I’m writing this 11 hours and 40minutes into my flight from London to Singapore. We’re about to land but I wanted to capture this while it was still fresh in my mind.
I was actually looking forward to this flight. I thought I had it sussed: all the on-board entertainment I could need and something comfortable to sleep in. I had a lovely business class seat on the upstairs deck of the plane. I was all set for a relaxing flight, some nice food and a sleep.
But as ever, there’s no accounting for people… I was naive to think it would be plain sailing.
Just before take-off, a passenger came upstairs and sat in the seat next to mine. Due to the layout of business class on BA, he was to my left, but facing me.
He was, to be blunt, a hot, sweaty and heaving mess. I don’t think he was much older than me, but was carrying enough weight to account for four of me.
The journey to the plane across Terminal 5, followed by the climb to the upper deck, had obviously taken its toll. He was in bits.
He essentially threw himself into his seat, sending shudders through our shared partition and into my own seat. He sat there, gasping and snorting, all through boarding and the safety announcements.
Then there was the smell.
The “I don’t need to shower every day” smell. The “toothpaste is a luxury” smell. The “coffee and cigarettes diet” smell. I gagged.
This was the smell of a large man with questionable personal hygiene, wearing polyester, who had rushed across Heathrow to catch his flight on a warm June evening in London.
It was…deeply unpleasant.
He proceeded to wriggle around in his seat, attempting to get comfortable. His facial expression seemed to say “Why isn’t this bloody seat big enough for me? Why do they make them so small?”
They don’t make them small.
After the wriggling ceased, he actually fell asleep as we took off from Heathrow and started snoring like an animal. Deep, cacophonous snoring. The kind you’d expect from Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin. Or a walrus basking in the sun.
The kind of snoring you can hear over the roar of a 747’s engines as it leaves the ground. A bit of me was actually impressed.
Once the seat-belt signs were off, the crew served some drinks and then the plastic translucent barrier between us was raised. I couldn’t really see him anymore, but I could still hear him.
And I could still smell him…
His snoring developed into a kind of sleep apnea – sudden halts to all movement and breathing, followed, after a few agonising seconds, by a massive intake of breath and a sigh and groan. And shudders that I could feel in my own seat. Then a return to snoring.
How do you cope with this?
You plug in your earphones, you turn up the volume and you watch Game of Thrones season five and pretend you’re somewhere else.
And you know what?
The smell just made me feel like I was there in Westeros. Thanks fella. Good luck recovering from that inevitable heart attack.