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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Travelling Companions

A typical drunk Australian

Over the years, I have travelled to many places by many means of transport and had many types of travelling companions, both good and bad.  But none were as bad as the guy on our flight to Melbourne.

Before I describe what happened, here's some examples from the past.


Flying from Singapore to London, with my (then) 8 year old daughter.  She'd just fallen asleep, the whole cabin descending into a quiet slumber, when suddenly a drunken Aussie stood up at the back of the cabin, waving 2 bottles of duty-free gin, and demanding that everyone have a drink and start having "fun". 

He didn't stop even after the cabin staff had repeatedly requested him to sit down and be quiet. 

He only stopped (and went a bit pale) when a large gentleman, with a now crying infant (I found out later when I congratulated him that he was a detective sergeant from the Manchester Police Force) quietly threatened to rip of his head and piss down his throat if he didn't shut up and let everyone sleep, plus he'd make sure he was instantly deported s soon as we arrived in London.


Travelling down an autobahn in the back of an Army truck (before I was commissioned) and one of the biggest soldiers insisting that everyone tried the lovely sport of autobahn skating.  This is where you grab (very, very tightly) the traditional rope that hangs of the end of the canopy and launch yourself out, over the speeding tarmac, and skate using your boot-heels up the autobahn at well over 100 kph.  Not recommended for those of a delicate disposition.

He's following me



Travelling down the M6/M1from Scotland to London in a J's (a colleague) car.  We worked for a Swedish pharmaceutical multinational that had decided to give its sales reps. a treat as we had busted all the targets for that year.  My colleague was a bit twitchy and was mumbling to himself all the way down (it was his car, so he drove all the way).  As we got nearer to London, the mumbling became a bit clearer.  He was convinced that we were being followed by a white transit van.  (Motorways in the 80s were packed with white transit vans)  He left the motorway earlier than I thought he should, and we spent the next hour weaving through some small villages and towns, trying to shake of the "white van".
When we arrive at Heathrow and parked up, there were at least two white transits in the car park, and this really freaked him out.  As we walked into the departure hall and met up with the rest of the sales team, I mentioned to our manager that J was a bit flakier than normal, and as he talked to J about my concerns J began shouting that they were still following him (a little battery powered golf cart was rumbling past with two old ladies getting a lift to their plane. The cart was white).
J had to be sedated and removed to a care facility while we jetted of to Palma in Majorca for our treat. I'm just glad he broke down before we all got on the plane.


Going to work in Glasgow; getting on the number 20 bus from Anniesland to Yorkhill and a wee Glasgow Grannie sat down next to me.  We were upstairs on the double decker bus and this, believe it or not youngsters, was the smoking section. In those days, you were not automatically an agent of Satan if you smoked, the Anti-Smoking Nazis hadn't yet achieved full control, and the upstairs was the designated smoking area.  The wee grannie lit up immediately and I was really glad. 

I was really glad because she reeked of pee, excrement and very, very bad body odour.  I cannot really relate the true awfulness of the stench that surrounded the poor wee soul like a miasma over a burst septic tank, except to say that I made damned sure I chain smoked all the way into work, and I still staggered off the bus two stops before I needed to, just to get some fresh air.  Some of these Glasgow Grannies never washed or changed their clothes for months on end, and they favoured black, thick wool coats which acted like a wick, soaking in and then slowly releasing all the stinking effluvium.

Finally, onto the plane for Melbourne.
It was an Air NZ Airbus 320, which meant the passengers were seated in two rows of three, and our tickets were for the window and middle seats of the left hand row.
As we shuffled down towards our area, I could see that there was already someone sitting on the aisle seat of our row.

He was sitting bent over, his hands folded in front of his face, his elbows resting on his knees, all hunched up, and he was muttering to himself.
I had to actually nudge the guy to get his attention so he could move to let us in.  He did so readily enough, but he never made eye contact.
After we got seated, all the books and magazines stowed away, I settled down, and quickly became aware that the guy next to me (I was in the middle seat, my beloved had the window side) was emanating a curious mixture of smells.  A mixture of ghee, curry, and BO.  He had returned to his original hunched up position, head in hands and muttering away twenty to the dozen.  I studied him out of the corner of my eye.

He was Asian, probably from India or thereabouts.  He was wearing a thick blue nylon jacket, zipped up to his chin.  The plane was very warm, I was just in a short-sleeved shirt and was sweating slightly.  Goodness knows how hot he was, but the sweat was trickling down his face.  I thought he was just a nervous traveller, tried to ignore the smells (he was farting now as well, which didn't mix very well with the curry/ghee/BO.

