I let out a sigh of relief. My international flight was scheduled for take off in an hour and I was thanking my lucky stars that I had been able to make it to the airport, even if it was with minutes to spare. I was flying back to London after a short break with my parents in Dubai, and despite having made the journey from my home to Dubai International Airport numerous times, my father had somehow managed to take a couple of wrong turns, which meant we ended up travelling half the way to Abu Dhabi (another emirate about 150kms away) before we were en route to the airport. But I really can’t blame my father entirely on this front. There are days when everything can possibly go wrong, and today was just one of those days. In retrospect, I should have guessed that something was going to go wrong, the moment I put my hand into the toiletry bag and realised that my shampoo had leaked. But being optimistic, I didn’t take it to heart, and just blamed it on my “rather unprofessional” packing skills. Of course this meant that I not only had to change my toiletry bag, but also my suitcase, since there was a large off-white stain seeping through the top, which I wasn’t keen on having to explain to anyone. So after 20 minutes of hastily re-packing everything (or as my mother calls it - dumping everything haphazardly) into another suitcase, I was finally packed and ready to go. The only thing that was left for me to do, was to quickly change my clothes and we could be on our way.
Having broached the subject of clothes, there is a confession that I must make. Whilst on long-haul flights, or any flight that’s over three hours in duration, there are only two T-shirts that I prefer to wear. Since I’d worn one of them on my flight to Dubai a couple of days ago, this only left me with one other option. Of course, I had plenty of other shirts and tees, but consider this one of my, let’s say idiosyncrasies (though some of them call it being superstitious - a word that I vehemently dislike). As I pull down this particular t-shirt over my head, I hear a loud ripping sound. I glance down, only to realise that there was now a large tear where I had grasped the t-shirt (probably too tightly) to pull it down. That should have been my second sign, that the day was not really going to go according to plan. But once again, optimism took over cynicism and I swapped my torn T-shirt for another shirt. An hour behind schedule, we were finally on our way to the airport.
After the ceremonial good-byes were said and tears shed, I quickly ran to the baggage drop counter. Usually the queue for this counter is the fastest moving one, regardless of which airlines you’re flying on or which airport you’re flying from. I mean, that’s usually the benefit of having checked in online, isn’t it? And since I’d made it to the airport before the check-in counter closed (even if it was just minutes before), I was sure that my ill-luck was going to turn around. Alas, fate had other plans. The queue was moving at a snail’s pace and I was starting to get really impatient. I quickly waved to one of the airline support staff who was shepherding the queue and informed him that I was running really late for my flight. Though he initially gave me a look, which I could only construe as “So? That’s not my fault !”, I suspect good sense prevailed and he helped me skip the queue and drop my luggage.
As I quickly rushed through security and immigration, I heard a strange name being announced via the public-address system. It sounded strangely familiar, but vaguely alien too. After a couple of repeated hearings, I suddenly realised why the name sounded familiar. It was my name, but coated in a thick Arabic accent. I rushed up the escalator in an attempt to find a directional signboard which would direct me to my boarding gate. I quickly glanced at my boarding pass, which boldly announced my boarding gate as C49. I looked around to find out where I was, and noticed a large interactive panel, which stated “Looking for your gate? Find out here!”. Thinking that it must be a sign from above, I let the strange looking machine scan my boarding pass. And then it loudly announced, with almost a Scarlett Johansson-esque voice “You are approximately 20 minutes away from your boarding gate. The gate will close in exactly 13 minutes”. Cursing my fate again, I take a deep breath, and make a run for it. Now, since I’m largely overweight, and can be categorised under the shape “Round”, I suspect that for an on-looker, I might have appeared akin to a rather large beige snowball, rolling towards its destination. But one thing I’ve always prided myself in, is the fact that I can run pretty fast. Well, faster than what you’d expect from a fat person. You know why? Because I always assume that there’s some lovely food waiting for me at finish line. And my "athletic" skills didn’t fail me this time either; I reached the gates (albeit huffing, panting and sweating like I’d just run a marathon) with 2 minutes to spare.
The pretty looking airline ground staff took one look at me and slightly wrinkled her nose. I knew why. No amount of Davidoff Cool Water or Armani Code perfume could mask that lovely odour that I was giving out. Silently I followed her through the air bridge and into the aircraft, where a pleasant looking steward directed me to my seat. As I walked down the aisle, I noticed that almost everyone was staring at me. I timidly walked up to the row that I was designated to sit in. As luck would have it, I’d been allotted a window seat. And not just that, the seat next to me was empty. I almost squealed with delight, because as any experienced air traveller can tell you, having two seats to yourself automatically qualifies you for an enjoyable flight. But again, fate, or in this case I call it, Murphy’s law, decided to rear its ugly head.
As I buckled up my seat belt, and took deep breaths to calm myself down, I heard the muffled sound of pointed heels against the carpeted aircraft floor. Assuming that it was the stewardess bringing me some water, I looked up with a smile on my face. But alas it wasn’t the stewardess. Rather it was one of the most gorgeous looking women that I’d ever seen (Of course my wife is way hotter). Now here’s a bit of insight into men and air travel, or rather any kind of travel. If we’re travelling alone, every one of us (and I mean every one) secretly hopes that we have a pretty companion as a co-traveller. If it’s someone who can also indulge in a bit of chit-chat, then trust me, we are really happy campers. And as a man, I couldn’t believe that I’d struck what we called the “travel-lottery”. Alas, it was one of those days when I could have really done without a pretty companion, or any companion for that matter. But Murphy is evil. Not only did he seat a gorgeous woman next to me, he seated a gorgeous woman who was talkative and rather flirtatious, next to me. And here I was, unable to continue the chit chat because I was conscious of my rather dishevelled appearance and body odour.
With a heavy heart, I excused myself, plugged in my headphones and pretended to fall asleep, all the while cursing my bad luck. Ironically, I did actually manage to fall asleep, and when I got up a few hours later, my pretty neighbour was deep in flirtatious conversation with a rather dapper looking gentleman, who was sat in the aisle seat in the next column. “That could have been me!” I thought, once again cursing Murphy and his dreaded law. And that’s when it struck me. I did have a spare shirt in my hand luggage and all the other luxury toiletries that I needed, to re-invent myself and make an impact on this damsel. With that in mind, I gathered my spare shirt and the toiletry bag, and popped into the aircraft washroom. Now, if you’ve travelled by air, you’ll know that aircraft toilets have severe space constraints. So trying to dress up there, is not really the best option in the world. But since I didn’t have much of a choice, contorting my body in almost impossible ways, I managed to change my shirt and freshen up. And that’s when I heard the familiar ding of the “seat-belt sign” chime.
Content that she’d have to put on her seat belt and hence couldn’t stretch over and talk to the other man, I happily walked over to my row. I heard a melodious giggle from the row of seats adjacent to mine (yes, the very one that that dapper man was sitting in). And that’s when I noticed that the pretty damsel was no longer sitting next to me. She was sitting next to the man, giggling away at what I can only assume was one of his jokes. Sighing, I glanced at what was originally her seat, i.e. the one next to mine. Sitting there comfortably with her librarian glasses and reading the bible, was an elderly nun.
Cursing Mr. Murphy once again, I slowly slid into my seat. It was going to be a long, lonely flight.