This week I'm taking a 13-and-a-half-hour Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Houston. Before nipping over to Memphis for a week. Plenty can go wrong in an airborne stretch like that. I don't mean mechanically. It's safer to be on a plane than not. Sleeping in your own bed is way more risky than flying. The dangers on an aircraft are all of your own making.
I'm talking about long haul humiliations. Most New Zealanders have embarrassed themselves on a plane at some point. Today I want to share some of these stories. Starting with my own.
I was flying between London and Los Angeles on my way home. A lovely lady from Te Awamutu in her 70s was seated beside me in the economy section. We shared some pleasantries over dinner and a couple of reds before I popped two delicious metallic-tasting oval sleeping pills and nodded off peacefully.
Eight hours later I woke up screaming with my face right in her lap. My slumber had been disturbed by turbulence. An impressive amount of thick dribble was bouncing out of the side of my mouth towards her crotch. She looked shell shocked.
Apparently she'd tried many times to push me back upright but I was too heavy. "You dribbled all over me, I couldn't escape," she told me in a shaky voice. Poor lady. I felt terrible. But mid-apology I fell a sleep again, slumping right back towards her lap and only waking when we landed. She wasn't happy.
Bad as it was, my humiliation is at the lower end of offending. A man from Tauranga rang my breakfast radio show the other day. He too had massively humiliated himself on a long haul flight. He'd accidentally consumed an incredibly strong weed cookie before boarding.
Halfway through the trip he woke up in a state of confusion. Everyone in the cabin was asleep. Then he spotted it. The shared movie at the far end of the cabin was looping. He panicked. If the movie was malfunctioning what else wasn't working? Terrified, he stood up and yelled "The plane is broken, the plane is broken". People freaked out. They were waking up to a screaming lunatic. He was quickly swarmed by cabin crew and subdued.
Turns out the movie was the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day. The repeats were the plot.
A man from Hamilton flying out of China had put in a full day's work in humid conditions before jumping on a plane home. When he sat down people started moving away from him. He couldn't work out why, until a hostess arrived and waved her hand in front of her nose. Two more arrived and forcibly removed him from his seat. Turns out he was too stinky for the plane. His BO was so bad he was quarantined for the rest of the flight. Humiliator.
A guy from Auckland caught a tummy bug pre-flight. On board, things went south fast. He really needed to get to the bathroom. Stuff was about to come out of both ends. Unfortunately the food trolley was operating in the aisle. He was blocked in.
So he panicked. Decided to attempt the impossible and get through anyway. He failed and threw up all over a hostess, two passengers and both the mango chicken and beef options. After a frantic clean up he spent the rest of the long flight thinking about what he had done. Also sitting in what he had done. Humiliating.
Air New Zealand is the greatest airline in the world. Comfortable, friendly and efficient. But you are still encased in a metal tube travelling at 1000km/h, 12,000 metres up. Whenever New Zealanders are confined like that for a more than a few hours, humiliations are bound to occur.
So how do you prevent it from happening to you? Simple. Lock your neck with the head rest, lay off the weed, wipe your key areas with a wet cloth before boarding, keep a sickness bag handy and if you're slamming zopiclones, pump the brakes on the reds.
Don't become another humiliating aviation statistic.
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