"Our non-stop 11 hour flight to London's Heathrow Airport will begin shortly. So please sit back, relax, take advantage of your 29 centimeters of generous legroom and enjoy your flight. And don't think for a moment we have forgotten all that unpleasant Colonist business about Lexington Concord, the dishonorably discharged tea and your precious declaration of independence."
So began my 2012 European Vacation back on Dec.22, which literally seems like a lifetime ago.
Or at least one lung ago.
Allow me to explain.
Before embarking on our family jaunt across Western Europe I had suffered a bout of bronchitis. As these yearly bouts go, it wasn't all that severe. And in fact it had all but cleared. That is until I boarded a 747 and was directed towards Seat 23D, in what British Airways calls their Economy Triumphe Classe. Or some bullshit marketing-driven name, because the more appropriate monikers like Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Dauchau had already been taken.
When I saw the "seat" I literally thought I was being filmed for some Punked reality TV show.
How bad was it?
Next time you're at the supermarket, stop by the breakfast food section. Remove a Jumbo Grade AA egg from one of the cartons crafted from recycled cardboard. Now imagine trying to jam an Ostrich egg into the severely undersized vacated container.
Those, were the first class seats.
On the plus side, every seat was thoughtfully furnished with its own personal entertainment center. Sadly however, the 5 inch screen was jammed so close to my face, all the images were blurred. It was an hour and a half into some lame romcom before I realized Jennifer Lopez was actually Mathew Perry. (By the way, Mathew Perry and the notion of inflight entertainment do not belong in the same sentence.)
Do you feel like you've walked through three gates of Hell?
There's six more to go.
I like babies. I like smiling at babies. I like making faces at babies. I like making babies laugh.
I did not however like the baby seated in 24F. He had a unibrow. He cried like a wounded duck. And he looked like he had been constipated for all of his 14 months on this earth.
I would have gladly left that wanker, in his squirrel pajamas, sitting on the tarmac on runway 24Right.
Finally, there was Dirty Geppetto, the man seated next to me and my personal docent into Dante's Inferno. I'm not sure his name was Geppetto, but he bore an uncanny resemblance to the puppeteer who, you might remember, hand crafted Pinochio.
Try not to pay too much attention to the cheerful craftsman in this picture. Dirty Gepetto was less pleasing to the eye. And considerably less pleasing to the nose. In fact, we, my entire family, could smell D.G. from 10 rows away.
It was as if prior to boarding the plane, and knowing he would not catch a whiff of nicotine until he had transversed half the globe, he had smoked an entire carton of Marlboro Reds. Then, in an unusual act of common courtesy to his fellow passengers (me), he stopped in at the duty free shop and picked up the Costco sized jug of Drakkar Noir, you know, to kindly mask the odor.
To make matters worse, he was cloaked head to toe in heavy denim, the kind of denim that retains every fume it has ever come in contact with, dating back to 1975.
All of which began to trigger my dormant bronchitis.
A tickle over the Rockies had escalated to a hack as we crossed over the Canadian border. By the time we had reached Greenland, I was coughing non-stop. Iceland saw the first smattering of blood. And by the time we were over Dublin, I was bringing up tissue matter that was as thick as peat bog.
Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3.
(Terminal is the right word as I surely felt I were going to to die.)
My bag is literally the last to come off the conveyor belt. I rip it open, tear through my suitcase and make a mad grab for my toiletry bag. There, I find my purple relief, a half a bottle of Promethazine Cough Syrup fortified with hydrocodeine.
The proper dosage for Promethazine is one tablespoon every six hours. I didn't have a tablespoon. Nor did I want one. I wasted no time with the childproof cap and quickly chugged 1/4 of the bottle. As the fast acting opiates started to take effect, I gathered my clean clothes off the baggage claim floor and noticed Dirty Gepetto high stepping his malodorous body to the nearest designated smoking area.
So far, Great Britain isn't seeming so great.