Thinking about Henry and the handcuffs reminds me of a flight to the UK. When my children were young. Yeah, fooled you there, hey. I took my children to the UK to meet various relatives. It was a last minute decision. A girlfriend at the time had obtained a cheap flight through someone she knew. I bought into the same arrangement.
You know how it is when you get anything cheap. Chances are the thing does not work. There are all sorts of drama because it was cheap.
This trip fell right into that slot. I had better not name the airline even though it was twenty-four years ago now. We boarded in Brisbane for the first leg to the Philippines – about an 8 hours stretch. I had two small children aged about 4 and 3. I had not taken so much as one colouring pencil as everyone, as they do, told me the airlines give kids lots of things to keep them busy. Nothing. We got nothing.
As we were in the very cheapest seats available I guess we were meant to be overjoyed to be riding in the aeroplane and not sitting with the luggage. The flight was in the days of free alcohol. I hate to sound like a snob or anything but most of the drinking was being done in this cheap section.
When we landed in the Philippines we were told that the aircraft had a problem and we would be advised of the departure time in the airport lounge area. The announcement suggested “it might be longer than planned”. Now uncertain as to when we would depart again to one of the Arab countries we were all milling about , told not to leave the airport.
I remember going to the airport toilets with my children and there was no toilet paper. The kids were a little clingy so all 3 of us were in the same cubical. I was looking around noticing we had no toilet paper when a hand came up under the door with 4 (yes 4) pieces of toilet paper. I said “More” but the hand did not understand. We managed somehow.
My son was the proverbial blue eyed blonde beauty. At almost 3 he had the most beautiful locks of blonde ringlets which his Mother refused to cut too short. He was clinging to me like glue, his arms wrapped around my neck with such strength it was hard to breathe. My daughter equally as beautiful was holding my hand very tight as I instructed her to do. Nothing was going to happen to my babies. The airport was a crowded place and my Son’s golden locks being at my head height were being continually stroked by people. The Philippine people were coming up and telling me how beautiful he was and touching him. He was extremely anxious and I was doing my best to keep calm so that he would keep calm. At one stage he started to cry, then yell. My daughter too was blonde and cute as, at age 4 but she did not seem at all bothered by the fuss – she loved all the attention. That worried me more. I needed to keep the balance just right – not panic my son but not give my daughter any impression that this was a ‘safe’ environment. This was not a safe environment.
Then the announcement came “Flight 666” will be spending the night in the Philippines, courtesy of the airline. I was seriously annoyed. I was being picked up in London and had to make some contact with them now to advise that we would not be there at the scheduled time. This was before mobile phones . It became clear quickly from the rumble of people milling around me that all were disgruntled.
The airline then started to sort us out and we were mini bussed off to accommodation. From the outside we were thinking we did okay, the building resembling plush accommodation. Once inside it looked a bit half baked. Unfinished bits – like wires still hanging out of walls where one would expect a light switch. It was night and we were all exhausted and looking forward to a real bed as opposed to a chair in a plane. My girlfriend was not too bothered. She was not travelling with her children. Of course my children by now were all out of whack and wanted to run around the room, not sleep.
In the morning we were all meant to be back at the Airport at a set time and my girlfriend and I were by now losing the plot. We rushed downstairs to find we had missed the last bus back to the airport which would get us to our flight on time. I looked across the road and saw people living there in the slums of that country, cardboard boxes. This distressed me and I was having a melt down now.
Other people were going to the airport and took pity on us, offering to share a cab with us. Has anyone been in a cab in the Philippines? This one took 6 adults and my two children in the back seat with 4 adults and the driver in the front seat. It was over one hundred degrees and one man asked for a window to be put down or he was going to pass out. Someone was offered the one and only window winder handle to perform this task. Remember we all had hand luggage as well, so this was cramped going.
I was chatting to a nice American man who was so close it would have been rude not to introduce myself and my children. I had a number of bags and both kids were clinging to me. My daughter now wanted to be held as well so I had one on each hip. My girlfriend was the girlie sort and she was busy looking beautiful. Holding one of my bags at my insistence but really it did not go with her outfit.
The kind American man offered to take one of my children as we got out of the cab. It was clear I was never going to make it to a flight which was almost ready to leave with these two small children, way too many bags and a friend who just didn’t care. Both kids screamed at any suggestion of letting go of my neck. I gave the American all my bags and held my kids tight as we ran to the gates of the departing plane. It was bedlam, as anyone who has been to the Philippines airport would know. Way too many people there. When I sat in the seat on the aeroplane and thought “OMG we made it” I went, “I don’t have my handbag.” There was a fuss being made at the door of the plane, then I see the American man walking up the isle. The crew had let him through to give me all my bags. I cried. He was only going to relinquish those bags to me. We had lost sight of each other in the airport but he knew which plane I was on. He held up that flight to make sure I got there and then he insisted on hand delivering my bags. I never got his full name.
We sat on the plane, on the tarmac for about 2 hours. No drink was offered. It was over hundred degrees, still, in the shade which the plane was not.
No explanation was given for the delay.
Eventually drinks of orange juice arrived as the announcement was made; there had been a bomb threat. My first thought being why are we still on this plane? Our luggage had been removed and inspected. The message went that this took a considerable amount of time but the airline felt it was worth waiting for the return of the luggage. True.
I was not one hundred percent certain any of this made me feel confident. As I write this I wonder what had that American man told them to hold up the plane that day?
New passengers had joined our flight in the Philippines and one was the man seated right behind me. The plane was now full; one more handbag could not have been squeezed into a space on board that flight.
As the flight continued that man behind me was enjoying the free drinks so much he got a bit aggro when told he would not be getting any more. He started to kick the chair in front of him which was the back of my chair. Not a good feel. He then decided to hit his girlfriend who was 8 months pregnant at the time. Then a call went out for “Is there a Doctor on board?”
By now the whole journey felt like I was in one of those “Carry On” movies that were so popular.
They moved his girlfriend and left him sitting behind me. A few men on the flight became involved in trying to get him to settle down and even the score for hitting pregnant women, they were standing in a queue to hit him. My girlfriend joined that queue as well, as girlie as she is she was ready to give him a punch. I was still randomly being bounced forward with kicks to the back of my chair and trying to entertain two small fed up children clinging to me due to the activity in play around them. Yes, they felt scared.
The captain came down and everyone it seemed was around my chair to sort out that man behind me. In the end the crew produced handcuffs and locked him into his seat. This of course made him kick all the more. There was nowhere else for me to go and nobody offered any assistance at all to me. The captain did apologize but he didn’t want me and two small children on his lap.
As we landed in Amsterdam we had to wait for the Police to board and arrest the man behind me.
There is more. We were never meant to land in Amsterdam. We were meant to go to Heathrow Airport in London. The airline therefore had to pay for accommodation, yet again, in Amsterdam for everyone on this flight. It was only a 20 minute flight from here to London. The airline announced that accommodation and access to phones was being arranged for us. We all knew the spiel now.
Again a night arrival in Amsterdam, again children wide awake but this time I was occupied as well. My friend had decided that her pants suit which she had now been wearing for some 50 odd hours was to get a wash. She did this in the bathroom. Then she rang about using a clothes dryer. No the airport did not authorise this and no amount of pleading worked to get any access to a clothes dryer.
We took it in turns to dry the whole pants suit with a hair dryer. It took all night. In the morning at check out there was a dispute over our phone usage which we figured was the call to them. I paid something so we could be released.
So the moral of the story, none, I just cannot stop thinking about handcuffs.
Copyright © Mary Willetts 2011