our check-in process was far less complicated:

     
  • Front up,
  •  
  • show passport,
  •  
  • show ticket,
  •  
  • throw packs onto weighing-belt-thing…


… and that’s it.


We were on our way… adventures don’t feel like they begin until your bags are checked.

I guess if there is an upside to our “get stuck behind doofus” talent it’s that the time between check-in and boarding is diminished. We really only had time for a couple of laps of the departure/duty free terminal, primarily to stare at a couple of grotesque but highly priced baubles, before being called to the boarding lounge.

We wait in line again for the additional security check into the lounge to find a place to… ‘lounge’ and wait for the call to actually get on the plane.

Question time:
The whole point of checking in, apart from foisting your bag over to be shipped into the luggage compartment, is to have your seats allocated, right?

Why is it then that whenever an airline staff member even leans in the direction of the door, people take that as a cue to get up and move tentatively toward the door?

Many have already shown the good sense to have not been in my line at the check-in counter, so they already have great seats (I know, I should let it go.. But I can’t). Is it because, deep down they know that they have AWESOME seats and are just ensuring that they get on the plane first, before me or anyone else can usurp them. Throwing ourselves dramatically at their allotted place then pleading with the flight staff to let us stay there, while the rightful owners are sent to the luggage compartment to travel in dog cages?

NO.

That is not going to be the case.

If there is a boarding card issued, I would suggest your place on the aircraft is pretty much secure.

Why then, the rush to get on? Why add to the sitting time on what is already a cramped and fun-free zone.

As I pondered this along with willing the screaming child to be seated as far away from me as possible, the door opened, and what had begun as a zombie like shuffle turned into a flailing stampede.

Well, at least until the door, where everything slows down again for boarding pass checking.

On the plane, 2 of my worst case scenarios were realised.

The screaming child I was using my not inconsiderable Jedi mind powers on in the transit lounge, was drawn to my dark power rather than repelled by it, and had found a place with his slightly frazzled parents 2 rows behind us.

Second? No individual in-flight entertainment.

Shared… sure, and fine if I wanted to stare directly up at a screen thereby feeling like I was inadvertently looking up the actors’ trouser legs. An experience that reduces the ‘entertainment’ factor somewhat.

I turned to look at Karma, half pointing at the screen, with a look that was punctuated with the screech of a child followed by muttered ‘shushing’ from his parents.

Karma responded with a sigh and intimated that it was going to be a long flight, and there was no sense making it harder on my self by forcing her to have to poke me in the eye.

For the record, the kid behaved like a little trooper from that point on, didn’t hear a peep until landing - in spite of the Turkish Airways announcements in multiple languages that seemed to only have a volume that was conducive to rupturing ear drums.

Resigned to sleep, I settled in, as best I could, and was just dozing off a few minutes from take off, one of those dozes that is the precursor to an excellent batch of sleep, when Karma nudged me…

“Are you ASLEEP”

I think she was getting me back for the car hire/airport debacle.

On my insistence that yes indeed I was almost asleep, and then thanking her for waking me lest I should miss a little of the blackness that was viewable from our wing seat, she smiled smugly and went back to her magazine.

I didn’t drop off for the rest of that flight.

The food on Turkish Airlines is really good, tasty, and I threw myself at the feast placed in front of me even though my body knew it was 5 in the morning. I don’t know whether it is Turkish Airlines policy to feed folk no matter what… but surely there could be a more opportune time for food than 2 hours before landing.

Food eaten, and warm percolated coffee consumed we waited to land…

I like pilots who take an experimental approach to their job, and this one was no exception - employing what appeared to be sheer down force in order to slow the plane at Istanbul. Air brakes are for the weak hearted it would seem, and the bumping ride along the tarmac was a great way to make sure our stuff was indeed securely stowed in the overhead locker or placed under the seat in front of us.

Meh. We landed. Walked down the stairs of the aircraft in the first cool breeze we’d felt for months and boarded on the tarmac to terminal bus, then shuffled into the transit terminal for a spectacular 5 hour wait.

I don’t know why, but whenever I enter an airport, I get a hankering for Burger King. Not McDonalds. Not sandwiches. Burger King. I seriously have no clue why it happens, I’ve even been known to drop people off at Melbourne airport, where I park, and then go in for some double cheeseburger goodness.

I feared though that a trip to the burger shop may be curtailed by the fact that we were in the middle of Ramadan, and the sun was well and truly up. The possibility that we may be entering a burger free zone made the thought of 5 hours wait even worse.

I need not have worried, Burger King was not just open, it was swamped.

Burgers secured and eaten, we opted then for a Chai latte from Gloria Jeans (a delicacy that has inexplicably been taken off the GJ menu here in Abu Dhabi). By this point we were both so tired that I couldn’t tell you whether the price we paid was extortionate or cheap… but the product was tasty, and held us up until it was time to board for the next leg of the Journey.

Istanbul to Prague in Czech Republic.

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Andrew Webber is a writer, living in Abu Dhabi with his wife, two cats and two dogs.

His first book "Erasure" was published in June 2012 and was followed in 2013 by the Prequel to Erasure, "Broken".

In 2016 Erasure was a prize winner in the Montegrappa Writing Prize - part of the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature.

For more information click the "Erasure" book cover on the left side of this site, or simply go to www.athwebber.com

Thanks for visiting.