70. Fear of flying.

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.

And what a brutal schedule it is!

And what a brutal schedule it is!

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.

And on the sixth day, you shall watch sports, drink beer, and barbecue.

And on the sixth day, you shall watch sports, drink beer, and barbecue.

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.

On Tuesday, it's geography and hammer pants.

On Tuesday, it’s geography and hammer pants.

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?

Ma'am, if you don't raise your seat into the upright position, fold away your table, and fasten your seatbelt, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave. The exits are located behind row 17. Would you like a tiny water?

Ma’am, if you don’t raise your seat into the upright position, fold away your table, and fasten your seatbelt, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave. The exits are located behind row 17. Would you like a tiny water?

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.

I don't know what she was worried about. Everything about this outfit screams "I'm a proper grownup with a proper grownup job!"

I don’t know what she was worried about. Everything about this outfit screams “I’m a proper grownup with a proper grownup job!”

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!

Maintain a cruising altitude of 7000 feet. And bring me a new spoon. This one seems to be malfunctioning.

Maintain a cruising altitude of 7000 feet. And bring me a new spoon. This one seems to be malfunctioning.

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.

I wonder if they are showing any good movies.

I wonder if they are showing any good movies.

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.

The most dangerous animal in Australia. Seriously.

The most dangerous animal in Australia. Seriously.

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.

If you mention my name in the press I'll let you use my golden toilet. but only for as number one.

If you mention my name in the press I’ll let you use my golden toilet. but only for as number one.

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.

Although now that I think about it, her hair is quite dark. And she has tiny fingers.

Although now that I think about it, her hair is quite dark. And she has tiny fingers.

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.

Why yes, I do own a farm. It's over there on the lawn next to the fishpond.

Why yes, I do own a farm. It’s over there on the lawn next to the fishpond.

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”

For god's sake ma'am, put away the earrings. You're free to go. You've  been free to go for three hours.

For god’s sake ma’am, put away the earrings. You’re free to go. You’ve been free to go for three hours.

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.

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32 thoughts on “70. Fear of flying.

  1. mariekeates says:

    Despite working in travel and having to fly a fair bit (at least before I switched to a cruise company) I don’t like flying either. My husband builds aircraft and has an unhealthy interest in Aircrash Investigation which has always seemed to coincide with me getting on a plane. Not the most comfortable of watching. I feel for Mrs 23Thorns!

  2. Hell, I was born in Australia and our customs officials scare the pants off me! Whenever Martin and I have travelled I inevitably have more space in my suitcase (ironic I know) and so I end up with any souverirs which are inevitably made of wood! Yup, they stope me and search me. As for the farm thing, yep, I had to unlace and take off my knee high lace up boots in order to have them treated in case of foot and mouth and then put them back on and lace the buggers all the way back up all the while holding up the traffic of all the other impatient hauled in by customs people. NIGHTMARE!

  3. albertine says:

    One of my sons once declared his wooden chess set on arrival in Australia. (‘Plant matter’). The customs guy took him seriously and checked it over carefully before letting us through. What a sweet guy! (This was 30 years ago, though). Even longer ago than that, I arrived into Melbourne bearing Christmas presents already wrapped – they were sooooo suspicious of the boxed Lego.

  4. narf77 says:

    I have an antidote to my natural desire to keep my feet permanently planted on terra firma at any given time. I don’t fly. It’s very simple really. As a native mammal of Australia, I think that Mrs 23 Thorns should be more afraid of the fact that her long haul flight has a chance of being piloted by Steve’s cousin. Depending on her level of fear vs. your desire to pay extra money for a tippy top class airline, she may, or may not endure a long haul flight piloted by someone closely related to someone who would rather carve spoons than take a shower. Someone who would rather deposit sweet wrappers in his pockets for months on end than take a 3 metre trip to the rubbish bin. Someone who is so strange as to click “mute” on his remote whenever television commercials come onto the television because by DAMN they aren’t going to force him to both watch AND listen to the bloody things! In other words, Mrs 23Thorns might be sitting on a floating tin can (like Mr Bowie in Space Oddity but somewhat closer to the earth’s crust than he was…) piloted by a close relative of someone distinctly odd. Don’t worry Mr 23Thorns. She doesn’t have a THING to worry about…unless Paul is her pilot that is. He makes that space cowboy you featured today look tame ;).
    I remember taking my one and only long haul flight to the U.K. and foolishly allowing Steve to book the tickets. He decided to save money as a family of 5 heading from Australia to the U.K. isn’t a cheap deal in anyone’s books. He decided to bypass the safe airlines and make a bee-line for Air France. If Mrs 23Thorns has flown to Australia/N.Z. via Air France, please don’t read any more of this comment. Just go to your bedroom and squeeze under the bed and assume the foetal position until she returns safely home and you can kiss the ground that she walks on and thank that deity that you aren’t entirely sure exists (or not…). If she hasn’t flown Air France… read on. We managed to get onto the flight alright but when being seated we noted that the consoles in between our extra skinny seats (gotta squeeze that last buck out of flights these days) were ragged, falling apart and just plain broken. The one child (the panicker) who was seated next to the window (and who added “terrified of flying” to the panicking list soon after take-off) got to see the dents, the small missing parts of wing and the strange angle twisted into one of the engines prior to take-off. She also got to hear some very strange noises that one really doesn’t want to hear when one is taking off on a flight that is going to span a whole lot of sea and take you to the limits of sanity for hours on end where small French children (and the French seem to have MILLIONS of them) sit on mummies knee and are allowed to kick you in the back for hours on end.
    Mummy loves their creative expression, and should you turn to scowl at her at ANY point she will defend her darlings right to kick you and will instruct her husband (conveniently sitting in front of you) to put his seat back ALL the way so as to ensure your remaining hours of child footed massage are felt up close and personal. When her darling stops kicking you in the back through sheer exhaustion (mummy is pricking him with a pin…you REALLY pissed her off by looking at her…) the other children on the plane will all start to cry at random intervals for the rest of the trip. Aside from these minor annoyances, every single announcement on the plane will be made in ONLY French. Even if you have a rudimentary grasp on the French vernacular, they WILL choose to use some country dialect that Mrs Quinllivin, your French lecturer for 3 years (who had a nervous breakdown halfway through your final year and had to leave) was unversed in. Who would know when meals were going to be served…what country you were currently flying over and why the plane was lurching in a most peculiar way…
    I don’t fly any more unless it is to take the 45 minute flight to the mainland to see if I can smuggle some dirt, honey or a fox under my hat back into Tasmania. Simple really. Customs officers are there to test. It’s my job to test them. Mrs 23Thorns can feel free to take my place for a bit as I don’t fancy flying at the moment and they need to be kept on their toes. Regarding the heroin…Mrs 23Thorns must be sporting a very large “booty”. That’s not going to be comfortable for a long haul flight. Methinks you both should have sewn it into her bra. At least she would have gotten admiring glances by the male plane population and no problems getting up to go to the loo so long as she pressed up against the male population with those ENORMOUS heroin breasts. I think I just invented a new band name (best go purchase the domain name NOW).
    You can come out from under the bed now Mr 23Thorns. I have stopped. It’s not manly to suck your thumb sir.

