16 May 09 12:42pm

Germany (Part 1)

The last thing you need when you are terrified of flying is a tall imposing black woman approaching you in the check-in line and insisting you carry things in your luggage for her.
Bomb came to mind as I told her no.
"Why not?" It was not like I knew this lady and had promised to carry things for her only to change my mind at the last minute, but by the way she was yelling at me, the ten onlookers probably thought so.
"It's a security risk."
Her face spasmed at my answer. Hissing all kinds of curses, she barged past me to the front of the line, and accosted the first available Ryan Air staff member. I hadn't experienced such behaviour since prison.

I'm writing this from Stansted Airport, London. I'm sat at the Globe Express Cafe + Bar, contemplating a glass of wine to settle my pre-flight jitters. I haven't flown since my deportation in December 2007. I am hoping my flight is a smooth one, and I attract no more lunatics with luggage problems. I am contemplating whether to get a medium or a large white zin. I take that back: I am getting a large. I'll be right back.

I haven't touched alcohol since March. I just took my first sip of white zin, and I already feel more confident about flying even though the alcohol could not possibly have pinged my brain yet. I am going to time my sips so the drink lasts until I have to board; that way I should still be tipsy during the worst time of the flight for me: the landing.

Through the full-length windows are planes docked at various gates. Further out is a control tower below low gray clouds. The smells of coffee and tea are wafting from the cafe. Sat around are couples and parties of British holidaymakers with pale pasty skin and lively southern accents. Most of them are drinking alcohol at much faster rates than me, including the tiny old lady sat at the nearest table who is half way through her second large red wine. I am telling myself they are all drinking because they are all as nervous about flying as me. I'm not sure whether I believe this or not, but it is making me feel better about my own nervousness and that I'm resorting to wine to deal with it.

The wine is affecting my brain now, and I'm pondering the fact that today, May 16th, is the day I was arrested by a SWAT team back in 2002. Today is also the birthday of the woman I'm on my way to see in Germany: Kathi. My mind is playing the linking game, for example, without my arrest, I would never have met Kathi, and I wouldn't be here drinking wine wondering if the black lady managed to get something explosive onto my flight, and whether there are sharks in the water I'm about to fly over.

I'm about to board, so I'd better head to Gate 56.


Gerald said...


I find a good non-alcohol/drug method of landing is to tune in to the aircraft radio station comedy channel, turn it up and close my eyes. The comedy plays all the way to the ground (and after). Typically the landing ends up in the middle of a punchline and its all over before you realise.

Chris Phoenix said...

You may find that it helps to practice thinking about yourself in the airport after a boring flight. Walking down the jetway... following the signs to the baggage claim... being met by whoever is meeting you, or finding your own transport...

Imagine dealing with some minor snafu, such as your greeter waiting for you in the wrong terminal. Think about other travel troubles that have happened to you on the ground, and how you might deal with them if they happened again. Imagine what you might do if your cab driver was as rude as that woman at check-in.

All this will remind your brain that you will soon be on the ground, with nothing more to worry about than whether you will arrive at your lodging on time.

Anonymous said...

Once again you manage to take us there with you through your writing Shaun. I can picture it all. -Jose in San Diego.