Mrs 23thorns is on the move. She’s headed off for twelve days in Australia and New Zealand, abandoning me to the tender mercies of my son’s school’s pants schedule.
My son goes to a nice little school around the corner from our house. It’s clean and friendly and well organised. But the school hates me. They have deliberately set about making my life an endless pants hell.
The seven day week is a noble and venerable institution. It originated in ancient Israel and Babylon, to allow for one holy day and six days of grinding drudgery. As time went by we became a bit more sensible and invented the weekend, another noble institution. That left us with five days for the drudgery.
It’s very well organised. You can set up a handy little weekly schedule. Especially if you’re a school. Sport and maths on a Monday. English and music on a Tuesday. It’s all very handy. You can stick it up on the wall and you will always know where you stand. As long as you know which day of the week it is. Which I do. Most of the time.
This is not, however, how things are done at my son’s school. Because they hate me, they have set up a revolving six day schedule. Just so that they can torment me with pants. Every day, I have to send my son off to school in a different pair of pants. Day one is a sports day, so he has to go off in sports pants. Day two is a non-sports day. Non-sports pants (South African kids wear uniforms). Yesterday was a civvies day. Random pants.
They do this with the rest of their clothes, too, but it’s the pants that hurt the most. Mrs 23thorns was born for this sort of thing. She’s organised. In control. On top of things. Me? Not so much.
But this post is not about the endless suffering that I have been abandoned to. As I have grown older I have become more comfortable with nurturing my inner child by crying, so I’ll get through this with no trouble and only a little therapy. This post is about Mrs23thorns and aeroplanes.
I flew quite a lot when I was younger. After the train down to boarding school was cancelled due to the risk of teen pregnancy and alcohol poisoning, we used to fly up and down about eight times a year. It’s a simple concept.
You hand over a random bunch of papers to some surly people at a fancy desk that weighs your suitcase, and then stand around for an unreasonably long time. Then you climb onto a huge tin can that has no right to be lighter than air, where people in natty blue outfits bring you ludicrously tiny glasses of water and shout at you about the angle of your cute little fold-down table, and the fact that your superbly useful seatbelt is not fastened. Why don’t they put in airbags? Surely those would be even more useful in a 700km/h plunge to certain doom?
And that’s it. You hit the ground with a slight bump at the end and go about your business. Unless you’re flying internationally. The you have to pause briefly to not make eye-contact with the customs guys in as non-drug-smugglery a fashion as possible.
This is not how it works for normal people. When it comes to flying, Mrs 23thorns is not normal people. Mrs 23thorns is occasionally, I hope she doesn’t mind me revealing, of a nervous disposition. One of those occasions has always been, in the past, flying. It’s all about control.
Handing your life over to a complete stranger in pretentious sunglasses and a silly hat has never come easily to Mrs 23thorns. Cars are OK. Even if you’re not driving, you can control the situation through tense body-language, dirty looks, and grimacing. But you hardly even see your pilot. Flying was harrowing.
Mrs 23thoirns and I are fairly independent souls. We don’t go in for therapy or counselling or anything like that. We deal with our own issues. In our own ways. Her ways are questionable. Mrs 23thorns found her own way of dealing with her fear of flying. She took back her lost control.
She did this by booking a window seat, to give her an uninterrupted view, and then gripping the armrests of her seat with Herculean strength and clenching her teeth. This allowed her to take control of the plane in the same way that Yuri Geller bent spoons. And by god it worked! In all the times I’ve flown with her, we’ve never crashed. Not even once!
Mind control was not the only weapon in her arsenal, however. She had another. It was called “Air Crash Investigation”. Being afraid of flying, she felt that the most sensible course of action before taking a flight would be watching a month’s worth of episodes of a show that cheerfully combined rational, scientific analyses of the myriad things that could go wrong when you’re sitting up in the sky in a huge tin can with tiny wings with dramatic re-enactments of huge tin cans in the sky bursting into flames or deciding on short notice not to be in the sky any more.
It was an unorthodox approach, but it seems to have worked. Mrs 23thorns is no longer afraid of flying. She has become so adept at controlling the momentum of a 300 000 ton aircraft through seat-gripping-assisted mind control that she’s no longer afraid.
Besides, she has a new thing to be afraid of. Australia. Or, more specifically, Australian customs control.
Australia, it’s easy to forget, is an island. A huge island, but an island no less. This means that its ecosystem is a tad vulnerable. Australia has a unique ecosystem. It was dominated by marsupials. Until we got there and started screwing it up. It started more than five thousand years ago, with dingoes. Since then, Australia has been invaded by rabbits, cane toads, feral pigs and hundred others. And that’s just the animals. It’s worse when you look at the plants.
As a result of this, Australian customs officials are a little antsy. They’re not just looking out for drugs or fake Armani handbags. They’re looking out for the next wave of biological invaders that will destroy their home.
Mrs 23thorns is a little disturbed by this, in the same sort of way that Donald Trump is a little keen on publicity. She is a little concerned that she is going to get pulled aside at customs control and jailed for life for trying to destroy Australia.
This is not a completely irrational fear. She’s been at the TV again. She’s found a show called “Border Security”, in which Australian customs agents arrest oriental people on a daily basis for trying to bring unregistered marmots into the country.
It’s also not an inconsequential fear. Mrs 23thorns has been to Australia before. Where she got pulled aside by the Border Security agents, even though she is not, to the best of my knowledge, Chinese.
This was not a random occurrence. She had, you see, answered the question “have you been on a farm in the last two weeks?” with a resounding “yes!”
She had not been on a farm. She had been to our son’s nursery school. Where they have some ducks. And a pig. She was briefly detained, and shortly released by a perplexed customs agent.
And now she’s doing it all again. She hasn’t been sleeping well these past few months. It’s fear. She wants to take her African earrings with her. They’re made of wood. Brightly painted, varnished wood. Australian customs agents are going to ask her if she’s bringing any organic matter into the country.
She’s going to say yes. And she’s going to get called aside to an interrogation room. Where she will show them her earrings and ask if they want her to sign a confession. They are going to send her on her way. After taking a picture. Which they will stick up in their control room. With a label on it. A label saying “Crazy Lady. Do not confront”
All this is not necessarily a bad thing. It will help her pass the time, and besides, if they’re too busy worrying about her earrings, they’ll never find the eight kilograms of pure heroin she has sewn into her underwear.