x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

A flight fraught with worry

Usually I love to people watch, but on this flight it was just making me nervous.

Somewhere around 40,000 feet I manage to find total peace and tranquillity. With nothing but hours of leisure time stretched out before me, not even the non-stop crying of an infant can irk me. Once aboard a plane, I very quickly settle into the no-phone zone and devour books, watch all the new movies I've missed, catch up on sleep or simply do nothing at all.

Another guilty pleasure flights afford is people-watching. I had plenty of time to indulge in this activity upon a recent 13-hour trip to New York, although this time around, the experience wasn't entirely enjoyable.

The plane was "light" the check-in desk clerk informed me, meaning I could have an entire row of seats (or a bed as I saw it) to myself. The holiday was off to a fantastic start.

That's until the plane was preparing for take off and my eyes fell upon a couple of young ladies who, lost in excited conversation about their holiday, had unwittingly kept their large designer handbags on their knees. Unfortunately, this minor safety oversight in the flurry of cross-checks left me wondering if the doors were secured properly either. With my imagination running riot, people-watching wasn't going so well so far, and it only got worse.

As we taxied down the runway and became airborne, the passenger in front of me was still having a conversation on his mobile phone. With no intention of taking him to task, I simply shifted my gaze to the display screen in front of me and told myself that surely it was impossible to sabotage the ascent of a 777 with a phone bought for Dh300 from Axiom, right? Paranoid people-watching kickback number two.

An hour or two into the flight, with my belly full and lids growing heavy, it was time for some shut eye. Yet as I lowered my head on to a mountain of courtesy airline pillows, my eyes met with the big hairy toes of a size 14 foot that had comfortably settled itself on the aisle arm of my seat, which also happened to be my man-made headrest.

Having the luxury of three other seats to choose from, I simply swung myself around and prepared to sleep at the other end. Cue people-watching lesson number three. As I readied for dreamland, the sound of an English accent nearby attracted my attention and I popped my head up for a quick peek, which I, of course, came to rue.

My new-found buddy immediately decided to join my row, given all the spare room, and proceeded to interrogate me for the remainder of the journey. Fly off the handle? Never. It was the price to pay for being so nosy in the first place.