Pete’s Weekly: Final Thoughts On A Frozen Plane?

I am writing this quickly, from the plane, just in case I don’t make it through to South Africa. As you know I am not one prone to hyperbole. (For the youngsters, that means that I do not often exaggerate.)

As I write passengers are falling like, well, snowflakes. The outside temperature here at 33,000 feet is -59 degrees Fahrenheit which is pretty darned cold in Centigrade as well. And airlines, in a bid to save fuel costs, don’t seem to be heating that cold air properly as it enters a plane. At least not as much as they used to back in the day.

I cannot tell you quite how cold it is, because thermometers are no longer permitted on board. Something about containing fluids not bought at DutyFree, although this was from a gruff guard in Amsterdam who insisted that I could not enter the departure area until she put my passport through her MRI scanner.

I explained that the last time I was separated from my passport back in 2008 at the V&A Waterfront I had been forced to leave the UK and go to Norway, and since then it had never left my sight. I was, however, vindicated when it turned out not to contain anything more dangerous than paper, although she stared at me with deep suspicion as I thanked her for her efforts to protect the plane from errant visas.

The tall French fellow in the seat across the walkway has started sneaking about with a wild look in his eyes, stealing blankets off comatose travellers. I now understand Grandpa’s ambivalence about the nation. And my seatmate, bless him, has stopped snoring. I suspect his mouth is blocked by the two icicles stretching from his nose deep into to his beard.

Even the video system has seized up. Three times. But, as the Senior Purser announced, those of us in the middle of “Love Actually” could simply ‘forward back to where we were’ when it rebooted. Ja Nee.

We are in a 777. These planes had some problems a while back with engines cutting out when their fuel froze, so I am using my mobile surreptitiously to try and get into the Pearly Gatehouse before the rush starts. Sadly, my finger has frozen tight to the “6“, so things don’t look good.

All of which leads me to remember flying back in the early eighties. What an experience. Security was light. I recall a fellow passing through the ‘portal’ at Jan Smuts, as it was then, and after gathering his briefcase on the departure side, asking the security guards where he should hand in the Sig Sauer which was holstered under his armpit. I lost a bit of my innocence that day, I fear.

But, at least planes were warm. You could also enter the departure area without disrobing down to your underwear. This is OK for young folk, but for the the rest of us who do not regard boxers as a fashion item, it can be disheartening. And dare I say, to onlookers, a tad alarming.

Hold tight Sus and Boet, you too will get here, and a lot sooner than you expect. I am still a young Richard Gere on the inside even though the mirror suggests a more mature Jabba the Hutt.

The only thought keeping me sane is the thought of that Rubicon my sister has been keeping for me, but with her hubbies sixtieth last week, I fear all might be lost. If you are reading this I will have made it. You will find me under a vat somewhere near Stellenbosch, and that would be the only kind of VAT I like.

All the best

Peter Carruthers

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  1. wow, PETE surely is a great writer, and glad he is now safe and able to relax. Frans thanks for sharing this, kept me waiting for each new sentence about this flight. Rhon