Two Left Feet:
I would like to register a complaint. This is going to be a moan I warn you, I am sorry about that. I don't know who to send this complaint to mind you. I don't think just one business unit is responsible for this screw up. It's not Marketing and its not IT and its not Sales or whatever collective noun might apply... 'a pandemonium of sales, a deceit of marketing'. Nope, I think this one needs to be addressed to 'The World'. This is a world problem, this is bigger than you and I and it needs big people to solve it. So here goes:
Dear Leader of the World,
I would like to register a complaint and I need you to understand that I am very annoyed. I am sure you will probably be a bit offended when you hear what I have to say, I bet you think you have done a jolly good job, but really you haven't, everyone is fed up and I am particularly miffed. My desultory philippic is titled 'Muslim Vegan with Two Left Feet, and possibly Welsh'. It's not a catchy title granted, but it's nothing if not descriptive so read on buddy, this is going to sting.
I have, this past few years spent quite a lot of time scratching my testicles at 38,000 feet - what else to do. There is an acquired rhythm to these things, long haul air travel has fleshed out the perfect deal between airline and passenger, and in the most part it works. Nine hours on a plane is a slow death but for years it was made manageable by the following timeline. You strap yourself in and as you taxi for take off handsome people wave oxygen masks and life jackets around and tell you what to do if you ditch in the ocean.
You long to say 'die on impact', but you play along because the reality of obliteration always dampens the happy holiday mood... exits are here, here and here. Once you take off and are cruising high in the troposphere they bring you a hot towel. It's only a hot towel but you receive it in the manner of a proposal of marriage, gawping 'wow a hot towel, oh my', scrub your face and lie back refreshed (I always rest mine on my lap and when they come to collect I look incontinent).
Soon they bring the drinks trolley, the undoubted highlight of any long haul excursion, and frothing you order four gins and two bottles of red for starters, let's see how we get on for now, I will be back for more yes sireee!
Then they will bring your food, in an orderly fashion. Advancing down the aisle such that if you are in seat 27c you will receive your food just after row 26 receives theirs, not a minute too soon but certainly in the correct order of things. You crack open the fruit salad with single cube of melon, dissect the rubber chicken, and consume the creamy pudding, and happy and full and drunk you attach headphones and watch every episode of The Simpsons, until you fall asleep just before landing. It's always been this way, ever since Wilbur and Orville sat on a beach in Kittiwake, and it works.
But you know what, Mr Leader of the World? You've gone and messed it all up. Firstly, nobody waves their arms around pointing at exits before take off anymore. Now we watch a video whilst manicured people sit idly filing their nails in the galley. They do bring the hot towel and drinks, so credit where credits due, thanks for keeping this bit.
But I am afraid it's all down hill from here. Lunch is not served as previously. People check in online now, allocate their seat and also their meal. The choice of meals available is bewildering and huge and this is where the problem comes. Do you want a child's meal, the vegan or vegetarian option, gluten free, lactose intolerant or nut allergy, kosher or halal, diabetic or Hindu, and on and on... It's an international flight and as a 'normal' consumer I am in the minority, not in my choice of meal, but in its allocation. So I watch as cabin crew wonder up and down the aisles hand delivering meals for the dietary challenged, whilst I sit in my seat chewing on my sick bag as I waste away.
Choice is a wonderful thing I am sure, Dear Leader, but it means that I receive my meal three hours after the Muslim Vegan with Two Left Feet, and possibly Welsh has received theirs. I am being persecuted for being normal and eating plastic chicken.
And here is the rub, we chicken eaters are statistically the norm, we are density, we are the 'mean average and median' consumers. Why are we last, Dear Leader of the World? Why do you not care about us, I paid the same for my ticket, quite possibly more, why am I last? This makes me very annoyed indeed, I have twice this past year lost a third of my body weight waiting for my meal, it would have been quicker to eat my own fist.
A less peaceful way of flying and no airline food - on embed in Helmand.
All images and words © Martin Middlebrook 2012
Follow Martin Middlebrook on Twitter: www.twitter.com/martinmiddlebro