*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*
I had never been particularly interested in airplanes as a kid, but all that changed when reading a particular Famous Five story. The Five were on a plane that was hijacked (in French they were called sky pirates – doesn’t that sound so much more romantic?). The plane was taken off course and crash landed in the jungle where the passengers were taken hostage. Of course, the Five saved the day as well as the others (and of course nobody died in the crash. I don’t think anyone was even injured.)
I was fascinated. Now that was an adventure. A plane crash, sky pirates, jungle… It blew my young mind, and as a result I dedicated an unhealthy amount of time over the next few weeks imagining how I would fare going up against sky pirates or surviving in a jungle post plane crash.
You can imagine then what went through my head when I found out that, for our yearly trip to the south of France (I’m French but grew up in the UK) to visit my grandparents, we would be taking a plane. That was to be my first plane ride. I was convinced it would be my first proper adventure, too, and I went into paroxysms of excitement and planning — I had to be ready for the sky pirates and/or the plane crash.
I was positively fizzing with impatience as we went through the airport. I looked around at everyone, trying to spot disguised sky pirates as I waited by the gate — and I mean right by the desk where you show your ticket to the air hostess — even though there was the best of an hour to go until boarding.
Finally, we boarded. Of course there was the excitement of discovering the inside of a plane, of checking out the seats, how they reclined, how they snapped forward (and reclined, and snapped forward, and reclined — Celine! Stop that, said my father, apologising at the poor woman behind me.) Then there was the matter of the little table, and then of the pocket on the back of the seat in front, the one that contains an in flight magazine and the security card.
The security card.
As if the prospect of impending kidnapping by sky pirates and plane crashes in the jungle (never mind that there are no jungles in France, that was a minor detail) wasn’t enough, now there was a security card explaining about inflatable life vests. Not only that, but if we crash-landed there would be inflatable slides coming out of the plane doors. Inflatable slides. Talk about fun and adventures.
The air hostesses went through the security demonstration (slight disappointment that they didn’t inflate their life vests but they made up for it by showing us oxygen masks – yet another exciting plane item I didn’t know about), and we were ready for take off.
The plan backed away.
I clenched my fists with excitement and kicked the floor in anticipation.
Please crash, please crash, please crash, I prayed. Please let there be sky pirates. Please let there be sky pirates and a crash.
I repeated my prayer as we taxied down the runway. I whispered it as the plane sped up. I almost shouted it out loud as we took off.
Please let there be sky pirates!!! Please crash!!!
The plane was pirate free.
There were no technical faults, the pilot was competent, and we didn’t run out of fuel. We didn’t crash.
Instead, we landed in Nice safely, as planned. We were on time, and most definitely not in the jungle. When the doors opened and everyone started to get off, confirming that there would be nothing on the adventure front, I felt cheated. The pilot could at least have had the decency to land on the water — the sea was just there. And why didn’t anyone hijack the plane?
Disappointment doesn’t come close to expressing what I felt as we went through the airport to go meet my grandparents. Being a resilient kid (and not the kind of kid to remain disappointed when faced with the prospect of long summer holidays spent with my grandparents), I moved my expectation to the return flight. Surely that plane would crash or be hijacked.
I should say that while I repeatedly hoped for plane crashes and sky pirates for most of my childhood, rest assured that I have long grown out of this phase. So don’t worry if you ever find yourself in a plane with me — I won’t be praying for the engine to fail…