Saturday, 25 July 2009

Sleeping With Strangers

It occurs to me that I waste quite a lot of my life sleeping with strangers.

I have always had the ability to sleep anywhere.

The mere motion of a plane, train or automobile, sends me instantly into a deep slumber.

However, my tendency to fly with budget airlines often tends to leave me sitting in a very uncomfortable, upright position.

My Turkish flight had me sitting in the emergency escape aisle, which is always good for legroom, but the seat didn't recline at ALL.

As soon as the plane starts speeding down the runway, I'm off into the land of nod.

V1, V2, Rotate - the nose lifts off the tarmac and the aluminium monster is suddenly airborne at 200 mph and climbing.

I'm pushing zzzzzz's, but its no problem at all, because the "nose-up" attitude of the plane means that my head is forced back into the seat, sticking me to it as if by magnetism.

However, when the plane levels out, the problems start.

The cranial magnetism disappears and my head falls forwards, causing me to wake myself up with a jerk.

I subconcsiously bring my head back to vertical and doze off again.

Some inmeasurable time later, my head goes forward again and I jerk awake, once more.

"Nodding dog" syndrome is no laughing matter and steps should really be taken to prevent this dangerous condition on all airlines.

Normally, mostly strangers get to sleep with me, so I never find out what they think, as they observe the secrecy of the cabin, but on the few occasions when I travel with company, they tell me that its very amusing to watch me try to nod my head off.

The sheer oppulent luxury of aircraft seating is so appealing, the owner of this Cork hotel decided to fill his restaurant with it.

Minutes before the photo was taken, the child in the picture was enjoying eating from the lowered seat tray that you can see on the middle seat back.

I wanted him to have the full airline experience, readying him for all those Easy-nair flights that he will take in the future, so I sat in the middle seat and reclined it fully and quickly while he was eating, causing him to ingest his bread roll.

He can now tell his parents that he has been through the induction course to be a seasoned traveller.

Its very hard to be a stranger in Ireland.

Irish jokes are legendary and the Irish are always portrayed as being thick.

In my experience, they are quite the opposite.

I have always found them to be very good negotiators.

They have a very lateral train of logic and this is often interpreted as being slow on the uptake.

In my opinion, they just approach a situation from a different direction and this flair for the lateral enables them to think up all kinds of variables when haggling over prices and terms.

This means that I have to think very carefully when trying to initiate a negotiation. The approach is very different from the norm.

For example, when we in the UK ask for directions, we typically stop the car, wind down the window and shout "excuse me, can you tell me the way to XYZ".

This doesn't work well in Ireland.

They always start such proceedings with verbal foreplay.

For example, "ah thats a fine display of roses you have there. I'm just on my way to visit my aunt/cousin/favourite donkey. Have you lived here long ?".

It's also essential to leave your car in the middle of the road, unbuckle your seatbelt, get out and walk across to the person concerned.

The conversation then rambles on until you can get it round to "I was wondering if you can give me some directions".

Of course, even this approach isn't guaranteed.

I once stopped and asked somebody in Ireland if they were from around here (another rather direct English way of asking for directions).

"No", they said "I don't live around here".

"Oh", I said, disappointed. "So where are you from ?" (another fallback attempt at opening conversation).

"Over there", they said, pointing to a group of buildings about half a mile away.

I once stayed in a lovely place called the Candlelight Inn at Dunmore East, near Waterford, with a group of ships captains.

On the morning of my departure, I was having a rather fine Irish breakfast with the Captains, when the owner of the hotel suggested that I let the hotel courtesy bus take me to Waterford Airport for my morning flight home.

I thanked him for his hospitality and finished my breakfast.

I collected my bag from the room, checked out and went outside to locate the courtesy bus.

There was no bus, only an ancient Morris Traveller with a little old lady wearing a chauffeurs hat,  sat in the driving seat. 

"Excuse me", I said. "Can you tell where the courtesy bus stops ?"

"Ah, ye'll be wanting me" she said "are ye for the airport ?"

Surprised, I nodded, but accepted - this was Ireland after all and nothing should be allowed to faze you.

I said my goodbyes to all at the hotel, jumped in the back seat of the Morris and we were off.

Waterford Airport is 4.5 miles from Dunmore East, as the crow flies.

About an hour later, we were back at the hotel.

"Forget something, did ye ?" said the proprietor to me.

"No", I replied "your courtesy bus couldn't find the airport and I've missed my flight".

She was obviously not from round there. 

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