7 february 01

PART ONE: Amanda & Marguerite vs. British Airways

There had been some confusion regarding our tickets before we even stepped foot in the airport. The agent at British Airways had decided that she knew best which flights we should take and booked us accordingly without any regard to the specific flights we had requested. Once we had discovered this error it was too late to send us new tickets, so we were switched to e-tickets. Or so they led us to believe. We checked in without incident but once we made our way to the gate we were told that the papers we were presenting were not in fact tickets at all, and that without tickets we could not possibly be allowed to board the flight. It seems that the kind fellow who checked us in neglected to read the message on the screen which clearly indicated that we needed to have our tickets printed out for us. Oops. We were pulled aside as the rest of the passengers boarded the plane. After enough time went by so that we were sure we weren't getting on the plane, we were told that we could go but that there wasn't time to print out tickets for our return trip. The new plan was that they would call ahead to London so our return tickets would be waiting for us once we arrived.

Flight 116 was far from filled. M took the four seats in the middle row and I took the three on the side. I sat by the window with my walkman and tried to sleep but I couldn't seem to find a comfortable spot. Eventually I must have drifted off because I awoke to sounds of "please, sir, put your trousers back on", "sir, your trousers!" "your trousers, sir! I must insist!" and so on. There in the aisle (oh so beautifully backlit, I might add) was a gentleman stumbling about without the company of his pants. His shirttails were long enough that it wasn't clear whether or not he was also travelling without his underwear, and I chose to believe that he was wearing some. The trouserless passenger (either very, very drunk or very, very confused) was being followed by three flight attendants, one of whom had located the trousers in question and was waving them emphatically at the man who had lost them, and who apparently had no interest in reclaiming them. Rather than redress, Mr. No Trousers apparently felt it was in his best interest to take a seat. Next to me. All three flight attendants immediately turned their attention to me and looked at me imploringly. "Is he with you?" one of them asked me, hopefully. I pulled my earphones away from my head, raised my eyebrows incredulously, and said as deliberately as I could, "no." These people then resumed with their pleas of "please sir, put on your trousers or we will have you arrested," and I sat very, very still in the corner. Every so often Mr. No Trousers would wave his hands at them and exclaim something in a language nobody seemed to recognize. At the moment when he began to lean into my shoulder, one of the flight attendants succeeded in persuading Mr. No Trousers to pull his pants on and move as far away as the aisle seat. "Don't worry," one of the attendants assured me, "we'll have this sorted out straight away." Once everything was "sorted out," each of the flight attendants checked back on me to make sure I was ok, which I was. M had slept through the whole thing.

In the morning, the head of the flight crew came over to my seat and handed me a bottle of champagne which he asked me to accept with their apologies for the events of the night before. He made it very clear that his staff had not been serving the man any alcohol, and that while this is the sort of thing that happens regularly on American Airlines, it was certainly not the sort of thing that happened on British Airways. "Are you from New York?" he asked. When I replied that I was, he put his hand on my arm, smiled, and said, "Then you must see this sort of thing all the time." Indeed.

next: art, absinthe, and Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell