Thursday, 6 August 2009

Just a typical tale of everyday travel

I am awakened from my improbable sleep by the clacking of false teeth from behind me. Before take-off, I had done my usual going-on-standby trick and before the wheels had retracted into the fuselage of the plane, I was fast asleep.
And now the trolley had passed me by and the cabin attendent was way down the aisle, handing out little bags containing a mini bounty bar and a sandwich seemingly made from cork table mats and yellow rubber sheeting by someone visually impaired.
The mastication of these morsels was what had awoken me, despite my being inured to the considerably intrusive engine noise.
I smiled what I perceive to be my winning smile at the attendent as she passed by on the way back to her little secret cubby-hole down the front. Probably this smile is nothing of the kind and most likely resembles the gurn of baby about to disgorge its most recent feed.
However, regardless of its appearance, my smile elicited a perfunctory frosty smile in return and a small paper bag of nosh which was gartefully received.
I have not travelled in a while - some months in fact - and I have not missed it one bit. Apart from my voluntary four hour incarceration on a Thompson holiday flight to and from Cyprus with my family (now amazed at my endurance to "do that every week???"), I have not been on a plane for nine weeks.
And what joy it was being grounded!
Now here I am once more eating cardboard food and listening the the ghastly hawking of phlegm from the trachea of the old chap behind me while his wife continues her ersatz-dental assault on the renegade strands of dessicated coconut still trapped in her plate.
I think my tolerance is waning. I have had fifteen years of jumping on and off planes, pretending to be interested in whatever new product I am supposed to be presenting in glowing terms or nodding sagely and sympathetically while tales of technical woe are descried to me for diagnosis and cure. And frankly, I am struggling to continue to impart significance to it. Its hardly furthering the progress of humanity towards compassion or equality is it?
And so as the conurbations of Dusseldorf heave into sight through the windows of the plane, I resolve slowly but firmly to investigate alternatives. What do I want to do and what skills do I have to offer, besides my verbosity and questionable grasp of French and German?
I don’t know but if anyone has any ideas, do please let me know.

I caught the train no problem. The station at Dusseldorf Flughafen was unmanned but the automated ticket machine was very helpful in English, and step by step, enabled me to purchase my outbound and return tickets to Paderborn Hauptbahnhof. Alas, a person would have been of help in order for me to ascertain if it was straight through or if I had to change. A man on the train said it was “direkt!”
But it wasn’t and now I am in Hamm (westf) on a deserted platform at 9:45 awaiting the connection after twigging that when the train didn’t move for ten minutes, it had reached the end of its journey.
And so here I sit. I hadnt eaten since lunchtime and was beginning to fade, when I remembered some vestiges of leftover holiday change! Aha! All shrapnel, indeed, but the vending machine takes it! One euro and about 87cents. A coin falls and rolls under the machine to be lost forever. It looked like 20c. I wonder if that will be significant later. I have a peanut brittle thingy, a kind of waffle and a small 200ml sachet of capri sun, absolute nectar.
But no! My mini-feast savoured slowly, I espy the sign WC and head over to relieve myself since my full bladder is becoming inisistent. But oh no! Its 60c for a pee! I wish I had that 20c!

So I am stranded in the middle of Germany, in a dark deserted railway station, awaiting some indeterminate train connection, with not even enough money for a piss! Travel is exciting, isnt it….
And now the train is here! I know it’s the right one because it says so. Aha! I have a 1st class ticket and though small there is a separate comparment up one end with a 1 on it. Good: Power for my laptop at last!
No luggage. What ? No luggage? Bugger that! The comparment is empty save a late middle-aged couple. I sit down, putting my case under the table and realise there is that silent outrage in their demeanor that I am so familiar with. Yes! I DO have a first class ticket, even if I might appear a bit scruffy by local standards!
So often here, people, especially of that generation, seem to suddenly take on an air of intense disapproval, indeed like there is a kind of suppressed almost-apoplexy at some rule or custom that I have unwittingly contravened. And I never know what it is.
They stare. I stare back. What? WHAT????? They break eye contact. I am still none the wiser as to what they are upset about. They bristle a bit but eventually settle down. And now trhe train is moving. Halleluja!! I wonder if there is a toilet on here.
I try to make some phone calls, just to remind myself by that tenuous connection that the world is still out there beyond that dark countryside. But no, the connection is just too tenuous and each call drops out after 10 seconds, leaving me not realising and rabbiting on my plight to the empty ether.
I slump back in my seat and gaze apathetically out of the window thinking of nothing in particular.

Later, I arrive by taxi at my hotel. Ahh, such comfort! There are consolations. It is a very nice hotel and very welcome now. I drop my bags in my rather plush room and head to the bar where two older fat ladies are smoking cigars and watching indulgently as people come in and out.
I order a beer and three quarters of it go down very easily, but I labour over the last quarter and decide there has been enough Wednesday for today. I head to my room.

Flicking through the channels, I am unimpressed. There appears to be a host of pseudo-ducumentaries following police as they hassle tramps or chat shows of overly enthusiastic perfectly scrubbed members of the German populace discussing currrent events. And of course there is the porn.
In latter years there appears to have been a move towards showing home-grown ladies of the “girl next door” variety, going about their chores smoochily whilst removing clothing for the camera. The expressions and demeanour range from poorly attempted coquettish pout to self-conscious eyes-darting discomfort. A cute lady of about about 35 stretches across a worktop in just a black thong and stockings and I find myself stifling a yawn. She feebly and unconvincingly waves a duster at some mugs and the banality of the scene is complete.
Odd, isnt it: A few years ago, I would have been agog! The sight of a stocking top could once leave me immobile for some minutes of silent introspection, (and in some contexts still holds disproportionate allure, I confess) but now, I seem somehow immune to any appeal this tableau might ever have possessed. I wonder why this is. Am I merely getting old, or is this display of the trappings of sexuality so devoid of any personal reference that it no longer holds any fascination for me?
I am still wondering this as I nod off to sleep, remote in hand. My last thought is guilt as I hit standby with the last vestiges of the days motivation, knowing I should really get up and hit the proper off button.
I leave my unconscious to assimilate the days happenings and bid Wednesday the 5th of August 2009 adieu.

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