I caught a flight the other week, and had a shocking time.
Boarding was innocuous enough. Our row of seats was full, so there would be no lounging over the extra half of a seat and sharing a tray table with the person in the aisle seat for some airplane diplomacy - but that's more of an absence of a small victory, rather than a problem itself. At least I wasn't stuck in the middle seat.
The problems really only started shortly after takeoff, with the meal service.
First, I picked the wrong option. Chicken or beef, chicken or beef.
As the meal service began, I desperately pressed my face up against the seat in front of me, peering through the gaps to try and catch a glimpse of what beef casserole with potatoes and veges might look like as opposed to chicken something or other which I had failed to hear over the crackly PA system (why is it that I can Skype someone across the world and it sounds like they're sitting right next to me, but every aeroplane's PA system makes it sound like the crew stuck their head out of the window before making the announcement?).
But I picked the beef on a whimsical spur-of-the-moment decision, and as soon as the nice lady next to me picked chicken, I knew that I was going to regret it. I think it's called the paradox of choice.
So I put my tail between my legs and started munching away on the meal, which was, as usual, surprisingly good, but probably not as good as the chicken would have been.
Well, I involuntarily solved that issue by tipping the contents of the little plastic dish down the front of my pants. Now I have a crotch full of casserole and potato, the sympathetic stares of the people in my row, and, apparently, the fine motor skills of a toddler (which isn't even true because, while I'm not going to be a brain surgeon any time soon, I'm pretty proud of my record on Operation).
So I wrote that part of the meal off, and stuck to my bread roll and ice cream, after using my fork to scrape as much of my dinner off my surroundings and back into the little plastic thing as possible.
After the stress of the experience I was very ready to just sit back, eat my little ice cream, and pretend it never happened (until I had to get off the plane and walk around with my bag covering my casserole-shame stain).
Unfortunately, my ice cream was as hard as a rock, but instead of demonstrating patience and waiting for the inevitable softening of it, I decided to dig right in with my spoon, confident that I'd be able to weather it.
Bang. My overzealous attack on my chocolate ice cream turned my plastic spoon into two weapons, one being a spray of plastic shrapnel, and the other being the prison shank I was left holding. I was left frozen in place, feeling once again the sympathetic glares of my neighbours, perhaps this time with a bit of suspicion whether I should actually have been left in charge of the responsibility of feeding myself, or whether I was a rogue unaccompanied minor.
But I wasn't giving up on my ice cream that easy - I needed some comfort food now more than ever. With only one item of cutlery left after exploding my spoon and using my fork as a cleanup tool, yes, I was left sitting and eating my ice cream with knife. The thoughts of my neighbours inevitably shifted from my competency to my sanity.
After creating all of this drama and enduring all of this shame, I was downright exhausted, so I cuddled up to the cold, hard plastic beside me for some solace and shut my eyes.
I'm notorious for sleep talking. I've also been waking myself up recently with rapid-fire sneezing in my sleep, but that's another story.
Fortunately, on this occasion, neither of these things happened. That was because I didn't actually make it to sleep, because as I was dozing off I got that feeling of falling (which takes on a whole new level when it happens while you're on a plane, I promise you), and in the process of trying to save my life, managed to kick the lady next to me. Hard.
As the flight came into land, I couldn't get off fast enough. A gushing apology wasn't enough to rid me of the shame - only the knowledge that, in 15 minutes, I would never see this lady again could do that for me. She might tell her friends and family about the strange guy on the plane next to her, but my name would be clear. Tomorrow was a fresh start.
We touched down. I grabbed my bag and prepared to escape into anonymity.
And then she uttered six terrible words: "I liked your column last week". My cover hadn't been blown, it had never existed.
Jane, I promise I don't usually throw my food around, or eat my ice cream with a knife, or attack strangers. Please forgive me, and please don't tell anyone about all that.