This perfect passenger is a pain in the seat
THE INCIDENTAL TOURIST
THE flight attendant asks if I would like a drink. Her trolley is stacked with clinking, glistening bottles, their gold stickers boasting a host of awards and promising a symphony of flavours.
Before I can reply the passenger next to me asks for iced water. I presume he is opting for a palate-cleanser which, to me, is a glass of brut champagne. Each to his own.
But as the flight progresses and he resolutely refuses anything but water, he starts to annoy the heck out of me. How dare he sit there and drink water. What is wrong with him? I’ll accept only explanations of medication or membership of AA.
Thank goodness the flight is a short haul. Imagine if it were a 12-hour marathon. I’d be driven to distraction by this man. In fact, I’d probably have to move seats. How dare he get on a plane and act all perfect. He is giving the rest of us a bad name.
Such behaviour should not be permitted in business class or, heaven forbid, first class. If you’re going to sit up the front of the plane, you are morally obliged to eat and drink.
I’m starting to feel sick. Maybe it’s the wine. No, no, I reason. It’s the parsimonious, sanctimonious man beside me. He’s nauseating. And then, if that’s not bad enough, out come the fabulous state-of-the-art noise-reducing headphones. ‘‘Oh, that just about takes the cake,’’ I say to myself.
I’ve read about his kind — the Perfect Traveller. They’re constantly being interviewed in magazines and travel sections about their tips and it always goes like this: Q: What are your best flying tips? A: Never drink alcohol and have lots of water. Q: What do you always pack? A: My fabulous state- of- the- art noise-reducing headphones.
Thank goodness my neighbour finally turns away and nods off. Unless he has eyes in the back of his head, he doesn’t know I am still staring daggers at him. But whereas before it was dis- dain, now it’s fascination. Somewhere between a full glass and an empty glass, my attitude has softened into sympathy.
As we near our destination, I even start to envy him. He is everything I am not. Why don’t I drink water and have fabulous travel gadgetry worthy of talking about in an interview? I bet if I could have a rootle through his suitcase, I’d find it to be neurotically neat, a celebration of obsessive organisation.
It’s not like I’m a novice traveller. On the contrary. No, experience has nothing to do with it. You’re either like this man or you’re not.
Eventually it gets too much for me and, when he rouses himself and removes his fabulous state-of-the-art noise-reducing headphones, I seize the opportunity.
‘‘So tell me, you don’t usually drink alcohol on a flight?’’
‘‘No, never, it dehydrates me.’’ It’s the textbook answer. I knew it.
‘‘And food? I suppose you find it bloats you?’’
‘ ‘ Yes, indeed, I usually don’t eat when I fly.’’
I’ve heard enough. The wine has now lulled me into a potentially morose state of introspection.
The flight attendant comes to my rescue in the nick of time.
‘‘You’d like another glass of wine before we land?’’ she asks.
She is already pouring and I’d kill for a chocolate. Dominic Dunne is the author of Adventures of a Compulsive Traveller (Transit Lounge).