Monday Morning Life

I don't know what it is, but there seems to be some correlation between people who chain-smoke and party monsters

Something has gone hideously wrong at the Emirates' check-in desk. Drink can't be involved, as we're talking Dubai here, so the only possibilities are that it's 4am or that the girl behind it, who sulks enough to qualify for a grant, is employed under some equal ops umbrella. Either way, my temper after four hours on a dry flight, with four more hours in a dry airport and another seven getting home, isn't improved by being put smack in the centre of smoking.

I love to smoke, it's one of my hobbies, but smoking sections are hell. They're worse on trains, of course, especially trains to Scotland, but these "which would you rather, Rwanda or Cambodia" discussions are pointless. Anyone mad enough to volunteer for smoking will be a chain-smoker by definition. And if, they give their lungs a rest, someone from non-smoking will take their seat and light up, doubling the amount of smoke any individual could produce. And I don't know what it is, but there seems to be some correlation between people who chain-smoke and party monsters.

We get the off-duty trolley dollies on their way home to Swansea. The plane takes off at 7.45am and they pitch into the free drinks before we start taxiing. I have to hand it to trolley dollies: they work hard, and boy, they play hard: shagging on conference suite pianos and so forth. I close my eyes, but through the wail of Arabic music over my headphones, I hear their voices: "You never been to Swansea? It's lovely in Swansea. Ever so nice. You go to Bristol and then you take the bus. Oh, there's everything. The people are lovely..." And talk a lot, too.

Chat, howls of laughter, seats bouncing every time they go to empty their bladders. The people on my row are wide-eyed and pale. I fall into slipstream smoking, lighting one duty-free Cartier after another, feeling nauseous with nicotine overload. After five hours, I doze off, and dream that I'm being savaged by a curly-haired ewe in a yashmak who sits on me and screams "Baa-ksheesh! Baa-ksheesh!"

The bing of the seatbelt signs. We are descending. The guy next to me puts his seat upright. A shriek from behind. "Now look what you've done!" He looks back. "You've knocked my champagne over. Can't you be more careful? Now look. It's all over my skirt, and all over my jumper, and all over my table, and all over my boots...". She rants on as the undercarriage clunks into place. As we hit the tarmac at Heathrow, the voice is still shrilly listing: "...and all over Kerry's cigarettes, and all over the carpet, and all over..."

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