I sat on the runway at Shannon airport waiting for the Ryanair plane to take off. I’m not a good flier. There have been many, many flights to and from Poland and each one has plunged my mind into a downward spiral of dread and fear. Most of the time I can pull out of it, distract myself with PMI – Positive Mental Imaging, the type of psychological bluff golfers use to kill their putting hobgoblins – The ball won’t roll by or stop short! It goes in the hole!
The girls were fighting in the seats beside me and Malina burst out crying when Lilly bit a chunk out of her arm.
‘Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,’ I shouted at her, sounding like a low-income, nineteen eighties Irish parent. The flying anxiety had pushed my mean side to the fore. I sat there simmering in a low-level panic
Picture the plane landing safely at your destination…
when an incredible thumping noise emanated from under my seat. I turned to the woman sitting across the aisle.
‘Did you just hear that?’
‘Excuse me?’ She was Polish and almost half asleep.
‘There was a ferocious noise just now – didn’t you hear it?’
‘Probably luggage,’ she said.
Luggage? Is she nuts? It’s the plane! There’s something wrong with the plane! Long have I been taken with the notion that fear has a colour and that colour is brown. Brown is also the colour of accumulated metal fatigue, a colour I could now see in large patterns on the plane’s right wing.
‘I think there’s something wrong with the plane,’ I said to the Polish lady.
‘Everything is going to be okay,’ she replied absently. Her voice was a leaf falling off a tree.
‘I’m going to tell one of the cabin crew right now,’ I said, my voice not a falling leaf, more akin to the squeal of brakes from a getaway car driven by Donald Trump.
You are landing at your destination relaxed and happy –
No I’m not! The landing gear is broken! The Dunlop is in the rough! This plane is not going to survive take-off!
The Positive Mental Imaging was gone, replaced by Sky News footage of feral children plundering plane crash debris. I’ve got to get up and talk to the Captain! But when I tried to undo the seat-belt, the damn thing was stuck. I was all set to start gnawing at the material to fashion a rip, when a hostess lowered her lacquered head to mine.
‘Is there anything I can help you with?’
‘I heard a noise from under the plane a few minutes ago,’ I told her.
‘Did anyone else hear the noise?’ she asked and I got the implication; it’s all in your head you big loop. Now calm yourself down like a good boy or I’ll zap you with the Ryanair stun gun.
‘Can you please mention it to the Captain? Just in case…’ I was keeping calm, but I knew my next words would be in the voice of the Chairman of the Chinese Tourette Syndrome Association.
‘Sorry sir, but we can’t enter the flight deck when the plane is preparing for take-off.’
She moved away. The engines fired up. The plane boosted faster…
Then…everything slowed down. Slow, slow until it ground to a halt. The passengers looked around at each other. The Captain’s voice came over the speakers;
‘We have encountered a minor technical problem and in the interests of safety this plane will not be departing on schedule. Apologies on behalf of the airline.’
The Polish woman across from me woke up.
‘Have we landed?’
‘No,’ I told her. ‘We have to go back to the departures area.’
And with the satisfaction of a hypochondriac who has finally been diagnosed with a malign melanoma, I told her, ‘It seems there was something wrong with the plane after all. Told you.’