Monday, 8 October 2012

Learn to Engage Brain!

Throughout my life the one thing which has repeatedly got me in trouble is a disturbingly bad signal strength between my brain and my mouth which can sometimes lead to idiotic things coming out of it. I also seem to be particularly skilled at tossing weapons to people who have a penchant for pistol whipping. Sometimes it really does feel like painting me as a cartoon villain is an official sport but more often than not it is my own fault for starting the ball rolling.

I genuinely am intrigued by people's behaviour (probably should have gone into psychology) and fascinated by the differences in the way people respond to different things. Unfortunately some people are so incredibly defensive that my unconsidered and uncensored musings on these differences provoke all kinds of unexpected outbursts - and I also find that intriguing - except for when it turns into another round of being attacked, seemingly for gratification.

What I really need to remember is that family ties are not necessarily a filter or protection from receiving a mental/emotional battering. And I should know better really after many years of taking them from certain people, in fact rather than being some kind of prevention I actually think the 'family' tie is an inflammatory aspect sometimes and leads people to believe that they can get away with stuff because you are 'family'.

I have never ever claimed (and never would) that my actual family are saints, they clearly are not. I will take criticism of them on the chin when I know it is true and within reason, equally I think I manage pretty well not to twist flippant comments into reasons to kick off - but then I have grown up in an environment where people say what they think, share things pretty openly (for better or worse) and where there is a high level of well intended banter and teasing. Being free and easy with opinions was not just a right in my family, it was a rite of passage.

I am also very relaxed and will even join in with what could be construed as really quite offensive mockery of certain elements of my extended family because I can appreciate the grains of truth within it. I am not precious about this kind of thing because that's just not really me. I dislike confrontation and will 99.9% of the time avoid it if at all possible. Life really is too short. 

There is an element of irony here that sometimes the very person who is most vocal about the 'loopers' I happen to be related to is the most incredibly easy to inflame into baffling rage over (what to me seem) trifling comments about their own relatives. A healthy dose of context can be dismissed at the drop of a hat and in the cold light of day the actual original incriminating element can even seem humorous when compared to the level of rage it subsequently provoked.

I suspect that the reasons for turning something and nothing (or an ill thought out and unintentionally idiotic statement) into a hate crime of herculean proportion which no amount of apologizing can atone for, is something altogether less obvious and stems from deep seated issues elsewhere. I do make myself a very easy target and this is something I probably need to work on to avoid such terribly bewildering situations in the future.

The thing with 'family' in all its connotations is that the old adage of always hurting the ones we love most is very true; as human beings we have an amazing ability to forgive as well and this is very important. People are different, people lash out and people can be idiots - all of this is true. It is very rare however to find somebody who intentionally sets out to cause distress - I may be an idiot and say very stupid things sometimes but I am not a bad person and the last thing I would ever want is to upset someone I love.

Yesterday was a very trying day and I made a bad situation worse by losing patience (after an hour of being quite calm and tolerant) and then losing my rag. Keep cornering and beating any animal with a stick and eventually they will attack - but I know I made the situation worse by doing so. Lesson learned though, next time just walk away instead of letting it push my buttons. It was absolutely my fault in the first place but sometimes you have to know when to give up with trying to explain and apologize because it is never going to be enough unless the person you are apologizing to wants it to be.

I really feel like I learnt a sharp lesson yesterday and in the hours last night after the event; some battles you will never win, especially when you provided the ammunition. Sometimes it is so much better to just take a leaf out of someone else's book and hold it all in. My husband says I need to improve at 'being the bigger person' and he knows me better than anyone else in the world so I believe him. He usually speaks sense.

The next six months are going to be tough as we prepare to emigrate and I know that there will likely be difficult conversations and strained emotions all round. Moving to the other side of the world does have that effect on people and everybody will deal with it in their own way. I will miss people so very much that at times I already wonder why the hell we are doing this.

But then I remember that this adventure has always been part of our life plan and that I am incredibly lucky to have a life partner on the same page as me. Neither of us wants this more than the other and this has been very much a joint decision driven by us both. My mission and focus from this day forwards is to try and get us to March 26th 2013 as smoothly and calmly as possible. And as one very very profound friend of mine told me this morning; "Arguments are horrible but they serve a purpose: they make you appreciate the good times even more".


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Fly Fawlty Towers Airlines!

Having just returned from a fabulous few weeks holiday in Australia and Singapore I have a LOT to blog about, especially as the trip was with my Mom and Step-Dad which made for an interesting time indeed. I will no doubt do this in bits and bobs over the coming weeks, but one blog post which I actually started while we were away (the beauty of i-Pads!) was this one...

We travelled from Sydney to Singapore on new 'budget longhaul' airline Scoot during our trip and I have to say that from the word go it was like some kind of farce. Now to be fair, we paid £150 each for an 8 hour flight so in terms of value this was a great deal - but the trade off seems to be staff that literally have no idea of their arses from their elbows.

Don't get me wrong, they were all polite enough (certainly beating the Vietnam Airlines crew we had flown with a few weeks before who were aiming for some kind of surly world record) and they were trying very hard - but it felt like the plane was staffed with work experience kids who had been thrown in at the deep end. Here is an account of what happened on the flight:

1) Having just boarded and taken seats the cabin manager introduces himself and welcomes us to this flight to "Bangkok" - at which point we all start looking at each other a little worried.....5 mins later he comes back on and reassures us that this plane is in fact bound for Singapore as expected.

