Friday, December 13, 2013

Plane Simple

For some time now, I’ve been suffering a little from insomnia, though you wouldn’t know it by the way I get so drowsy by 10pm. Put me in front of the TV and it won’t be two minutes before I start dropping off. Amanda says it’s like living in a retirement village. But at 11.30pm, I’ll wake up and I won’t be able to sleep again for hours.
            At first, I tried drinking hot Horlicks before going to bed, but that just reminded me of old people which was depressing, and it also made me need to pee all the time, so I stopped doing that. Reading at 2am makes me dizzy, as if I was suffering from jetlag, so I stopped doing that too.
            These days, I just turn on the TV again and graze happily from one channel to the other. After a few minutes on the shopping channel, I’ll pop by the food channel to see what Nigella is cooking for Christmas, before swinging to a tennis court in Qatar to watch Maria Sharapova out-scream Victoria Azarenka.
Invariably, I end up watching an old black and white classic on TCM.
            “I wish I lived in the 50s,” Saffy will say to me. A lifelong insomniac, she’s thrilled to finally have some company. “Everyone looked so glamorous back then.”
            She has a point. Watch any movie from before 1960 and you might as well be watching a documentary of life on Mars. People sit down to breakfast fully dressed, even the children with their perfect haircut and docile manners. On the buses, all the men are in suits and ties, and the women are perfectly made up wearing their cute little pillbox hats and white gloves. If the scene is in a restaurant, everyone’s sitting upright and sipping coffee.
            What amuses us most is if anyone has to catch a plane. Back in the day, in the movies at least, people got dressed up whenever they went to the airport. The men like Cary Grant and Fred Astaire have their hair Brylcreamed, their shoes are polished to a high sheen that would blind someone watching from the moon, while the women have on full make up, their hair coiffed like they just popped into the hairdressers on their way to the airport.
            The last time I was at the airport was for a trip from Singapore to Melbourne. It was like a zoo.
            First of all, I just can’t believe what people step out of their house in these days. They look like they’re ready to mow their lawn or rip out bathroom tiles or something, instead of prepping for an eight-hour flight to another country.
Or maybe they just save their trashiest, ugliest clothes for the plane. On this trip, a lot of people were wearing tee-shirts and shorts and flip-flops as if they’d been planning on a day at the beach but suddenly decided in the car that they’d rather go to Australia.
            Sitting next to me was a guy in shorts and a singlet that showed off a majestic mat of hair that started on the fingers of his left hand, went up a heavily tattooed arm, across his back and down the right side of his arm and hand. He looked like the lecherous jail cell-mate of the new prisoner in every prison break movie I’ve ever watched.
He nodded at me. “G’day!” he said.
I wondered if I should pretend I didn’t speak English, but it would have been just my luck if he spoke fluent Mandarin. I pretended to fiddle with my seat buckle.
Behind me, a mother threatened her 10-year old son with this: “Boy, I’m telling you, ah, if you don’t behave, I am going to lock you up inside the toilet till we get to Melbourne!” You couldn’t imagine Grace Kelly ever delivering that line in ‘To Catch a Thief’.
And here’s the other thing about the new generation of travellers that you could never imagine: why do people walk into the toilet on a plane in their bare feet? Are their callouses so thick that they can’t feel what they’re standing on? Because as any woman who has ever lived with a guy will tell you, men have a notoriously bad aim when they’re peeing. Worse if you’re a ten year old kid who’s locked in a toilet by his fed up mother.

I felt so trapped. As it turned out, ‘Casablanca’ was on the inflight entertainment in all its black and white glory, and so, I slipped on my earphones, tapped play on the screen, turned up the volume on Ingrid Bergman and waited for sleep to come.

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