I’ve told this story so many times I’m afraid I’m starting to embelish a little, so I want to write it down with the most accurate level of detail I can so that it can become a sort of “Calibration Standard” for me. Like a measuring tape, of sorts.
You see, the Queen Bee and I decided that South Africa was on a down-hill spiral of note and that for the sake of our two young children, it was imperative that we move to a country that is not proud of its title of “Rape Capital of the World”. There are a couple of other titles South Africa has, but they’re not absolute and so the government seems to be particularly proud (based on their willingness to not do something about the problem) of this title. The others are things like “Almost the Murder Capital of the World”, “Almost the Most Corrupt Country in Africa” (which is really quite an achievement), “Possibly the Most Racist Government in BRICS”. These titles just don’t have the finality, the power, of “Capital of the World”.
So we applied for Australian residency. We waited, and waited. It seemed nothing was happening. So we applied for New Zealand residency, and got it. In order to activate it, I needed to fly there before a certain date and get the visa stamped.
While I was searching for flights, I found a super-cheap fare that required me to leave on a Thursday afternoon, fly Johannesburg-Sydney, Sydney to Auckland, then spend two evenings there and then fly Auckland-Sydney and Sydney-Johannesburg. That was the plan.
On the Wednesday before my departure, we were in a management meeting and it was decided that I would need to go to Perth within a month. I suggested that we re-arrange my trip (for the following day) to just allow me to stop in Perth instead of Sydney on the way home. So said, so done. The itinerary was now:
Thu: depart Johannesburg 16:00
Fri: arrive Sydney, wait 3 hours, depart for Auckland, arrival at 23:50
Sat: depart Auckland 22:00, arrive Sydney. Depart Sydney for Melbourne, then onto Perth, arriving at 18:00.
Mon: morning meeting, depart Perth for Johannesburg at 16:00
Tue: arrive Johannesburg 06:00, go to work.
5 days, 6 flights. Flying time of about 36 hours.
Eventually on the Monday evening, after the meeting, I was so fucked I could almost not speak. I won’t be surprised if there was a small stream of drool coming out of both corners of my mouth. How I navigated to my seat I don’t know, but here I was, visa stamped and business meeting complete. A success. Triumphant. I noticed that the flight was particularly full, but I was fortunate to have the window seat, right at the front of economy = first for drinks, closest to the bathroom, able to fart with impunity.
In those days one could still charm the air-hostess for “more than the normal” drinks. When the cart came around, I asked very nicely if I could swap the ice in the glass for more whiskey. A fair trade I thought. The hostess obliged and gave me 4 of the little bottles – I think that’s like 8 tots, or 200ml. Sleep I was going to on this flight.
Sometimes when I nod off, I wake with a start. It’s usually accompanied by wild arm flailing, my arms horizontal and flapping like Icarus. A zombie on speed.
Well, this time I nodded off with the full glass of whiskey in my paw. I was so tired I hadn’t even had a sip. The problem was that my first waking zombie flail was in an arc upward to my shoulder, then a rapid stop and arms flailing down. The whiskey, however, did not want to follow the down motion and continued on over my shoulder for about 5 rows. Some of it even ended up on the overhead consoles of the rows behind me. So, for the rest of the flight, 5 rows of window seated passengers, reeking like homeless drunks, drenched in whiskey were subjected to Chinese water torture using whiskey dripping from an overhead console more normally used to dispense oxygen during cataclysms.
I made sure I was first off the plane after we’d landed.