‘You’re being totally ridiculous.’
‘There’s no such thing as overcautious.’
‘Yes there is. In fact, that’s exactly why they invented the word.’
It’s less than ideal that Gallery have chosen hijack as this month’s theme, a month within which I, a nervous flyer at the best of times, will be taking two long-haul trips. It’s not that I am afraid of flying, rather that I am afraid of falling out of the sky mid-flight.
Hardly helpful when you live on our small but perfectly formed island, but an utter nightmare when your mother decides to take up residence in a golf-playing community thousands of miles and several time zones away. Add the concept of hijack to my increasingly panic-fuelled brain and you have a recipe for ‘Twelve Hours of Hell with a Side of Frustration and a Garnish of Embarrassment’ for my travelling companion.
Arriving at the correct gate with all our belongings intact, I was drawn to one side and naturally presumed that I had been selected for an upgrade, when it turned out that actually I was one of the lucky few who were ‘randomly picked’ for an extra security grope. As an unattractive individual patted me down with a little too much enthusiasm I cast my eyes around the waiting area and noticed that there were a lot of suspicious individuals milling around. Phrases such as ‘constant vigilance’, ‘if you see something, say something’ and ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ (spot the references, superkeen readers) darted through my mind and as soon as I was allowed to leave the intimate petting zone I hustled to the corner seat and took up my position next to my long-suffering travelling companion. And now, I am not being ‘ridiculous’ but doing my duty as a good civilian.
‘You look like one of those meerkats’. Throwing a dirty look at my travel companion (dirty as in disapproving rather than sexual – this is clearly not the time for such antics when we need to be on high alert for potential hijackers) I unwillingly relax my spine and try to maintain a calm appearance to mask my internal frenzy. I squint around subtly, making mental notes. My travelling companion is blabbering on – completely oblivious – about some club he wants to join. I interrupt his train of thought urgently. ‘What about that guy over there? I think he looks a bit dodge, no?’ ‘What, the man travelling with his wife and child?’
‘You don’t know that’s his wife. Perhaps she’s a single mother he targeted at check-in and he’s pretending to assist her while actually she is being CALLOUSLY used as a disguise so people don’t suspect he’s going to HIJACK the plane!’ My decibel level has reached the point where people are turning to look. I slouch a little further in my seat while my travelling companion points out the wedding rings and liplocking which would indicate that this is a couple who met at least a few days prior to their arrival at the airport.
Rebuked but not discouraged, I continue my surveillance until we are summoned aboard. By some stroke of luck my prime suspect is in fact seated next to me, across the aisle from the aforementioned woman and child. I give him what I think is my most penetrating glare. Indeed, he appears unnerved; he must know I’m onto him. Looking worriedly in my direction, he leans forward and extracts a children’s book and hands it to the toddler sitting on its mother’s lap. I give him a look which quite clearly says ‘Nice try.’
Needless to say, he gets the message, and thanks to my tenacity aborts his plan. When he does make a half-hearted attempt to make a break for the flight deck, I leap up and follow him closely with the result that he is forced to make a diversion to the bathroom. I accompany him back to his seat. When we land safely, I know that there is no point telling anyone about my undercover mission, but it’s all part of being a hero, isn’t it? As my travelling companion and I meander towards baggage reclaim I also note that with all the excitement I managed a ten-hour flight without any panic attacks. All in all, a most successful voyage.