Trepidation. Fantastic word that and I was feeling it badly. The night before I flew back to the States and my lovely Raven but I remembered all of the problems I had back in October. Remembering how the US Border Patrol hadn’t let me in which had led to one night in Toronto before getting the morning flight back to the UK. Two transatlantic flights in 24 hours … for a guy who is terrified of flying? Would it happen again? Hopefully not!
So Thursday 6th of January. I had set my alarm for 04:45am but I was awake long before that. I had hardly slept. My early night hadn’t happened and I’d been up till midnight drinking a few whiskies to calm the nerves. It hadn’t worked but at least I hoped my lack of sleep would mean I could sleep some on the flight. Raven called me just in case I overslept but I was already drinking tea and enjoying my first ciggy of the day by then. So that was it. I took my valium and hit the shower. I took my time as it was an hour before the taxi arrived.
The taxi ride to Heathrow was pretty hair raising even with the valium. My friend Glen who usually takes me picked me up on time and we set off to the airport. It was still dark and the roads were wet. Unfortunately Glen had a couple of problems with the car. It was veering to the left … suspension or something and the windscreen washers didn’t work. Hairy stuff on the motorway and more than a few times I thought we were going to broadside cars that we overtook especially as his only method of screen cleaning was squirting water from a drinks bottle out of the window. Now that would’ve been ironic. To die in a taxi ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT… I was a quivering wreck but at last it started to rain. No need to squirt the screen anymore at least although the veering continued not helped by Glen hand rolling smokes as we shuddered along the motorway at 80 miles per hour.
But we arrived safely at last and with lots of time to spare. I booked in my cases and headed of to Costa Coffee to guzzle coffee and smoke. I prayed to the gods of aeronautical engineering as I sat there and started my countdown till take-off. No hurry as once I checked in I wouldn’t be able to smoke again till North America. I did have a nicotine inhalator but they are small consolation and incomparable to the calming effects of real smoke. But eventually I stubbed out that last smoke and entered the world of airport security … check-in time.
It hasn’t changed. Shoes off, belt off, laptop out and wait for the inevitable beep as I go through the body scanner. Usually it’s the rivets on my Levis and yep. I get the wand and eventually I get through. The security lady takes my miniatures of Glenfiddich away “to carry out tests” and I sweat for a moment in case my in-flight medication is confiscated but it seems OK. I even ask her to check if it is really 15 years old. I re-dress and go through to duty free. No point in buying booze. It would be confiscated before my connecting flight but I do stock up on ciggies. 200 of Virginia’s best for this guy before hitting the bar to stock up on courage.
First a pint of lager, Stella Artois, I think followed by gin and tonics and finally a gin and coke. That feeling of calm eventually comes over me and I sit back to enjoy people watching. It’s a busy morning at terminal 3 so there are plenty to watch. I love people watching. It is usually more interesting than TV and I try to imagine peoples stories as I look around. The possibilities are endless but that’s another story and I head off at last to the Air Canada departure gate for my midday flight, by now full of bonhomie… oh and booze.
We all board our Air Canada flight without incident. An Airbus, nice but with the usual lack of legroom. I find my seat and settle back in readiness for take-off. The fear starts to rise again within me but it’s too late now. I’m past the point of no return and so I look forward to some in-flight medication. Take off time comes … and passes. The pilot apologises but after 40 minutes sitting on the taxiway we eventually move towards our runway. At last. The pilot does his final checks. The usual bumps and groans from various aircraft parts. Oh my gawd I pray that none fall off. I gulp and feel the sweatiness of my hands and then … take off. I hate it. I can’t even listen to my mp3 player nowadays. Not allowed until we are airborne. The engines roar and we start to hurtle forward to certain doom I think. I feel every bump on the runway and then …. smoothness. The Airbus rises against the laws of gravity and reason and one shit scared Englishman is aloft. I sneak peek out of the port hole and see Terra firma and safety slipping away below me. I sigh in relief as it seems my life isn’t going to end in a fireball at the end of the runway and I look forward to my first shot of in flight courage.
Canada here I come ….