After six months of secrecy, I flew back to the U.K. last week. Surprising my sister for her graduation involved feeding her a barrage of lies, which included but were not limited to: “my visa doesn’t let me leave Australia”, “I blocked everyone on Facebook, not just you”, and “I’ll be arrested if I try to leave before uni’s up…”
I finished my studies, quit my job, moved out of my apartment and said my goodbyes to my friends and the city I’ve called home for the past year. For the past few weeks I thought I was teetering on the brink of an emotional breakdown, or at least a mild tantrum, but with every dry-eyed farewell it dawned on me that perhaps I was simply ready to come home. Even more puzzling was how smoothly my departure went, as I was fully expecting to arrive at the airport a week after my flight or else missing a suitcase or passport. Maybe Melbourne has matured me in to a responsible adult?
With a solid 50 kilos of accumulated baggage – I think my suitcase is ‘big-boned’ – and the help of a rather sympathetic tradie, I strolled up to the Etihad counter with a sweaty smile. Paddy checked me in quickly, and as I was about to head off I asked if there happened to be an aisle seat anywhere, because I couldn’t get one checking in online and didn’t fancy being seated by the baby bassinets for the next 14 hours. A few minutes later, Perfect Paddy handed me a new boarding pass with a coy grin and the wonderful line, ‘the windows are better in business.’ WHAT A MAN. And what a flight it was.
Business is worth every penny (that other people pay but I could never afford). I boarded first and was offered a glass of fresh juice as I got comfortable in my ludicrously spacious POD. I wasn’t sure if the air stewards knew that I wasn’t really supposed to be here, that I was really just an Economy peasant masquerading with the rich guys up front, so I tried my best to be calm and collected. That went out the window when it came to ordering a drink once we were in the air – champagne, obviously.
There are no foil containers in Business – it’s all tablecloths, crockery, and menus. After careful consideration I ordered the Arabic mezze plate as a starter, followed by pan-seared snapper for my first meal. While I waited for my feast, I snacked on some warm nuts and investigated my only neighbour, who was sat so far away from me I could have used binoculars to spy on him (maybe).
This man – let’s call him 10J- knew what he was doing in Business. It clearly wasn’t his first time. He was on the champers long before we’d taken off. I decided to track his in-flight habits, in part due to the fact I didn’t want to fall asleep (in my fully reclining bed) and miss soaking up this joyous flight experience.
1 hour in. I’m watching Hail, Caesar. Channing Tatum tap dancing is its only redeeming feature. 10J is on his third glass of bubbly. I’m still on #1.
1 hour 10 minutes. Welled up thinking about Winnie.
1 hour 22 minutes. A tablecloth has been laid down in front of me. Questioning how many months it’s been since I used a tablecloth.
1 hour 26 minutes. My mezze platter arrives, along with 10J’s fourth glass. He’s moved on to a white. What’s his game?
1 hour 39 minutes. #5. Do I compete?
1 hour 40 minutes. I order my second glass of champagne. You’re on, 10J.
1 hour 55 minutes. His sixth glass is delivered, but I fear mine has been forgotten. Unsure of how to play this.
2 hours 15 minutes. Find the courage and strength to ask a different air steward for a drink. It comes a minute later. I’m proud of myself, and inwardly toast this moral victory.
2 hours 20 minutes. He’s moved on to the cheese board, and paired it with a glass of red. Number 7 is going down quicker than the previous six; I speed up.
2 hours 26 minutes. I discover the massage button on my chair.
2 hours 28 minutes. His dessert arrives, along with a dessert wine. Is he trying everything on the drinks menu?
2 hours 29 minutes. In-chair massage: not so relaxing.
2 hours 39 minutes. He’s trying everything on the menu. He’s drinking a liqueur of some description and his seating position has shifted 90 degrees horizontal. That’s NINE, people.
2 hours 45 minutes. 10J taps out for what ends up being a 6 hour nap. I toast my Sauvignon Blanc to this masterclass of Business class.
A full day later, I arrived at Heathrow and had a lovely reunion with my dear parents, and a deeply emotional reunion with Winnie, who sniffed me all over before burying her head in my armpit like we’d never been apart. Poor Winnie. Mum and I took a trip down to Tesco where I picked up an array of culinary delights I’d been missing: microwavable mash, Haribo Starmix and Cadbury’s Pots of Joy… It’s good to be home.