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In-flight Rambles, Perth to Melbourne (Thirsty Work)

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

In-flight Rambles, Perth to Melbourne (Thirsty Work)

Andrew Ryan

The plan was to get to the airport an hour before boarding, so’s that I could find a comfy spot in a chair or at a bar or on the floor, listen to Brian Eno’s Music For Airports on my phone, and write about the experience.

It is little wonder that I rarely make plans such as like: they never seem to work out.

I was so scattered and stressed out before leaving my mother’s house that I totally miscalculated the timing of driving and whatever else sucks up writing time in regular life. We got in to the correct terminal (after going to the wrong one first) a few minutes after the lady had closed the flight. Despite my stressed yelling about baggage weight and frustrated stamping of feet and furious pacing/cigarette smoking earlier in the day, I was calm as fuck as I approached that desk with its “Tiger – Flight Closed” sign. She let me check my shit in. I knew she would. That’s why I was calm.

Also, everything had felt dream-like since I’d told my brother to put my suitcase in Mum’s car: the new freeway we took to the airport, the conversation between my mother and I about the existence of class in Western society, the wandering through the wrong terminal looking for little tigers in places I would never find them. I wasn’t connecting with any of it.

I am on the plane now, and I am still struggling to connect with my surrounds. Not in the same way as off the plane; things are no longer dreamlike. Instead, I am clumsy. I dropped the contents of my wallet on the floor when I tried what little change I had in it, for example.

Two over-sights related to this: I forgot to bring a water bottle, so I wanted to purchase one, and I forgot to check my cash before I left the house, or to get some out on the way, so I am left with just over half of what I need to purchase a very, very overpriced bottle of water.

I wonder if they will serve me a small plastic cup of water? My lips and throat are dry. They must. Why am I so scared they won’t? Subtly pressured in to feeling more comfortable paying for things that shouldn’t be paid for.

So I messed up the Brian Eno thing.

This is disappointing, because never before had I been so looking forward to a writing project. Never ever before. But I guess I didn’t want it enough to make careful plans, maybe? That being said, I am pretty fucking terrible with pre-travel anxiety. Get jittery. Get stressed. Need booze. When I flew to Perth in November, I felt compelled to consume a few glasses of Jamesons before I left the house. At 9am. I am jolted for at least 12 hours before a flight, every flight, and I don’t see that changing until I have enough money to not be scared of anything, ever. Money, again. Money. Sigh.

When I was researching to find out if anyone has published their writing about listening to Music for Airports while sitting in an airport, I came across an album created with a similar purpose in mind. The Black Dog’s “Music For Real Airports”, released in 2010, was that album, so I downloaded it and synced it to my phone Just In Case. Just in case was a good feel, a good call, because that is what I am listening to now, as I am flown over Somewhere, Western Australia, in a metal tube with air hostesses wearing too much makeup. They inch their trolley of expensive food and drink items towards my seat, and I find myself planning how to ask for water. What are the options? I need to practice asking. I still cannot make my mind work to think about asking for something to sustain life, and the possibility of it being denied. I don’t trust these humans. Not at all. The distrust is making me crave a cigarette and a glass of wine.

This Black Dog album is not right for the plane , at least not a plane in the early evening. Perhaps it would suit looking-out-the-plane-window during the day. But probably not. The electronic beat that has hit in Track 8 – “Future Delay Thinking” is more driving and more frantic (also, a very accurate audio depiction of the state of mind it is named after, the album is full of that, good job Black Dog) than the awfully slow process of maybe-water-acquisition I am experiencing now. I must stop this music.

Do these airhostesses have to conform to rules about their hairstyles? Do the men who do the same jobs have to conform the similar rules? Has an airhost-person ever flipped out and caused the crash of a plane? Or at least the emotional discomfort of a passenger? Maybe I should ask one? Not these ones. They might be the ones that flip if they are pushed the wrong way.

They finally reach my row of seats. I got the attention of the older one. She gave me a slow nod, looking deep in to my eyes, a suppression of boredom and impatience I recognise easily from my bar-tending days. Sorry I was impatient lady, I didn’t realise you couldn’t do it, that I had to wait for the other one. I didn’t notice your system, because I am just So Fucking Thirsty. But they gave me a little plastic cup full of water. This quest is complete. Never forget to bring a water bottle on to a plane again.

Sometimes I receive flashes of “Should”, flashes of a thing to write about, different in style to “Want”. The one that just came to me was that I should write about the sensation of the plane dropping in altitude. I should write about that. But who/what is telling me that? Who says? It can’t be me because I don’t want to write about that. When I attempt to follow these should-advices, it doesn’t work out very well. I can’t remember anything fantastic coming from them. But I guess they are internal writing prompt. Maybe I should just follow them.

Should. But not now, because the plane touching the ground is my favourite part, and I am back in Melbourne, indefinitely, and from now on I will only write about things I want to write about.