I’m used as a pillow on a flight to Trinidad


Eh, Miss, dat yuh suitcase blocking mi space? It takes a few minutes and a prod on the arm with a newspaper to understand that the question is directed at me. I look up and it is my suitcase in the overhead locker, above my seat the woman is referring too. Yes, that’s my bag I respond. Mi can’t get meh bags in, yuh need to move yeh bag. The lady with the Tina Turner weave holds up a large suitcase that is not going to fit in any overhead locker and an assortment of black plastic carrier bags. Her nails are so long that once false move and I’m aware she could cut my throat. The other passengers are staring, waiting for me to do something. I’ m aware if my bag comes out of that overhead locker,  it ain’t going back in and i’ll likely have it removed by a steward and placed into the hold. You need a locker of your own for all that stuff, I tell her.  She stares at me. What yer sayin? She says.  I mumble ‘I like potatoes’ in Greek and put my headphones back in. If there is one thing I’ve learnt quickly travelling across the Caribbean; overhead locker space is at a premium. The one item of cabin baggage per person rule seems not to apply to additional plastic bags, holdalls, boxes and extra suitcases which most passengers seem to add to the ‘one bag per passenger’ rule. Guard your space at all costs. It transpires the woman with the Tina Turner weave was actually sitting six seats behind me and now a young woman sucking on a lollipop flops herself into the seat next to me. Dat mi seat she tells me. Er no it’s not, I respond reaching for my ticket, suddenly panicking about the lack of overhead locker space as the plane fills up. No look, 5E, that’s the window, this is my seat, I tell her. She rolls her eyes at me as though she’s a long suffering flyer who has found out their long haul flight will be spent next to a child with colic. As I place my arm on the rest, she immediately knocks it off. Then elbows me about 6 times while she makes herself comfortable. An hour into the flight she face plants the table after going crazy on the carb heavy dinner and rum punch, leaving me free to enjoy the arm rest. It doesn’t last and she’s back upright elbowing and pushing me as though I’m a chair rather than a person. I apologise every time an extra hard elbow hits me, as though somehow it’s my fault her arms keep hitting me in the side. The next time she elbows me, I’m going to say something but all I can muster is a weak smile. Inside my rage is seething and imagine bludgeoning her with a giant bag of cheese puffs. I finally doze off just as we start our decent into Trinidad. But before long, a giant elbow comes over the arm rest and lands on my stomach, followed by a head nestled against my shoulder. In bed this would be the equivalent of spooning. I wait for her to move it. She doesn’t. I fidget to wake her up but she just omits a snort. I try lifting her arm up, but she only turns into her seat and tightens her grip. And this is how we remain until a passing air steward comes to my rescue and hits the woman around the head with ice tongs. How I long for BA.

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