Tuesday, November 12, 2013

95% Chance of Crashes, Terrorist Activity and Body Cavity Searches

The only time airports and aeroplanes are drawn to my attention in everyday life is via the news, TV dramas and movies. So once I'd booked my flight to Amsterdam my brain had decided there was probably about a 95% chance of crashes, terrorist activity and/or body cavity searches before I'd reach my final destination.

I was heading over to Holland for a workshop with a master of storytelling photography, Peter Kemp, but it's over 10 years since I was last on a plane. Having had to renew my passport, sort out my EHIC and book an outrageously expensive parking space at the airport, I was feeling more than a little apprehensive.

For those who are seasoned travellers, I guess it's just a glorified bus or train ride, with a bit more in the way of security checks and passing time in waiting areas. But for me it's a strange and unfamiliar world where I'm unsure of the rules and expected forms of behaviour. My entire time at the airport is spent in a state of mid-level anxiety of the kind when you notice a police car behind you and while you're pretty sure you are within the speed limit, you are not entirely certain you don't have a bald tyre.

I sit in the departure area wondering if it's OK to take on board the exorbitantly priced bottle of fizzy water I'd purchased 10 minutes earlier. I know they can get really twitchy about liquids these days and I'd already had to put my toothpaste into a clear plastic bag as I passed through the x-ray and metal detection zone. I'm pretty sure... well, mostly sure... well, not sure enough to stop me worrying about it - that stuff bought this side of the barrier is all right. I decide to leave it in my pocket and push away visions of being wrestled to the ground by big burly men in suits, sunglasses and earpieces, confiscating my spring water and leaving me in a cell somewhere until my flight has departed.

Once on the plane I remember a cartoon strip I saw many years ago, where a woman is looking out of an aeroplane window and her husband, sitting next to her, is saying, "They are ants, dear, we haven't taken off yet..."

As the plane accelerates I wonder at what point it is going faster than the Aston Martin Vantage I drove back in the summer. Suddenly the nose lifts - it doesn't feel like we're going fast enough yet - and then we're airborne.

I deliberately chose a window seat. I'm staring out the small portal with the grin and excitement of a 7 year old child. It's magical.

The ground drops further away and starts to look flatter; the cars, houses and fields become smaller. The sun is now bouncing off the clouds below us and this new environment reminds me more of scenes from an alien planet in a Star Wars movie than anything I'm familiar with.


Between Scotland and Holland

Despite all the previous fears, the flight was uneventful, the passport checker didn't pause and look at me in a strange way, and I wasn't called over to one side by customs officers to see if I was trying to sneak an illegal haggis into the country.

In the end the biggest problem I encountered on my trip was once I'd left the airport and was on the train to Delft - I discovered my mobile phone wasn't connecting to any networks in Holland, so I couldn't call or text Peter to meet me at the station, and I didn't have an address for him either...

12 comments:

Carole said...

As usual your story is excellently written, interesting, relatable and amusing. The perfect storm for terrific blog posts. I love flying, don't get to do it often, but I also get very airsick so am usually Dramamined up...so I see the world through a very nice glassy eyed stare. It is pretty there though. Maybe I like drugs more than flying? I have been pulled aside and prodded, caressed, and scanned in the most thorough way and it is terribly humiliating and undignified but again, the drugs make it doable.

hope said...

I'm reading this while sitting in my hotel room while on a trip with 21 of my senior citizens. We carpooled the 2 hours to the beach but I swear, with all the drama some of these folks bring with them to be center of the universe...I almost wish we'd had security to at least frisk them and slow them down a bit. :)

Hope you enjoyed your trip. I'll enjoy the one tomorrow....home!

allencapoferri said...

Wonderful photograph from your window seat. I like the window seats too for the same reason. Your imagination is likely the artist in you. Same as my imagination.

injaynesworld said...

No cavity search? I haven't flown since 1999 for all the reasons you express here and more. If I'm going to fly, it will have to be by private jet. Yeah... unlikely I know. Hope the rest of your trip was fun, my funny friend.

Pat said...

Now you've started me worrying about my trip in May - and I'm not even flying.
All that anxiety and now you have something to be anxious about.
Don't leave us hanging and what a lesson to learn. Addresses!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Were you reading my mind when you wrote this post? That's me, that's me! Yes, even though I've travelled so often.

They do cavity searches in Barbados, it seems, on other Caribbean people.

Your photo of Cloudland is beautiful.

Kim Ayres said...

Carole - a friend of mine was recently telling me she always gets pulled over and searched. She asked some friends of hers who work at an airport security and they said she has the profile of a drug-mule. She hasn't flown since...

Hope - I hope you've recovered now :)

Allen - sometimes an under-active imagination would make life much easier... :)

Jayne - maybe if a few more people buy your wonderful book you'll get to buy your own jet :)

Pat - cliff hanger resolved in the latest post :)

Guyana-Gyal - it's always good when you write of your own experience and others can so clearly identify with it :)

Jacqui B said...

I can totally empathise with this post, my last airport visit was full of stress but, thank you for reminding me about sorting my EH1C...
I love photos from planes of clouds and snow, it's a different light up there and having read your later post, so glad you had a great trip.

Kim Ayres said...

Jacqui - are you going anywhere interesting?

Jacqui B said...

I'm just back from Malta, which is when I realised I had got my EH1C. I've yet to decide where my next trip abroad will be, I fancy one of the Scandanavian countries as I have never been and I think the scenery will be stunning. I'm trying to visit a new country each year but as it gets nearer to travel the anxiety kicks in and I worry that it won't be many more trips before I shy away from going abroad altogether. When I'm on the plane I'm fine, it's getting to that stage that's the issue...

Jacqui B said...

Sorry, that should say had NOT got my EH1C

Kim Ayres said...

I think you're right - the hardest part of travelling is before you go and your imagination runs wild with all the things that can go wrong. But once out there, even when thing don't go to plan, you're able to deal with it :)