Heh! Business Class. No queues all the way to Frankfurt. Some legroom. Maybe even a bit of broken sleep if I drink enough port.
A few years ago Lufthansa Business Class was not a patch on the flat-bed facilities you get today, but at least it was a break from the cramped incessantly-broken nightmare in the back of the plane. Well, as it turns out, not a total break.
It’s two in the morning. I have, let us be truthful, not drunk water with dinner. Or, for some time, before. The wine was excellent. I am restful. A doze is in order. I am reluctantly awoken when the cabin chime rings with exaggerated urgency at two in the morning. Through the groggy cloud of partial consciousness, I’m waiting for what must surely be the captain’s announcement of imminent death and order to don life-jackets and/or oxygen masks. It doesn’t come.
It’s far worse.
Instead a tense voice delivers a crisp Teutonic announcement:
“Ladies und Chentelmen, ze Kapitan. If zere are anny military or police personnel on board, please make yourselves known to ze kabin crew immediately!”
I sink further into my costly seat. The commander has my attention, though I feign death in the darkened cabin. If there’s any calamity unfolding in the back of the aircraft, frankly it’s their problem. I wish no part of it. I can hear a bit of commotion in the rear of the plane, but my stillness is an award-winning approximation of a death in the family.
Another announcement comes over the PA telling us that unless someone with military or police expertise is available, we will have to land at the next available airport. At this stage we’re over Niger or Algeria or Chad or God-knows where. But it’s not anywhere you’d plan to spend the rest of the night. This is serious.
I am resolute. Heroically, I remain corpse-like. Two minutes pass and now a third hysterical dispatch from the flight deck ratchets up the tension on board as we slice through the dark African sky:
“Ladies und chentelmen, PLEASE! Anny military or police personnel please identify yourself to ze crew.”
Across the aisle the most spectacularly-built and tanned young man with a crew cut and tight-fitting white T-shirt slowly gets up and stretches his expensive steroid-fuelled muscles. He actually ripples and bulges like an advertisement for testosterone. He’s pissed off rather than scared – his costly Business Class slumber has been disturbed. He’s like Rambo, only meaner and bigger. Probably better spoken too. He’s so wide he has to shuffle sideways down the aisle.
He storms purposefully and crab-like down to the rear of the aircraft and soon after there’s the sound of breaking glass, exclamations, screams and what I suspect is collapsing bone and tearing flesh. Then silence.
I attempt to drain more blood from my face and press further into my seat. What calamity could have befallen our hero? Will I be next? Are we doomed? There is some more confused commotion and then the young Hercules strides triumphantly back to his seat, slumps disgruntled into it and falls asleep. His knuckles are bleeding.
The cabin chime rings again. It’s the captain.
“Ladies und Chentlemen,” he says professionally, “If zere are any medical personnel on board, please make yourselves known to ze kabin crew.”
I’m asleep in seconds.
And the sucker in steerage who got all aggro with the cabin staff is arrested as the aircraft door opens safe on the ground in Frankfurt. Business Class – it’s the business. DM
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