  5. markgelbart says:

    Humans began messing up Australia 40,000 years ago. Man wiped out most of the large mammal species there and totally upset that natural balance. There were 40 foot long monitor lizards, giant land crocodiles, giant kangaroos, marsupial lions, carnivorous kangaroos, and the giant “duck of doom.”

    Google Australia’s Pleistocene megafauna.

  6. Judy says:

    I heard Australia has poisonous spiders which can bite through your boots in the outback. Customs needs to make sure those don’t leave!! Ouuu!!

    • 23thorns says:

      I think they’re actively trying to rid of them. The customs guys get a bonus if they slip one into your luggage while pretending to look for cocaine.

  7. Jocelyn Hers says:

    I lurve the Donald. Tell Mrs 23thorns that customs officials are all slightly deranged with boredom, but if you open your suitcase voluntarily by falling over it they will laugh quietly and make you unpack it again when you reach them. I do not laugh quietly at your posts, I snort.

  8. pfstare says:

    23 Thorns if you get a ‘for your information’ you are in trouble 🙂

    • 23thorns says:

      Don’t worry, I have a plan. while she’s been away I’ve labelled all her underwear with the days of the week. She’s going to be so pleaded she’ll forget all about the post.

  9. cari0ca says:

    Knowing mrs23thorns, I would have fully expected her to be hiding the heroin in her corset, which lets face it, isn’t just any old underwear!

  10. This time, for your information, Mr 23, I was not pulled aside by customs for declaring bluebird wooden earrings. I put them on to make sure that any and everybody could see my wooden ways but, alas, I was not considered a threat to national security and I was waved through. So perplexed was I by this that I fell over my suitcase in full view of EVERYBODY in the airport (including the sniffer dogs who startled but didn’t sit). I came crashing down onto the ground in a spectacular tumble. Bags went flying, passport, papers, jackets and, Good Lord, the French champagne too. All survived except my dignity but I reckon I’m definitely on the “do not approach, she’s mad” list in a windowless office in the back of the airport. I’m about to pass through customs again on my way to New Zealand. Do you think NZ customs will need me to declare the beautiful and expensive party dress I bought for our daughter?

    • 23thorns says:

      is it made out of wood? Or biltong?

      • Tulle and sequins. But, I don’t want to tell you about sequins.

        Just poppped in again to tell you that I am now officially no longer in Australia (really) and that when I put my hand luggage through the scanner the very very particularly extremely surly customs lady asked if I had any aerosols, liquids or gels. Her manner turned me into a gibbering idiot and I hauled out my gel liquid eyeliner and glasses cleaning liquid. I swear she rolled her eyes before she told me to carry on.

        I cannot control my randomly idiotic declarations. It’s like Tourette’s.

      • 23thorns says:

        Sigh. But they didn’t find the heroin?

    • narf77 says:

      You mean I wore that enormous hat, bristling with canine feliform indignation and I don’t even get that promised bottle of French Champagne to celebrate my upcoming aniversary with?! “It’s ON Customs!”

  11. Hank. says:

    Sometimes it’s fun to scroll very quickly, up and down, up and down these posts again and again–wondering how the photos can relate to each other in any rational context. Whee! Pants. Whee! Bunnies. Whee! The Donald. It makes eventually reading them even more enjoyable, if you have that kind of brain. Which we do.

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