In January 2020, as I slapped sellotape onto boxes with ‘FOR MARCH’ written on them in Sharpie, I had no way of knowing that these same boxes would remain untouched for the next three years. In my ignorance, I expected to be back two months later to pick up these non-essential essentials; the items I didn’t need enough to bring as part of my 30kg check-in limit, but still wanted enough to have earmarked them for my next visit home. Right now, as I sit in Australia typing this, I have absolutely no recollection of what I put in those boxes. When I leave this enormous island to go back to visit my much, much smaller one, I will find myself faced with these pre-pandemic time capsules.
It feels strange now to think back to that time before the world shuddered to a stop. I moved to the other side of the world and at no point did I ever consider that it might be a one-way ticket. I had my mask ready for the smoke floating into Sydney from the bush fires, and absolutely no idea that I would be using that same mask for protection against COVID instead.
Now, over three years later, I-
Well. I don’t want to jinx it. Let’s just say I’m hoping to get on a plane in the very near future.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m half-Irish and half-Spanish, and as a result, international flights have been a constant throughout my life; at first, necessary trips to visit family, and later as I grew older, optional adventures further afield. The past three years are the longest I have ever gone without setting foot in international departures and I MISS IT, amigos. I miss the terrible food options and the squeaky floors and the last-minute sugar-rush purchase in the newsagents. I miss the dutiful duty-free browsing. I miss the uncomfortable chairs with metal armrests that dig into you and the view of the tarmac. I even miss the mild anxiety you feel as you watch the luggage handlers fling suitcases onto conveyor belts with gleeful abandon, and silently wonder whether you’re about to see your own suitcase fly gracefully through the air before exploding open on contact.
I miss it all. I miss the strange, close, metallic smell of the aeroplane. I miss the crap in-flight movies. I miss the obligatory panicked rush between terminals for the connecting flight. I miss cringing inside-out with embarrassment when the ground stewardess hands me my ticket and says, “Have a lovely flight” and I reply “You too!” I miss feeling the closest thing to rage I’m likely to feel as people take eons to s…l…o…w…l…y stow their bags in the overhead bins. I miss getting weird looks as I order plain tomato juice on the flight. I miss looking at the safety leaflet and thinking ‘Not sure holding my head in my hands will help if we’re headed vertically into the sea like a large dart….‘
…Actually, upon reflection, maybe I don’t miss it all.
However, even the parts I don’t miss I will gladly – nay, enthusiastically – bear for the freedom to go where I want to go and see the people I want to see. I resolve to be the picture of serenity next time someone holds me up in the aisle. I am determined to quietly hum ‘I’m going home, I’m going home’ on a loop if anybody wrestles me for the armrest. I have decided to endure any minor annoyance or brief misfortune with the zen of an octogenarian Tibetan monk.
And if all else fails, and someone is annoying me well beyond capacity, I can always fight fire with fire. After all, in the battlefield of annoying airline passengers, I will have the ultimate weapon.
A seven kilogram distress grenade with the most fragile of pins…
The pinnacle of weaponized annoyance…
A Baby On The Plane.