I was exiting from the lavatory, which was not a mean feat, especially for a woman of my, shall we say, voluptuous build, when I was struck, rather uncharacteristically, by an idea. Well, to be honest, it was more of a thought than an idea. Actually, to be entirely accurate, it was an observation, which I believe has more to do with a description of some sort than an actual reflective process. I had my observation secure in my mind, when I made my way down the aisle to my seat.
Airplane water closets are an extraordinary affair. They are incredibly personal, and yet generic at the same time. More than once, one often finds oneself wondering in to one, as one does on airplanes, to be greeted by a ghastly smell which does much to diminish the ambiance necessary to make a girl well at ease. I do understand that these are utilitarian space where one does utilitarian necessities, and then some – and so I have heard.
There appears to be such a thing as the “mile-high club”, but I gather it is one of those restrictive venues. Undoubtedly the kind of club where one needs to have a leg up on society, and the patrons are all old stiff middle-aged men. Not that I have anything against middle-aged men, but they are generally not the most enthusiastic flight companions. They are helpful, no doubt. Especially when one is wearing a nice deep V-neck – it does get horribly hot on those planes!
I had reached my row, and confidently inserted myself back into my seat. I did not want the other passengers to feel anything had changed since my now infamous trip to the throne. I think it is important to maintain appearances when one is on board an airliner. This is all the more so when one is in first-class. This I was. I am not the sweatpants and Winnie-the-Poo T-shirt in a commuter aircraft sort of girl. That is all well for the potato crisps and nachos brigade, but I always prefer something more metropolitan.
Should our Airbus go down in a torrent of flames, luggage flying across the cabin, and teenagers making last minute confessions about their weekends in Berlin, I want my remains to be found smartly upholstered and coiffed by an Hermès scarf. That way, I am sure to be easily found among the sea of pensioners in Hawaiian shirts and elastic trousers.
Having, so far, raised no noticeable suspicions about my current state of ocular activity on board the plane’s ladies’ room, I turned my attention towards Ypres.
Ypres is my lady’s assistant. The kind of person who helps me with the more tiresome things of life, such as bookkeeping, making travel arrangements, or peeling fruit – those oranges are such a hassle, yet my doctor insists I must have my five a day. I call Mildred Ypres by her last name for simplicity. It also avoids minor unpleasant occurrences.
I remember the first time we met I addressed her as “Mild Red” by mistake, and then proceeded to refer to her as “Miss Red” in society for the following month. Every time I made this mistake in her presence, she assumed I was referring to some sort of learning difficulty, and suggested I go see a dyslexia specialist of hers who is highly recommended, and on the smarter side of Harley Street.
Ypres’s face always reminds me of that of an aquatic creature. On this occasion, under the special mood lighting of the first-class cabin, it looked frighteningly similar to an ambitious tuna trying to avoid an intrepid frying pan.
She was across the aisle, each seat having its own aisle in this portion of the cabin. I tried to attract her attention in the manner of one who seeks to discuss the peculiarities of tulips in dry soil. The matter was delicate. I must say, I acted convincingly. No one could have guessed that a moment earlier I had been the sole witness to an observation.
Ypres’s fishlike eyes raised themselves from her magazine unto my person, not unlike a disinterested amphibian looking out for insects to ingest.
“Ypres,” I said, remaining suave throughout, “I have made an observation I would like to confide to you.”
“Oh yes,” the water-creature replied, “I must say that is rather odd. I mean you, making an observation.”
“I know, it struck me as such. That is why I decided I must inform you of the matter at hand at once.”
“Is it important? I was rather hoping to finish this article on the peculiarities of octopi bearing octuplets.”
“When did this observation occur? Was it recent?”
“Extremely so. It happened but moments ago when I was in,” I whispered the last part of my sentence, “the lavatory.”
I am widely in favour of discussing all matters in an earnest and open manner, but when it comes to topics such as rooms were bodily functions occur on a regular basis – well, for the most of us; for the rest, I hear there is this yogurt that delivers superbly – I feel a lady must not discuss them in an open space. I am just not that type of girl. I seek to maintain a certain allure that is incompatible with, shall I say, and I write this in confidence, water closet-themed conversation that can be overheard in mixed-company in broad daylight.
“I see,” Ypres said. Evidently she was unperturbed and did not grasp the gravity of the situation, which did not lend itself to a mask of stoicism.
“It is nearly an emergency,” I told her, hoping that my upping the ante, as I believe it is called, from “observation” to “emergency observation” might stimulate a more favourable reaction.
Ypres leaned in.
“If it is that kind of emergency, I have a change of clothes and some wet wipes in my carry-on bag.”
I was appalled.
The thought that an observation in the lavatory on my part was equated with some sort of washroom emergency requiring an imminent change of clothes was an insult to my person. I made this known to Ypres, all the while trying not to attract attention to ourselves, and maintaining the semblance of an engrossing tulip-based conversation.
Just then, the captain came over the speaker system to inform us of our imminent decent into Heathrow. The voice sounded like it came out of a mustachioed mouth. This was later to be confirmed, when, with an astute eye, I spotted her at the customs desk with her male first officer, who, it turned out, sported a hefty pair of breasts.
This was a matter for the next hour, a more pressing issue was at hand.
Seizing the moment, I decided to take advantage of the distraction caused by deplaning preparations to press my concerns onto Ypres.
One often finds that when one lands into Heathrow, one often has to wait patiently for a runway to liberate itself. This means one’s aircraft is often stuck in midair for a dozen minutes or so circling London. I do not know why the runways are always so crowded. Why joggers do not simply run on paths instead of ways, and leave the rest of us to get along with our business in peace I simply do not know. That is why I do not trust joggers and long-distance runners. They achieve recognition at the Olympics and they believe this justifies their selfish behaviour. Well, it is frankly appalling.
While the passengers were furtively preparing for landing, making sure to pocket any free and easily detachable object from the aircraft in the process, I decided to pounce.
I carefully recounted the experience of my observation to Ypres.
“Well, Ypres, as you well know, it began when nature called, and I found it necessary to relieve myself. Naturally, I proceeded to the nearest ladies’ room, as I am not one of those inconsiderate individuals who wait until it is too late, and cause a splash simply to get attention onto themselves.
My mission safely, and I might add, securely accomplished, which is quite a feat in an airplane prone to outbursts of turbulence, I made my faithful observation. I washed my hands, as would any person who has not had the misfortune of being raised by forest animals, and looked in the mirror. I wanted to make sure I was my usual graceful self, and that my outfit was in order.”
I reminded Ypres of my views on airplane attire and my fear of being unrecognisable amidst a mass of pensioners in Hawaiian T-shirts and elastic trousers. She agreed. I added that it would undoubtedly dissuade potential hijackers if all passengers were dressed elegantly, but not quite as elegantly as myself. I have never heard of a hijacker who commandeered an aircraft full of individuals dressed in Chanel suits.
Then, I paused to ensure gravitas, if that is the word, and shared my mirror related observation.
“I appear to have one breast that is bigger than the other.”
As the word “breast” penetrated the atmosphere, a number or heads suddenly spun around towards me.