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Friday January 22 2010

The journey to Spain was not fun.  The horror starts the night before.  I am already too late getting to sleep when I realise that the numbers on the RyanAir bumf concerning maximum luggage size are in centimetres, not inches, so I get out of bed and check that I have a smaller bag, and repack most of what have already packed, making several painful exclusionary choices.  Then I lie awake in bed for another two hours or more, worrying some more about not getting enough sleep.

But, I get up at the proper (ridiculously early) time, having had about ten minutes (I do not lie) of actual sleep, and try to speed up the trip to Victoria by taking a bus along Vauxhall Bridge Road.  But I miss two buses just before getting to the stop, and by the time another arrives it would have been quicker to walk.  When I get to Victoria the signs about where the buses to Stansted leave from are insufficient and those that exist are lies.  Eventually a cool looking French guy (of the sort whose looks and life and woman-skills I envy and whose political and philosophical opinions I despise) does some hasty local research and reveals that the bus will actually depart from somewhere quite near but quite different, which it eventually does, a full hour after I had reached Victoria.  At least, this being Sunday morning (which was why I was in a bus in the first place - the trains were out for the weekend), the bus has an easy ride through inner London and I reach Stansted in time.  But no sooner than that.  No cool Frenchman and I could have missed the plane.

At Stansted, knowing that fluids on planes are restricted, I consume a bottle of fruit juice (more like industrial waste from an artificial sugar factory really) and my tin of Tesco Red Bull Clone.  But since I am only just on time, I neglect having a piss.  On the plane, I desperately need a piss, what with the perpetual jogging that planes, I suddenly realise, subject you to.  They aren’t a bit like trains.  But, being an old git and what with all the jogging, I am, although bursting, unable actually to burst in the horrid little Ryanairplane toilet, despite literally crying and yelling with the frustration of it all.  Something to do with the same muscles that keep you standing also stopping you from pissing.  Defeated and humiliated, I return to my seat and continue bursting until we arrive at Alicante nearly two hours later, and am finally able to burst on the solid ground of Spain in a proper toilet with vertical walls, that stays still.

On the journey back home I arrive at Alicante airport an hour and a half too early, having imposed dehydration upon myself all that morning, and have several precautionary pisses anyway.  All is then well on the piss front.  Unfortunately I am on the wrong side of the airplane for photographic purposes, but that’s another moan.

By the way, I needn’t have worried about the luggage measurements.  The original bag would have been fine.  Many passengers took far bigger bags even than that onto the plane, unmolested.

Brian, I’ll hope you’ll forgive me saying that this very funny post has made me appreciate the travel skills I’ve developed as a frequent flier. (Also, I always suspected that the whole standing up business was a huge palaver at least some of the time.)

Posted by Jackie Danicki on 22 January 2010

Next time you’ll come prepared!

Thanks for the laugh

Posted by Tatyana on 22 January 2010

It makes me wince more than laugh.

It’s not so much being prepared as knowing how to be prepared, and this gets better with practice. And knowing that “Boarding” and “Last Call” on the screen generally mean you have plenty of time to go to the toilet - it’s “Gate Closing” you should worry about. (Even then, I would suggest going to the gate, and if there are more than half a dozen people who have not boarded yet, going back to the nearest toilet and doing your business).

I think my main piece of advice is “Don’t get stressed about missing your flight. Ever. Even if you have just missed your flight”. Catching a plane is ultimately little different from catching a bus or a train.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 22 January 2010

A couple of my Twitter posts about the Christmas bomber spring to mind:

A 2.5hr train beats a 1hr plane with check in. At what point does a 3.5 day ship with wifi beat an 8.5 hour flight with 3hrs of hell before?

Safe airline: all passengers killed, stripped and dissected before boarding (no luggage)

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 22 January 2010

You were standing on a plane?  I didn’t know you could do that… yet.

I quite agree with Michael about not getting stressed when you’re about to miss something.  However, it’s easier said than done.  This happened to me in Paris a few years ago.  The rational part of me said:  “OK, so we’re going to miss the train and I’ll just have to shell out the £600 or so to get on the next one.” The irrational (and dominant) side said: “Aaaaargh!!!”

The only good part was that my companion complimented me on my “poker face”.  If only she knew.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on 23 January 2010

I know, Michael, I shouldn’t have laughed. Sorry. But the scene Equilibristics in the sky IS funny.

Actually, out of all kinds of transportation airports and planes are much more user-friendly, in toilet needs’ sense. Try to find a public restroom in the subway (a Not Disgusting public restroom), or on a city bus.
In NY you could be stuck underground for 2hrs, and getting pretty desperate.

Posted by Tatyana on 23 January 2010

I think Jackie was actually referring to the differing postures of men and women when urinating, actually, but that’s how I read it the first time, too.

As for toilets in other transport options, these are often absent or locked in London due to concerns about terrorism, which is unfortunate.

On stress, the point is not getting stressed when you are trying to make the airport (or train, or whatever) on time. This leads to poor decisions, wasted time, lost sleep and ruined days, even in instances where you don’t miss the flight. Once you have actually missed the flight, you can get as stressed as you like, but until you do, nothing bad has happened and you should remain calm. Personally, I always find out just when is the last possible moment I can arrive to make the flight and I aim to arrive as close to that time as possible with a small margin or error. I do my homework with respect to how to get to the airport, where the transport to the airport leaves from, and fallback options. I always try to have the ability to recover if one thing goes wrong, but no more than that. That is, I get the second last train that allows me to make it, or if I get the last train, there will be a taxi option that I can get in an emergency. With proper planning, one thing going wrong sometimes happens, but seldom two. The last time I actually missed a flight was 18 months ago, and I have made perhaps 50 flights since then. I would have arrived less than 30 minutes before the last possible time to make the flight on at least half of those occasions, and in a few cases a lot less than 30 minutes.

Actually, I lie when I say that it is okay to get stressed when you do miss your flight. Even with theoretically non-changeable fares and even with discount airlines, staff behind the counter usually have some discretion with respect to helping you without making you pay the entire fare again. Sometimes I have been transferred to the next flight for free. There is often an option to charge you a £30 or so “missed flight fee” and put you on the next flight if they want to give it to you. Show up within a reasonable time of the departure time, make some plausible excuse as to why you were late. (Do your homework here too. “I was late because a train in Palencia was cancelled” is better than “I got up late and got stuck in traffic"). Be a calm and reasonable person, apologise, appear irritated with yourself (or exhausted and really wanting to get home but not angry) but not the airline or staff. Express willingness to pay the fare but ask if there is anything they can do to reduce it. Smile. And if someone does use their discretion to help you, thank them very warmly.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 23 January 2010

Oh my - I laughed.

And then I blogged it, because we’ve all been there.

And while I loved the description of the “main event”, the cameo of the French guy was superb.

Posted by 6000 on 23 January 2010

Did the Frenchman actually express any actual political and philosophical opinions you despise, or did you just make assumptions on the basis that he was French?

Posted by Michael Jennings on 23 January 2010

Assumptions.  French, longish hair, handsome in the same way that film stars are in French movies where they all say silly things.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 23 January 2010

Did he by chance, happen to say:

“I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 23 January 2010
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