The new fangled seats in British Airways Business Class are, of course, utterly wonderful and fantastic. Aren’t they? Well, yes. Club World it’s called and you get champagne, a good meal and you can lie flat. Splendid. I had a window seat and had three separate portals to look out.
As I sat down I nodded and said hello to the woman in the next seat. Her seat faced forward and mine faced backward. I opened a newspaper and read while we waited. So this was all good …..only…..all the time……in my peripheral vision this woman sat staring almost but not quite at me. The thing is that our feet are narrower than our shoulders so the way they make these seats work is to pack you in one forward, one back, one forward, one back. In the end, you are rather close to the person beside you.
After a tiring journey to the airport, after the bureaucracy of security and the ghastliness of the shopping mall I look forward to the moment of take off when I am pressed back in my seat. Like a baby rocked in it’s mother’s arms I usually nod off to be awoken, once we’re in level flight, by an attendant with a cup of coffee or an orange juice.
But the take off was late. The announcement told us why, but like all aircraft announcements, it went on for so bloody long I phased out and couldn’t remember what it said. “Blah Blah Blah..on behalf of Captain Blah blah and our cabin crew are blah blah 26,000 feet blah blah…”
So, there we sat. Me and this stranger, both avoiding eye contact. What were the rules on such occasions? Who could raise the dividing barrier without appearing rude? Might the works of Jane Austen cast light on this new frontier of etiquette? I sat and ruminated on her works: “Every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies” – true but unhelpful. “..blah blah seatbelt fastened over your blanket blah blah…” On and on the announcement went. Why do air crew like to talk so much? “I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal” – Also true after a tiring journey.
Eventually we trundled along the runway, accelerated and, as we took off, I experienced the reverse of my usual experience as the acceleration force tried to drag me from my seat. “Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure” – Without doubt…..I nodded off to sleep.
When I awoke we had been delivered from our dilema of manners. She had raised the dividing barrier while I snoozed – “Rude cow!” I thought to myself but at least now I could relax in splendid isolation. I looked around a bit. I felt a little like I was sitting at the end of a little corridor. Like I’d turned up late and they’d been so full that an attendant had suggested that: look if we bung a few cushions round the back of these seats by the window you can bed down there.
However, the techno-media malarkey has come a long way. These days, a large screen flips out while a controller with a full qwerty keyboard lets one choose from numerous movies, TV programs, music and games. I watched a mediocre rendition of Jack Keroack’s On The Road. Core blimey Mrs! That’s progress for you! Remember those old plastic tubes you stuck in your ears to listen to a selection of duff music or fantastic American comedy? You never heard those guys anywhere else! Gerard Hoffnung’s Bricklayer’s Lament or Bob Newhart’s Tobacco sketch! Fantastic! And the media tell us that stand up comedy started in the 80s. Pah!!