The Unreliable Guide To… Flying
The Unreliable Guide is going on a long-haul flight soon and we are already having nightmares about it. Quite apart from the fact it’s unnatural and you might plummet from the sky like a stone, flying is claustrophobic. Sartre’s statement that “Hell is other people” anticipated the experience of flying economy. Forced into close proximity with hundreds of strangers, you must endure their fidgeting, farting and disease-laden bad breath as best you can. If that wasn’t bad enough, the food is awful and the seats so cunningly uncomfortable that they must have been designed by a conspiracy of chiropractors. Bearing all this in mind it’s amazing we travel at all. But fear not, The Unreliable Guide has some tips and tricks to reduce the strain and stress of flying…
Many doctors will happily prescribe a little something to get you through the horrors of 24 hours in the fart tube from Hell. Just be aware that what goes up must come down – consider dealing with a confusing foreign airport when you are ‘tranked’ off your tits. Research also suggests that even booze is not helpful on long-haul. Yes, you’ll pass out, but you’ll wake up much sooner than you would if you fell asleep naturally and you’ll be extra dehydrated and cranky. As on terra firma, it’s better to use your body’s own chemicals. Prepare for a flight by doing some exercise before you leave for the airport. If your body is nicely tired and full of endorphins nothing will faze you.
It is a truth universally acknowledged by frequent flyers that not all airlines or all seats are made equal. If you can afford first or business class, great – and f*ck you, by the way – but for the rest of us in cattle class a nicer seat can make all the difference in the world. The website seatguru.com has annotated maps of almost every aircraft in the air and it will help you avoid those windowless seat at the back with a view of the bogs, no recline and an electrical box where your legs should go. Some airlines will charge a fee for booking a specific seat, but if you think $50 is extortionate for comfort, you deserve all you get.
Pack a survival kit
On most long haul flights you’re given a little survival kit – blanket, pillow, some sweat socks and a toothbrush – but they’re often crap quality and you can’t rely on them. Bring your own kit. This is my long-researched list of flying essentials: neck-supporting folding travel pillow, anti-overhead-light baseball cap, adjustable eye mask, quality noise-cancelling headphones (with airplane jack adaptor), iPad pre-loaded with your fave TV shows, folding plastic water bottle (it won’t be confiscated and you can refill on the plane), lightweight pashmina (multiple uses) and an iPod full of spoken word stories for when you can’t sleep but your eyes are too sore to read or watch TV. The kit takes up very little room and makes all the difference.
Remember, it’s not forever
I’ve had flights where the weather was so bad I found the pilot praying, flights that had to circle the airport for two hours before we were allowed to land, flights where the man in front was so obese that when he leaned back the seat collapsed and he landed in my lap, flights where the poor old man behind us had such bad breath the woman next to him vomited in the aisle. Next time you are in what seems to be an impossible situation on a plane just rock back and forth in your seat muttering, “This too shall pass”.
Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests that we remember we chose to fritter the world’s resources and increase the carbon overload all for the sake of two weeks’ holiday, so shut up, buckle up and enjoy your privileged life.