Heaven or Earth

Honestly, if you’re reading a list of your airline options,  the one that’s going to make you stop and wonder is the one with the most plush expensive sounding name, especially the one with words used to describe fabric and one that rhymes with ‘thigh’ . Particularly when your other choices are Kulula, Mango and 1Time.  To my delight though, it’s one thousand rand cheaper than the other “low cost” airlines and over the high Festive Season too! Pity the suckers who don’t spend as much time on the internet as I do, and therefore know nothing about the existence of such a well-kept secret.

I imagine soft oversized couches and being served Kir Royales by beautiful men in velvet underwear whilst smoothly and noiselessly gliding through fluffy mauve clouds. Now this is where clever marketing comes in, because if this is your idea of heaven, then chances are, if you step onto one of these aeroplanes, you’re closer to heaven than you think. And in no way do they let on that what you’re actually only paying for, is a seat on a flight also known as hell’s waiting room, wondering if your end destination will be heaven, as described above or Durban. Where I was expecting to go.

Probably the first sign of a possible misconception, and a realisation that there would be no cherry in my champagne, or champagne, was that the staff were more like purple praying mantises, than smiling Adonises. They wore purple suits and purple hats, they were tiny, stick-thin, and very angry looking. Having had my seat number snarled at me, and feeling a little confused, I, in a crouching movement to avoid being struck unconscious by the open overhead luggage compartment doors, eventually found my seat. At a height of 5’9” I’m averagely tall (as opposed to freakishly), and as a fairly frequent “low cost” airline flyer, I know that leg room is a luxury I can’t afford. What I didn’t realise though, was that by not paying the thousand extra bucks to fly on another airline, I was forfeiting entire lower leg room from about 15cm above the knee. What their people forgot when they decided to squeeze in an extra 100 rows of seats, was that if you are born as a non-contortionist, but with what doctors would term fully functional knee joints, then for most people it’s impossible to bend your leg mid-thigh (for the rest, the circus caravan will get you where you need to go) which is what is required in order to avoid bending your legs at the hips to balance your knees on the back rest of the seat in front of you, and thus lose all feeling in your feet as they dangle 20 cm off the ground. Luckily for me I have flown enough to learn valuable in-flight lessons. Number One Rule is always, always choose an aisle seat. The bird’s eye view is lovely mid-flight, but quickly becomes ‘just a boring bunch of clouds’ when you realise on landing that the passenger in the aisle seat of your row is 104 years old, and therefore needs assistance, which if you listen to the air-steward safety stuff means remaining seated until all other passengers have disembarked, collected their luggage and are catching up with relatives over wine and a delicious meal. Of course if I was born with better co-ordination I would’ve trusted that I could’ve successfully launched myself over her using the seat armrests and some magnificent acrobatics, but I wasn’t, and I feared the attempt would not end in applause by the other passengers, but in a medical emergency and/or a lifelong ban. Anyway, my point is that this time, I was in the aisle seat, and therefore could twist the lower half of my body into a position that would  get vital blood flow to my feet, but would soon became a casualty of refreshment trolley traffic. Just as I had re-arranged myself just in time to avoid both legs being amputated mid-calf, the gentleman in the seat in front of mine decided to lower his back rest, perhaps thinking he could get comfortable enough to nap his way through the flight. This meant that the magazine I was trying to read was literally squashed up against my eyeballs, and he was one faux leather backrest away from resting his aged balding head on my chest. So for the entire two hour flight I had to endure an elderly stranger right inside my Personal Space Bubble. Something even my children know to request permission to enter. In spite of all this, I was one of the lucky ones. Believe it or not. Not so lucky was a woman diagonally opposite me who was assigned a seat with no backrest at all, just the bolts that a backrest should’ve been attached to, so in essence, a padded stool. What I noticed first, possibly from having a full view of her back, was that she was in medical terms, obese. So my initial thought was how clever they were to have a seat made to accommodate larger passengers, but then I realised she was, what must have been extremely uncomfortable, bulging through the arm rests, which made me think how silly could they be to have such a good idea, but then to mix up the bits to be removed in order for the special seat to be properly functional. Fortunately, for reasons becoming increasingly clearer, the flight was half empty, and therefore just before take- off she was moved to another seat which meant my pity instantly turned to envy as the girl in the seat behind her now had a First Class Style foot-rest, while I had to breathe through my mouth for two hours as both nostrils were blocked by my knees. I suppose I have to give credit to this particular airline for acknowledging that if any plane crashes, you’re going to die, a fact which they have recognised before any other airline, and which entirely eliminates the need for a ‘Brace Position’.

And die we almost did. If ever you have seen a five year old play with a toy jet, watched him ‘landing’ it by previously unrealistically rolling it from side to side mid-air only to smash it to the floor and send it high speed to the other side of the room causing people close by to spill their tea into their saucers by making a bone-cracking screeching noise, then what you are seeing, is not the preoccupied imaginative play of an unknowing child, but an almost fully qualified future super secret decadent sounding low cost airline pilot.

*The only link between single parenting and this post is 1. I would rather they walk the 1600km to their father from now on, and 2. I am trying to enjoy the rest of my holiday with a heightened awareness of what is to become of them in the event of my death, as the return part of my ‘return flight’ is only in three days’ time. Other than that it has nothing at all to do with parenting, and everything to do with once again the point being proven that you get what pay for. 


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