Part I: Toilets, stinginess and toothpaste.
It's about half-way through the flight. I'm still smarting from the fact that the American airline have not sat me next to a gorgeous, single girl who finds me irresistibly attractive. This seems to be a terrible oversight on their part and I will of course be sending a letter of complaint later on.
Still, I have two seats to myself, even if not a window seat. The flight is about nine hours from Gatwick Airport to Charlotte, South Carolina, and there are only four and a half to go now. I decide to get up to use the facilities. It is not something I particularly relish doing on a long flight.
Irrational fears spring to mind: When I press the flush handle, will the contents of the little cupboard, including me, get sucked through? One would hope not, but there is always a possibility. More pressingly, there is the worry that turning this handle will not let me into the bathroom but rather will release the emergency door of the plane. Out into the void I will be sucked, alongside anybody else, until cabin pressure is restored, by which time I will be doomed to plummet through the stratosphere, like an exceptionally unlucky Bond villain …
Back at my seat I ponder the awfulness of this particular airline. There is a reason that I normally use Virgin Atlantic to reach the States: It's a good, well-equipped service. In contrast, this service is so tight they make Dickens 's Scrooge look like Bob Geldof. Everything has to be paid for. Duty-free is plugged at every opportunity, with the airline very keen to remind passengers that credit cards can be used. And also very sure to remind all passengers that duty-free, despite its name, is nothing of the kind.
A steward approaches a man in front of me:
"Would you care for a drink, sir?"
"Yes please. A glass of wine."
"I'm afraid that we have to charge for anything that isn't tea, coffee or orange-juice sir."
These people have all paid good money for their flight. To begrudge a customer one free glass of wine after that seems downright mean. There are no freebies here: no face-towel, no toothbrush with funky toothpaste tube, no note-pads, pens or purpose-defying flight socks. These socks are purpose-defying because of their inability to stay-up, thereby failing to serve the primary purpose for which all socks are designed.
The lack of toothpaste and toothbrush is most frustrating, since they are not currently allowed in hand-luggage. Terrorists have seen to it that even the most humble item is under suspicion. Americans already think that Brits have bad teeth but with this ruling, the myth is being cruelly perpetuated. Travellers are forced to go all flight without cleaning their teeth. As they step off the flight, so does an increased likelihood of halitosis and gingivitis. Thank you, terrorists.