Prescription for Disaster

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Airplane Bathroom

The Airplane Bathroom

I don’t really have a fear of flying – I just don’t like it. We’re not meant to hurtle through the sky at the mercy of a faceless airline pilot with a suspected drinking problem. Flights go missing, flights go down – and I’m certain that if I ever were to survive a plane crash in the ocean the sharks would then get me.

I just don’t like flying.

So, like everyone else with an irrational phobia, I read about horrible flight accidents and incidents and terrorists and watch TV shows about mysterious illnesses on an airplane, snakes being loosed on passengers and incidents in which both pilots died and a passenger aircraft was landed by a blind librarian with his guide dog, just to ‘prep’ myself. See, I’ve heard of these things called ‘air pockets’ – random bits of air space without gravity or something, so everyone not wearing their seatbelt is thrown up out of their seats and concussed by the overhead baggage shelves. So I do not take off my seat belt, for anything.

And the thing that makes air travel worse than riding through packs of lions on the Serengeti on a slow, chubby camel in the dark covered in zebra steaks?

The bathrooms.

Fine, they’re gross and overused. That I can live with. But the suction. The unholy suction! Like opening a portal to the netherworld and having your innards sucked out if you don’t get up fast enough. When being absolutely forced to use an airplane bathroom I do my business in lightning speed, slam the lid down, push the flush button and pray – one foot already firmly outside of the open bathroom door, holding on for dear life lest I get sucked through that tiny hole and blasted out into the airspace through the bottom of the airplane.

Yes, I know that this probably won’t actually happen. But that’s the beauty of irrational fears – they are delightfully irrational.

I looked at my daughter and then up the aisle to the nearest washroom only four rows away. I know exactly what is going to happen. I’m going to take off my seatbelt, putting my life at great peril, grab Lochie and run up the aisle to the washroom, hoping that it wouldn’t already be engaged. I’d grip onto the headrest of each row in turn as we made our way up there, only to be caught out by a beverage cart being pushed along the aisle. A Mexican standoff would ensue, neither of us willing to back up to let the other through, even though I’m the one holding a squirming toddler gunning for the bathroom. The drinks cart would reluctantly back up the aisle, slowly, giving me just enough room to squeeze into the tiniest washroom of all time while squeaking ‘don’t touch anything!’ to Lochlynn as she flailed helplessly under my arm.

In the dim light and over the roaring hum of the plane’s engines (why are they so much louder in the bathroom??) I’d scramble for toilet paper to wipe down the seat before plonking Lochie down, gripping the filthy handle under the sink in case we hit an unexpected air pocket in one hand and the back of Lochie’s shirt with the other so I could hopefully keep her down as well. Then there is the law of nature in which kids pee lightning quick when on their own but doddle the hell out of it when you are stressed and bent at a painful angle in front of them.
“Are you done yet? No? Why aren’t you done yet? Please be done. We have to go. Come on, you must be done. What do you mean there’s more? No there’s not! YOU’RE DONE! LET’S GO!”

The plane inevitably hits a bout of turbulence and the seat belt sign pings, stopping my heart along with it. I don’t even wipe the poor kid – pants up, lid down, door open, toss her outside, one foot out aaaaannnnndddd flush-and-bolt. Get the hell out of my way the seatbelt sign is on and I need to get us back into our seats, pronto. I will go over that drinks cart if I have to, move it!

An urgent tug on my sleeve jerks me back to my seat belted and white knuckled reality – “Mummy, I’m going to go in my pants!” I’m still sat there safely buckled in my seat eyeing up the bathroom, the entire scenario having played through in my head.  I look at my daughter, gazing back at me with such trust and faith. I’m her mother, I can do anything. I can do no wrong. Such love, such belief in me.

I turn and whack Paul awake from across the aisle, handing him our squirming child. “You’re up sweetie, she’s got to pee and you’d better hurry - this one’s gonna blow!”

I undo that seatbelt for NOTHING.

Ooh! And here comes the drinks cart!


  1. Oh my God, I'm laughing so hard and the coworkers are sure I'm losing it!!