* I should also have mentioned the crazy lady who was the third person in our row - she did not help matters on what was a pretty surreal flight but more of her later*

2) The moment we get airborn the bonging starts. Whoever designed this plane needs shooting - whenever someone presses their call bell there is a very loud and continuous bonging noise until the cabin crew respond - I have never experienced this on any other flight, usually one bong and a small light on over the relevant chair suffices - but not on Scoot. This bonging then continues for pretty much the entire flight, not helped by the ridiculous placing of the button within the arm rest which means that people are continually falling asleep and setting it off by accident. At one point I decided to count the gaps between the bonging incidents - the longest I got to was 9 seconds. I am still hearing the bonging now.

3) Someone has told the cabin crew that they must respond to the bongs above all else, including the standard trolley service of drinks and food - this was not helped by an attitude from a lot of the passengers that they could not be arsed to wait for the snails pace trolley to get their drinks and snacks, they would therefore bong and the staff would duly abandon their trolley and saunter off to deal with one specific request at a time. This meant that it took 2 and a half hours from take off before we were offered anything. It was like torture watching the staff running about responding to bongs and making such incredibly slow progress with the trolley. I also wanted to lynch the selfish fuckers continually bonging for a couple of beers and a pot noodle in what is seemingly a legitamised version of queue jumping.

4) The staff were perpetually losing track of who had ordered what and there seemed to be a master list (literally a large print out) which said who had pre- ordered meals - against which there was a massive amount of cross checking, utter confusion and puzzled conflabs occurring. More than once we saw a member of cabin crew wandering up and down (ignoring bongs at this point) trying to fathom who the ice cream she was carrying was actually for, they would pace up and down for a good ten minutes before giving up. My poor, starving step-dad finally got to order a meal a few hours in - and then had to wait an hour and a half before he actually received it. He probably should have bonged.

5) The cabin crew guy comes back on 6 hours into an 8 hour flight and announces that from this point on and "for the next five hours" of the flight, there will be no trolley service. Utter puzzlement from the passengers - are we now going to Bangkok after all? In any event it was probably lucky that they had stopped trolley service as by this point they had only just completed the first service.

6) As we began our descent into Singapore (which had thankfully been reconfirmed as the destination by the Captain) the usual instructions about turning off electronic equiptment was read out a couple of times. Crazy Lady next to us at this point SWITCHED ON her i-Phone and began calmly text messaging someone and then playing solitaire. In the following 15 minutes until we were on the tarmac no less than 8 cabin crew walked past our row doing the cursory glancing left and right to look for such plane-crash inducing numpties. ALL of them missed the fact she was in an aisle seat quite blatently on her phone.

So there you have a rough idea of the bewilderment of both crew and passengers on this flight. Add to this our token crazy lady and this flight, for me at least, passes into surreal legend.

Crazy Lady - On boarding the plane this woman was already in the aisle seat of our row and we had the window and middle seat booked. In order to let us in she stood up and at this point I realised that on the floor she had three different bags of varying sizes and 3 two litre bottles of water. Now I effing hate it anyway when people do this. There are overhead lockers for a reason and it just makes it difficult for anyone else to get in and out when you keep so much stuff on the floor under your legs. Of course, on a normal flight the cabin crew would probably have made her put at least some of her stuff up but this was Scoot so they just ignored it. Despite the water bottles rolling around everywhere on take off.

She seemed to be slightly agitated. I started to think she might be disturbed when she leaned her head against the chair in front while we taxied to take off and started muttering. During the flight she turned to the old favourite of business tools to keep her sane and completed a SWOT analysis (I shit you not) which I struggled very much to keep a straight face about (I could not resist peeking from behind my kindle to see what she was writing, the chance of finding out what made this looper tick was too great to resist).

From this I deduced that she was headed to a retreat somewhere in Malaysia. The 'itinerary' she was carrying suggested a lot of yoga and meditation. Lord knows she needed it (and so did I after 8 hours on a Scoot flight next to her). The SWOT told me that her strengths are 'talking to people' (really?) and her weaknesses include 'being unable to say no'. For what its worth I hope she enjoyed her time in 'retreat'.

In the middle of the flight and in the 2 minute window where there was no trolley in the aisle my husband and I decided we could wait no longer and needed the loo. Crazy Lady was snoring with her mouth open and dribbling by now (anxieties clearly soothed by the SWOT) and I had the unenviable task of waking her. On touching her shoulder she shot up like a jack in a box, anxiety fully restored, but she graciously let us out and wandered off herself in the other direction.

As we returned from the loo my husband decided to go and buy us a couple of beers - there were 6 cabin crew in the galley at the back so it should have been a quick transaction. However, I could see from where I was stood by the loos that something was clearly amiss, the galley looked like chaos with all the staff routing through drawers etc, it turned out that they had run out of the particular beer he had asked for and in herd mentality had turned the galley upside down just to be sure. He finally laid his hands on two different beers and handed over a $50 note. I watched his face become utterly baffled and waited another 5 minutes until he finally started back down the plane with his change and the beers - apparently the note was passed around 6 members of staff before the change was sorted. Nothing on this flight was as simple as it should have been.

Whilst I was waiting for the farcical beer transaction to be finished, Crazy Lady wandered up to me and told me (for no particular reason) that she is an anxious flyer. I do wonder whether on her return trip to Australia she was less anxious/crazy due to the yoga etc. I hope for whoever sat next to her's sake that she was. Notably she only drank 1 of the bottles of water and left two full bottles under on the floor. Perhaps someone had tipped her off that due to bonging incidents and inept staff she may be lucky to actually get a drink on the flight.

All in all I can not remember a flight which felt more like an episode of Fawlty Towers. I am sure in years to come Scoot will have staff that are experienced and less like rabbits in the headlights, part of this 'work-experience' feel is likely because they decided to recruit the majority of staff from scratch. We travel on this kind of 'budget long haul' airline quite frequently (15 flights with Air Asia over the last 3 years) and it can work really well - plus the value it offers is fantastic, personally, though, I like my long haul flights to be less farcical so I hope they sort themselves out soon.