I tried to concentrate on my book.  I had brought a Lee Child, Jack Reacher novel, "Gone Tomorrow".  I had read it before, but had completely forgotten the plot, so it was a handy book to read while we were flying "The Ditch" as New Zealanders call the Tasman Sea between NZ and Aussie.  I won't go into the details of the plot, but by about page 4, it describes the characteristics exhibited by suicide bombers. This list of observable behaviour patterns, was supposedly created by the Israelis to help them spot suicide bombers before they send themselves to "Paradise"
The list is:
  1. Inappropriate clothing (to help hide the explosives)
  2. Robotic walk (because of the weight of the explosives)
  3. Nervous behaviour
  4. Sweating
  5. Tics
  6. Irritability
  7. Breathing controlled or panting
  8. Stare rigidly ahead, no eye contact
  9. Mumbled Prayers
  10. Large bag
  11. Hands in bag
 What I was seeing was:
  1. Inappropriate clothing (Yes, and very bulky, zipped up to the neck)
  2. Robotic walk  (Not applicable as he was sitting down)
  3. Nervous behaviour (Yes.  he was certainly making me nervous)
  4. Sweating (Yes.  It was pouring down his face)
  5. Tics (Yes, now I had read it, I could see the eye closest to me was twitching)
  6. Irritability (Maybe, he certainly wasn't friendly, he never said a word to us as we squeezed past)
  7. Breathing controlled or panting (Yes, panting quietly like a little steam train)
  8. Stare rigidly ahead, no eye contact (Yes)
  9. Mumbled Prayers (Yes.  Well to be honest I wasn't sure as he was mumbling quite quietly, but it didn't sound like English.  I strained my ears to hear phrases like "Imsh'Allah", but I couldn't be sure)
  10. Large bag (Yes, in the overhead compartment.  I saw it when I put my beloved's cabin baggage in there)
  11. Hands in bag (No.  He obviously couldn't reach his bag whilst seated)

 This bastard hit an affirmative on 9, possibly 10 of the 11 points.
A suicide bomber
Was I sitting next to a suicide bomber?
Why had I chosen this bloody book to read?
Would we all enter paradise together?
Should I tell my beloved?
What on earth could I do?
I was about to try and whisper my suspicions to my beloved, when my suspicions were nullified.
The poor bastard vomited profusely over his knees, the back of the chair in front, over the really poor unfortunate bastard sitting IN the chair in front.
The stench was horrendous, but luckily none of the regurgitant had landed on me.
It turned out the poor sick man wasn't a suicide bomber, but a newly immigrated Nea Zealander who had picked up a bad case of food poisoning in an Indian restaurant in Palmerston North the day before.
    The prettiest girl in Palmerston North
  • He was wearing the thick jacket because he felt so very cold from his tummy bug
  • He was nervous because he was ill, and because he really feared flying
  • He was sweating because of his tummy bug.
  • He had a tic because he was terrified of crashing
  • He was panting trying to control the waves of pain emanating from his toxic intestine
  • He was staring ahead, not making eye contact because he was also shy.  And nervous.  And ill.
  • He was mumbling prayers to his God, praying he wouldn't throw up in the plane. (Didn't bloody work, did it?  Another reason to be an atheist)
  • Large bag?  Of course he had a large bloody bag, he was going on his holidays.
 Just proves you shouldn't read these type of books in these type of situations.  You can always misinterpret the warning signs.  Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I don't think so.

Paranoid?  Moi?
Mind you, after another 3½ hours of sitting in a cramped metal cabin, surrounded by the stench of vomit and shit (I think his farting had seriously escalated), I'm not sure I wouldn't have preferred the quick and easy way out of 10 kg of Semtex.

Did I tell you about the guy sitting in the bus tour to The 12 Apostles?

1.  He had on a blue puffer jacket in 25°C
2. He was very nervous.......................................


  1. A good argument for flying business class.

  2. Unfortunately, I am just a poor teacher and cannot afford such luxury.
    Are you going business class to China?

  3. The flight from hell. You have my sympathy.

  4. I am not letting Tartarus read this or I will never get to go a holiday on a plane again.

    My friends went to Australia for six weeks. Taking their newly born son with them. They assured me that the baby would be fine, but I hadn't really been thinking about whether the BABY would enjoy the flight....I sometimes wonder what the unfortunate travellers sitting around them thought of them with their precious cargo.

    The poor guy sitting next to you would put me off flying for life.

    Ali x


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