Better IN than OUT

A short story about a Ryanair flight from hell, and about how we keep people at bay

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1. A Ryanair flight from hell

An intense week of hiking and camping through the Norwegian bush. 7 nights in a tent, carrying a heavy backpack, no shower. After a week I was dirty, tired and happy, but ready to go home.

 

We flew back from Alesund to Oslo and had a tight schedule to catch the next flight from a different airport. A Ryanair airport: the kind that is sometimes located as much as a 100 kilometers from the city you think you are flying into. I grab a burger from a Norwegian shop in Oslo and eat half on the bus to the other airport.

 

Two hours later, right before boarding, my stomach starts to rumble and I go to the toilet. Fifteen rather nasty minutes later, my travel companion calls me on my cell: ‘Where are you, we’re boarding!’. I pull up my pants and run to the queue. The flight is full of Norwegians on their way to a sunny holiday destination and jam-packed. I sit down on the first available aisle seat so I can quickly reach the toilet, and Jon sits down several rows behind me. Let the fun begin.

 

Squeezing my bottom muscles, we lift off. As soon as the sign ‘fasten seatbelts’ switches off, I rush to the toilet. Another bout of diarrhea. I return to my seat, pale and sweaty. Things are not improving and my stomach protests even louder. I can’t sit up straight anymore but there is no legroom whatsoever, so I let my upper body hang over the armrest, hoping the airplane staff doesn’t hit my head with their little trolleys. An airhostess hands me a paper bag. Another run to the toilet. And another one.  During the last one, I not only fill the toilet bowl, but also the little paper bag. It’s only just big enough. Then I black out. I hear faint banging on the door and at some level, am aware that I have been in this little room for quite a while now.  I decide to open the door.

 

With my pants still around my ankles, I fall out of the toilet and a passenger catches me. She doesn’t waste any time and starts wiping my forehead with paper towels. Jon discusses my situation with the staff. One person wonders if we should land the plane. I can’t walk or sit and curl up on the floor of the tiny airplane kitchen. Passengers willingly move to the staff’s seats so I can lie down on three chairs. The lady rubs my feet, I get handed another paper bag. Just a few minutes later, I desperately try to aim for the bag, but the content of my stomach, including parts of the burger, land all over the airplane seats. A horrible stench spreads through the plane.

 

But better out then in, right?

 

The flights lasts a very long four hours and in the end I was wheeled off the plane like an old lady.  So much for my dignity. But in a way it was lucky I was so sick that my dignity didn’t mean shit to me -pun not intended!-. Our pride often makes us refuse help from others, even when we need it the most. That evening, falling out of an airplane toilet into the lap of a total stranger, actually made me realize that we keep people at bay too much. Especially people we don’t know. We rather put on our headphones or play with our smart phones, then to start up a conversation with the person next to use in the line, bus or plane. While they are the ones of incredible value at a point of crisis.

 

Scared of real contact we are. Too caught up in our own world. But there’s nothing like a good round of food poisoning to straight that out!

 

Better let people in then keep them out.

 

- Special thanks to my travel companion and to the Ryanair crew and passengers of flight FR9059 Oslo-Alicante, 21 June 2011 -

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