Je ne suis pas Singapore or its national airline
gives people free drinks and, unlike the rand, hardly ever crashes. The 10-hour flight to Singapore was a pleasure. The pilot wasn’t even a little drunk. I have experienced more turbulence in hotel rooms. And their meals make SAA look like a soup kitchen for homeless war criminals.
Singapore is one of the many airlines that don’t fly from King Shaka International Airport. Hadedas barely fly from King Shaka. Most of them depart from the tree outside my bedroom window at 5.30am.
Hadedas have the worst air- traffic control in the world, shouting at each other whenever they take off or land. Or even just sit there.
To get to Singapore Airlines, I had to fly from Durban to Joburg. I got an emergency exit seat by weeping at the check-in counter while standing on my tip-toes, which brought my height to around three metres. I need extra leg room like sharks need to keep moving.
The cabin attendant pretended to give me instructions on what to do in the event of what she coyly described as a forced landing and I pretended to listen. We both knew that in the history of aviation, nobody in my position had ever swung that lever up, kicked the door open and helped his fellow passengers on to the wing.
The attendant then told me, with a straight face, that in the event of a water landing, I should swim towards the front of the plane where I’d find the life vests. So there was a chance we’d come down in the Mgeni River then. Or Zoo Lake? It was like a triathlon. Fly, swim, crawl to hospital.
Waiters in an airport bar took me hostage and only released me when they heard my name called. Weaving off to the gate severely handicapped by a belly distended with beer, I made it just in time. “Where were you, sir? We’ve been calling you,” said a gatekeeper with the face of a rejected kidney.
“I thought that was the voice of God,” I said. This conversation might have taken place in my head. Living alone as I do, a fierce amount of conversations take place in my head.
It wasn’t long before I was on nodding terms with the on-board medication. But there comes a time on any long-haul flight when the airline treats its passengers as one would a bunch of parrots. They’ve barely fed and watered you when the blinds come down and the lights go off. It’s the equivalent of putting a blanket over a cage. “More gin and tonic, air slave!”
“Sir, now is sleepy time, not drinky time.”
“What? This is an outrage! Drinky time has barely begun and you expect…”
“Sir, it is 2am in Singapore. Not drinky time at all.”
“Rubbish. It’s 6pm and it’s still light outside. Look.” I went to raise the plastic shutter thing.
“Mr Parrot, do not touch the fittings or we will have you shot.”
Singapore is the country that destroyed Helen Zille’s career. I shudder to think what their airline is capable of. Quite frankly, I’m not convinced Singapore is a country at all. I think it’s just a giant airport with travelators instead of roads, planes instead of trains and sliding glass doors instead of borders. I’ve visited smaller countries than Changi Airport, which appears to have a GDP considerably higher than most African states. Another reason I don’t think Singapore is a real country is their idea of what constitutes crime.
A teaser emblazoned on the front page of last week’s Singapore Sunday Times screamed, “The ugly side of bike sharing!”
I assumed “bike sharing” was a polite euphemism for a salubrious activity. Human trafficking, perhaps. My brain salivating at the idea of receiving a dose of fresh filth, I flipped the paper open.
The page two lead story was headlined “LTA moves against badly parked bikes”. Ramming home the full horror, four photographs showed bicycles parked willy-nilly, some obstructing doorways, others partially blocking a staircase. A few had already been impounded. It was too terrible. I had to bite down hard on my knuckles so as not to cry out at the inhumanity of it all. But, despite the brutally indiscriminate parking of bicycles, Singapore will rebuild. Je suis Singapore.
To reach my connecting flight to Bali, I had to cross several topographical zones within the Singaporean People’s Republic of Changi. Across the temperate highlands of Duty Free through the megalopolis of pharmacies to the glittering cornucopia of Gucci, I soldiered on. I spent the flight with my knees around my ears, shooting death stares at parents who think it’s acceptable for their children to carry on like malfunctioning airraid sirens.
Black-gloved gunmen were waiting for me at Denpasar Airport. Were they to release me into the wilds of Bali with my bottle of rum and my bottle of gin, I would quite clearly be unable to resist the urge to violently overthrow the Indonesian government.
They gave me a choice. “Rum or gin,” said a beautiful combatant with sloe eyes and a quick draw. It was a cruel choice to have to make.
“Eat prey, love,” I muttered, handing over the gin before walking out into a thick soup of tropical humidity, Australian accents and seven billion motorbikes.