Ten long, stinking hours later, I had arrived. In spite of the events that had occurred earlier in the flight, I was desperate for the toilet, having not been since I was rudely awoken with a damp crotch. As you can imagine, after 4 hours into any flight, the hygiene standards of the toilet facilities begin to resemble the portaloos on the third day of Glastonbury, so I held it all in. Coupled with my lack of…enthusiasm to visit the girls’ room, what was not complementing my peanut-sized bladder was the fact that I had an irrational fear of becoming dehydrated on a flight and developing DVT. This irrationality was of course brought on my lovely mum. As I sat there, seat 28F, in my compression stockings, clutching a 2 litre bottle of half drunk Vittel water, I glanced around to see a fellow passenger also wearing the same flattering, flesh coloured bandages as me. He gave me the knowing smile – the smile that said ‘we are part of the same club.’ Yes we are, I thought, how we look may not be sexy, but we will not be struck down with a thrombosis. He was approximately 87 years of age. So, with 3ltrs of water inside me, I disembarked the plane as a camel.
The airport was as I had imagined. Hot, crowded and not a toilet in sight. The queue to get through immigration was long and seemed to get longer once I spied a toilet beyond the desks. This would take a while. When faced with authority, I feel immediately guilty. If anyone in a position of authority – great or small – asks me a question, I instantly feel guilty and frightened that I might confess to mass-murder.
I remember once when I was 9, someone had flooded the girls’ toilets in junior school, so we were all called into the gymnasium by our stereotypically a-sexual gym teacher. With a 5-o’clock shadow appearing on her jaw-line at 10 o’clock in the morning, Miss. Hoskins was no beauty. She was a sports teacher yet ironically felt it was okay to not wear a sports bra. Anyway, upon her discovery of the newly decorated toilets, Atlantis-style, she furiously summoned us into the gymnasium – the anger inside her had more or less caused a full beard to grow now. There we were, 40 pairs of blinking eyes, looking at her as she informed us that we would all remain there until someone confessed. I burst into tears. She spied me across the room and, sniffing out the weak, she made her way over to me and demanded to know what I was crying about. She interpreted my blubbing as some sort of confession. Truth was, somewhere inside me, I blamed myself. I was not the culprit of course. Some Catholic guilt (I am not even a Catholic which makes the whole thing more ridiculous) that had laid dormant inside me, had been set free by the flood of ’92.
Since then, I have felt guilty about a lot.
I approached the immigration desk with as much carefree face as I could. I wanted to present a face that said, ‘just here for work, no trouble to cause, please let me through to have a wee’. My face must have said something more like, ‘hello, I’m here to kill your whole family’ because I was asked to accompany them to a small room for some questions. I hoped it wasn’t about the junior school toilets again.
With immigration finally out of the way and a long-term jail sentence avoided, I needed a cab. I was assured by the taxi company that I was paying slightly extra, I would be getting one of their best cars. Unfortunately, a taxi firm is only as good as its worst car and I should have checked out the taxi firm’s definition of ‘best car’. Looking at the three-wheeled van, I gently asked, ‘I think there has been some sort of mistake as I was supposed to be picked up in one of the best cars?’ The driver looked at me and laughed (always puts me at ease) and said, ‘lady, this IS best car, it have air conditioning.’
2 weeks later, after an amazing trip, I found myself back on the plane, Amsterdam bound, clutching another 2 litre bottle of water and my decompression socks.