Feeling uncomfortable

Written by

Andrew Millar


November 27, 2007

Seeing as how they have squeezed another row or two of seats onto planes to make them even more uncomfortable, I find the tray table the next best thing to useless. It is a good thing in a way that they have stopped serving meals where you need a knife and fork to eat. There is so little space these days, if I had the middle seat I’d end up severely damaging the ribs of the passengers who had the misfortune to sit either side of me…

“Chicken? Lamb? Both come with a punctured lung”.

On a recent flight to Sydney, the selfish git in front of me had his seat reclined from the moment the pilot rotated. I found, to my amusement that I could sit comfortably with my head on the antimacassar and touch, both the seat in front and my nose with the thumb and little finger of one hand – but what this might have looked like to the other passengers… I’ll just have to live with the reputation I gained. All great scientific experiments cause mirth to those who would deride attempts to uncover the mysteries of life, as we know it.

This was the domestic leg of an international flight. I was to be stuck like this for the just the next 2 hours so I pitied the poor sardines that had just flown overnight from Hong Kong.

Perhaps this ridiculous lack of room was proof of my theory that, on long flights, they secretly move the seats closer together during the night. I think that is to make room for the staff to stretch out in luxurious repose. It always seems like this to me. And maybe they just had not put them back yet.

So, with there being nothing else to do but stare daggers at the bald sot of the reclining sod in front, I settled back to enjoy the other constant of modern air travel – Tom Lehrer singing ‘The Vatican Rag’ via the in flight audio system.

I enjoy the Comedy Channel. Perhaps the chronic lack of space that must contravene some United Nations humanitarian law is doing me a favour by forcing me to appreciate simpler pleasures – like the sound track of a Yes Minister episode. In this day of high tech travel we are reminded of the days of the simple pleasures of radio. It brings a vision of a high tech Norman Rockwell illustration. (Google him…)

And yes, I appreciate the odd chuckle while I lose all sensation in my legs.

But I do enjoy Tom Lehrer.

And I have been listening to his forced, sick and silly rhymes in the car recently…

The closing lines to a song, the lyrics lifted from the Periodic Table…

“These are all the elements known to us at Harvard.
Except for all of those that haven’t been discovered!”

And ‘“I hold your hand in mine’.” is brilliantly revolting.

One that struck me as being chillingly true was a small ditty entitled ‘My Home Town’. In its 6 or 7 verses he destroys the myth that our childhoods were set against the backdrops of perfect places. We all seem to recall that we grew up in a neighbourhood that resembled the set of the ‘Trueman Show’. In Lehrer fashion he takes this idyll apart character by character.

The myth of the wholesome girl next door, the trusted druggist, our respected teachers in school and Sunday School, the Mayor’s son and so on, all disappear like mist in a hot dry wind of truth. It is a strange wind, hot and dry, but chilling at the same time as good comedy has a bitter twist to it. Because it is based on reality, it bites three quarters of the way through the chuckle.

The other morning someone caught me at the traffic lights laughing (and cringing) to his collection of Christmas songs, rewritten with a sharp edge of home truth.

‘Hark the Herald Angels’ was changed to…

“Hark the Herald Tribune sings
advertising wondrous things.”

And another parody…

“Angels we have heard on high,
tell us to go out and buy.”

Or in his own words

“It doesn’t matter how sincere it
is, nor how heartfelt the spirit
Sentiment will not endear it,
What’s important is the price!”

It is funny the way the truth no matter how humorously presented can make you feel as uncomfortable as an airline seat. I only hope the person at the traffic lights was not on my Sydney flight. Otherwise my reputation, such that it is, would be completely shot.