Wednesday 26 May 2010

Lousy news from seat 8C...

We are on a crowded aeroplane, recently landed after a 4 hour flight, in those first few minutes after coming to a halt - the point when the seat belt light has gone off and everybody has stood up, but nobody can get out. Instead everybody surges forward, hungry for space, desperate to be out of this unnatural flying tin can and back on solid ground where the air doesn't smell so much of socks and boredom. The people in the window seats, trapped in place, frown anxiously because they want to stand up but can't without bashing their heads on the overhead lockers. There is much aggressive arranging of hand baggage and general tutting.
In the seat behind me, Eldest yawns, stretches and looks around, bemused at all the people who have magically appeared in the aisle beside her.
"Hello, sweetie," I say. "How are you feeling?"
"My head itches" she says.
"You've probably slept on it awkwardly."
"No," she says breezily. "I think I have headlice."
The people nearest us, crammed stupidly close together - and thus able to hear everything but unable to move away -  laugh with a gentle insincerity. They are mildly amused and mildly concerned, in about equal measure.
"You do not have headlice..." says her mother automatically. But we are both thinking about the text we recently received from school notifying us of an outbreak of headlice in her class. (Warnings of childhood parasite infections via SMS are apparently standard practice in a lot of UK educational establishments these days. I know -  how lucky we all are, eh? What a time to be alive...)
I fix my best fake smile in place and glance around at my fellow passengers. I decide I will make a bit of a joke of it all.
"Can't you speak a bit louder, next time?" I say to Eldest, putting on a hideous 'ha ha, kids say the funniest things, eh?' tone for the benefit of our audience. "The people at the back of the plane can't hear you..."
There are some wry smiles from the crowd.
Eldest looks puzzled. The she stands on her seat, faces the back of the place, and shouts:
There is a pause. People further down the plane, hearing this news for the first time, laugh gently. The people immediately around us, I notice, do not laugh nearly as much this time round.
"SHE REALLY DOESN'T..." calls my wife reassuringly down the body of the aircraft,
"HEADLICE!" calls Youngest, not wanting to be left out.
The women next to me starts to involuntarily scratch at the back of her head.
There is long queue at passport control. A lot of people glare at us while we all stand in it.


Gerry Snape said...

Best to tell the truth how ever much it hurts and embarasses one. Don't you think ? nooooo?

Grant White said...

The inescapable claustraphobicness of your story makes it all the better. Wonderfull ! From a man who's 3 year old son shouts with gay abandon whatever the occassion.

Misterimpatient said...

Head lice or raging uncontrollable flatulence? Pick one.