Air Asia Flight number FD371 from Phuket to Chang Mai. You’re sitting in the boarding area waiting for the attendants to announce the gate opening. Glancing around you see the normal skew of people that frequent these flights. There’s the young backpackers glued to their phones, the couple who look like they’ve done this a thousand times, an elderly lady who’s being assisted by her adult child, families burdened by all the things they brought, and locals who desperately want to get this over with. Finally you have one of Thailand’s finest imports: the Western douchebag. They range from the well kept, tattoo covered, trimmed beard and designer clothes to the grubby, hipster look: the “I’m-so-damn-cool-cause-I-live-in-Asia-and-that-makes-me-special”. Their demeanor screams obnoxiousness, ignorance, and a touch of arrogance; it unites them all. Irritating as they are, they’re not harmful to anything besides your psyche.
An attendant begins an announcement in a dreary, broken English. What did he say? Who knows but everyone begins charging the desk to be first in queue. This is to expected with a budget airline as there is limited space in the overhead compartments. You’re unfazed by the commonplace behaviour and meander your way to the end of the line; no point in wasting energy on this battle, more are sure to come. Surprisingly, you arrive in your seat unscathed, with a space for your carry on, and before most others have boarded. Perfect, the worst is over with! you think as you try to drift away to your ‘happy place’ for the next 1.5 hours. As fate would have it, you’re sitting in the second last row of the plane, on the aisle, close to the toilets. A minor annoyance at worst. The seat offers you, however, a perfect vantage point for those still boarding. Most of the seats around you have yet to be filled but you’ve seen the crowd in the boarding area and you know it will be a full flight. Let’s nickname the plane’s, dirty, 32 seat aisle as “chaos catwalk” for its loose resemblance of a model’s runway. The first to stumble down chaos catwalk are a couple who share a tension between them. No biggie; no one’s expecting you to be chipper whilst in this tin can. Next to trickle down chaos catwalk is a 20 – something, bearded fellow who looks completely detached from reality, likely his way of dealing with Air Asia travel. He clutches his Lord of the Rings book tightly as he hops over the passenger in the aisle seat, using your headrest to balance himself. Not the most pleasant thing to have your seat smashed but “this is budget travel” you remind yourself. More passengers board and fill the spaces around you, most of whom seem normal enough with a sprinkling of Western douchebags having loud conversations. The last one to walk the catwalk is a quasi douchebag, who’s obviously high out of his mind. He walks as if the whole of his concentration is focused on how to walk like a normal human being. He’s wearing a gold watch, has tattoos, ripped jeans and a muscle top. Earbuds are firmly placed in his ears and he is ferociously chewing a massive wad of gum. He doesn’t say anything to Alayna, who is sitting in the other aisle seat next to you, but stares intently at his assigned window seat beside her. She allows him to pass and sits again. The stage is now set.
Within moments of the plane being pushed back, a fight erupts between the couple sitting in front of you. The male is trying to calm down the female who looks like she is about to absolutely lose her mind. It sounds like the fight has been brewing for days and nothing will stop what is about to come. She’s talking under her breath and crying but every few seconds the intensity increases. Suddenly, BAM! the seat directly in-front of you smashes backwards. Then again and again. The seats are so tightly jammed together that it almost hits your face. “Doesn’t this guy know that seats remain up until cruising altitude?”, you think as the seat continues to bang back and forth. As the fight between the couple grows and become more personal and messy, the bearded reader behind you hops out to the aisle again, smashing your crappy seat forward. Your face is only an inch away from the guy infront of you playing with his seat. Now the bearded reader is on his tippy toes looking for something in the over head compartment. His hairy belly and crotch region is almost touching your shoulder as he rustles through the luggage above you. BAM! The seat almost hits you again in the face but to look to your right is only crotch and belly. The female in the fight infront of you is now bawling in frustration and is smashing something while her male partner tries to hold her down. You glance to your left and see two very petite Chinese girls both looking perfectly straight ahead with face masks on. “Our row will be the pillar of normal” you think as the plane gains altitude. The lights are dimmed and now all that can be heard is the fighting infront of you and the obnoxious conversations coming from the douchebags that surround you. Druggie dude is now chewing at 144 bites per minute (Alayna counted) and mesmerized by the headrest that is infront of him.
BAM! and then a terrible horking sound coming from an unknown origin. The guy infront of you finally signals to you that his chair is broken and won’t lock – yes, it has taken him screwing around with it for 20 minutes to finally figure that out. He scrambles forward to the next row. Turbulence ensues and it’s pretty rough. Not uncommon for a tropical climate and we are flying lower than usual because the distance is so short. Suddenly, between the full on fight ahead of you, the obnoxious conversations, the toilet door smashing open and shut, the god awful horking and the seat smashing comes a disgusting vomit session from the Chinese girl beside you. “Faaannntastic, it’s probably Ebola“, you think as she moans quietly. Don’t think for a second this dampens ANY of the crazy that surrounds you. A flight attendant comes to collect the vomit bag. She passes the bag over your lap to him and he nonchalantly swings it around while distracted by a previous conversation with a colleague. “How the hell did such a small girl produce so much excrement?” is your first thought as you study the white baggy. Then the rancid smell of vomit hits your nostrils and your stomach curls. BAM! The seat infront of you which was vacated for a little bit is now occupied by the fighting couple. You glance over and Alayna is laughing. It can’t get any worse can it? HORK! This horking session makes you want to scratch your ears out. The local Thais are chatting away as if all is normal. Looking around you chuckle, anyone of these things could wreck your flight but somehow adding them all together in a symphony of madness provides you with some humour. You close your eyes and think of sitting around a Christmas tree, surrounded by family and friends, snow falling outside and the warm glow of a fireplace on your skin. That’s your happy place.