With the summer holidays firmly around the corner, here's a chapter from Hilarity in the Hills.
Situational comedy that can occur and does occur to anyone.
The Budget Airline Experience
Tuesday July 11th, 11:00 hrs (GMT): Travelling to the regional airport was a doddle; parking was far from this as the confusion in the amount of car parks made the chances of error higher. ‘Long stay car park, which one is the long stay car park? The sign posting is shit’ a bemused and baffled Jerome stated. ‘Please do not swear in front of the kids’ Ann corrected her husband about his choice of words. ‘But it is, please look at it, is it this long stay one or the other one, why can’t they just number the blasted things and then we could find the number and just Park?’ Jerome retorted in rhetorical frustration before adding ‘No it’s too easy; let the bastards work for their space…’ ‘Please mind your language’ Ann reiterated. ‘Sorry dear, sorry kids but it does do my head in why they don’t use any logic in the design of these places’ the engineer supplemented to his car parking theory. Eventually finding a good spot in the right car park, the family headed into the terminal in order to join the queues and endless checks before they bordered their flight and their holiday was underway. However, nothing ruins a holiday more than travelling with a budget airline. They had locked the car and taken the entire luggage they needed with them, it was the point of no return. After acknowledging what was the right area of the expansive terminal building to head to and identifying they needed to be at the other end of it, the family picked up the huge suitcases and bags and darted towards desk A7. As they approached area A, they noticed the long and winding queues, like a scene from World War II with concentration camp inmates waiting to be shepherded into uncertainty. People were gloomy and to a point, hopeless instead of being happy and joyful at the prospects of foreign travel and rest. Ann noticed that there was an especially long queue and hoped they weren’t going to join the snaking mass of people. ‘Oh no, said Sophia, it is our queue…’ They joined the end and walked slowly forward, a claustrophobic and cumbersome process as the queue allowed little space between parties. If anyone clocked the speed of this long line, it may have registered at fifty centimetres per hour!! ‘Ridiculous’ was all Ann could think of, quickly getting impatient and frustrated herself however never succumbing to swearing as her husband did. They eventually got to the check-in desk. And moved forward to book in. the attendant eventually looked up at the family and addressed them ‘Where are you flying too?’ as she put her hand forward to obtain documents she had not asked for… Unfriendly and discourteous attendants, with their over made up faces, disguising their evil behind a mask of powder and paint, including a painted smile that was steeped in a false sense of security. This lady, one presumes she was a lady by her makeup but… was not a “people’s person”. Ann muttered to Jerome ‘She obviously doesn’t earn enough to care for the passengers she is supposedly there to serve. However, did she have to be so unhelpful or was this in her job description’? Jerome handed over the paperwork and the four passports. The devil in uniform handed the passports back and asked them to open them up on the photo page… obviously a disability she suffered from or an allergy to flicking through papers? They complied but at this point Ann was close to snapping and swearing but it would have got her nowhere and the attendant would have been justified in her poor attitude and lack of service. Next obstacle was the weighing of the suitcases. Jerome placed the suitcases on the massive scales at the side of the check-in desk. The woman looked at them and said next, then again but as she weighed suitcase number three of four, she said, ‘you will have to pay more for this one, you are two kilogram’s over weight’. ‘What do you mean?’ Ann snapped at the woman, proceeding to point out that they had weighed them at home and if anything they were under, between the four cases… ‘The terms and conditions clearly state that the weight of the cases should not exceed 15 kilograms per case and not a cumulative weight, if the fourth case is less than 15 kilograms you will have to transfer two kilogram’s onto the other case and then we will allow them into the plane’ If anyone needed to be corrected about her language it would have been Ann but thankfully she swore in silence. She smiled externally and complied. Jerome took the cases off and put them to the side, fumbled through his pockets to find the keys and opened the two cases up. Anne had to open the suitcases by the side of the queue as people leered at them as if superior to the family who now felt like poorly prepared and disorganised non travellers… furthermore she was showing the suitcases contents to all who cared to have a look. After five minutes, she had transferred some of the children’s clothes from one case to another and they attempted to get the “witches” attention but to no avail. Jerome, who had tried to be patient and not get too pissed off now addressed the woman: ‘Excuse me madam, I know you have seen us try to speak to you, you have chosen to ignore my wife and now you either book these cases in or I will find your superior or your CEO in Ireland and have you sacked and ensure you never work with the public ever again’… He was shaking but as the woman was about to say something the queue and others surrounding them started to cheer and clap. The horrible woman blushed in embarrassment, weighed and accepted the suitcases through, no mention of whether they complied to the 15kg rule or not. Ann kissed her brave and assertive spouse and they then made their way through the passport checks. They were joining another even longer line up but it didn’t matter. They had fought the system and won. From then on it was going to be a nice holiday. Or so they hoped…! They had managed the x-ray and metal detector tests, 100 ml challenge, stripped off their jackets, belts and shoes and were now air side. This was the point of no return, success. Now all they needed was a calming hot drink and wait to board. Boarding was another race, as the airline did not have any seats allocated to the passengers, it was a free for all however Jerome managed to get all the hand luggage in as Ann jostled the children into a free area of seating, managing to get three seats together, Jerome was four rows back but he had a seat on the aisle and could “visit” his family during the flight. Their flight was uncomfortable but uneventful and on arrival on French soil, their cases were returned intact so all was well. At the car hire desk, the clerk was helpful and they even upgraded their car to a Renault Laguna estate with the highest spec in the range. Now they had to set the Satellite Navigation system to take them to their destination from Clermont Ferrand airport which would only take them about ninety minutes. Clermont-Ferrand, was the city nearest to their destination but still a fair drive away so this would be the reference point to civilisation. This was part of Vichy France during the Second World War and the Vichy government had sided with the Nazis, endorsing their far right policies. ‘I hope this has all been extinguished from the population?’ Ann added in conversation. ‘I’d hate it if there is anything like this still persisting as we are foreigners and god knows how we might get treated?’ Jerome retorted. Only time would tell… With all the bags and passengers securely in the vehicle, they drove off on their short drive. They estimated their arrival at 3pm. The Farley’s would be on their way and soon, the combined families’ holiday would start in earnest.
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