As I write this, I am about to embark on my first ever long-haul flight. Ever. In my life.
How one gets to the ripe age of 22 without ever crossing an ocean I'm still not sure, but know it has something to do with a combination of: believing a gap year would require me to wear leather bracelets and have diarrhea on a mountain top, coming from a family that considers Pizza Express a cultural experience, and having friends doomed to spend each year planning riotous expeditions in full knowledge that we will never even attempt to go on them. Instead we will go to the pub and get
our kicks by shredding some beer mats into oblivion.
So today, I am like a wide-eyed child in a montage from a 90s movie. I'm giddy on the novelty. Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me is playing alternately on a loop in my head. I'm flashing my passport indiscriminately at everybody - the lady in WH Smith, the toilet attendant, the man who nicely asked me to take his bag through customs for him - just to make sure nobody can accuse me of pulling an international fast one. I'm already excited about telling the flight attendant that I'm "in it for the long-haul", then doing some hilarious finger-guns.
As with most of my Johnny-come-lately experiences ( mobile phones, crispy duck pancakes, season 4 of Mad Men), it's inevitably going to be a disappointment. After all, my expectations of flying are mainly based on Airplane, the first episode of Miami 7, and anytime they flew anywhere on Friends, when the plane basically looked like a fairly plush dentists' waiting room. If I’m honest, I’m half expecting a smiling stewardess to ask if I want to come and meet the pilot (and I do).
Never a minimalist packer, I am struggling with the hand luggage restrictions. Liquids I can identify, but what constitutes a ‘paste’? Do I have any pastes? Does the melted peanut butter cup moulded to the inside pocket of my handbag count as a paste? And if so, should I declare it? Or eat it? Confused will also lead me to keep my personal items in their clear plastic bag not just for the flight but for my entire holiday, just in case Canada is funny about liquids in general. Perhaps, as a nation, they are not tolerant of spillage.
I will in all likelihood be the only person who watches the safety video (as we plunge to our death above the Atlantic, I feel it would reassure me to have tied my lifejacket in the correct double bow, and be able to quickly locate my whistle. “Bleep bleep!” I would toot, and the rescue operatives would say ‘gee, there’s a passenger who paid attention to the demonstration.- let’s save her life FIRST”). I will take my in-flight leg exercises very seriously, and I will aim to use every item in my little complimentary pouch of comfort – the eye mask, the socks, the blanket, the pen.
I will also, I am pretty sure now, enjoy the plane food. I just know I will. All those individual containers will feel a bit like the kind of packed lunches I was never allowed to have. BA could essentially serve me a Dairylea Lunchables with a Pepperami on the side and I would be happy as a clam.
And if all else fails to entertain me, I know I could spend an absorbing six hours trying to work out exactly what it is that’s holding the plane up. Or, let’s face it, just nap.