Counting the pixels in Bear Grylls’ eyeball

I recently returned from my honeymoon in Australia. How was it? Absolutely wonderful, thanks for asking. In fact, it was so wonderful that my wife and I were overcome with snotty weepiness prior to take-off from Brisbane Airport, when Qantas cruelly filled our personal TV screens with sweeping images of vast, red-tinged Aussie landscape, accompanied by a song that was so sad it was like injecting the final scenes of Pans Labyrinth directly into my heart.

I feared our flight had been commandeered by a team of X-Factor producers determined to yank at our heartstrings, and that the opening announcement from the flight deck would probably feature Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ playing in the background. The captain would then tearfully reveal that he was flying us back to Blighty to make his leukaemia-stricken cat proud, before pumping a looped soundtrack of anthemic Snow Patrol tracks into the cabin for 21 gruelling hours.

Thankfully, none of that actually happened (apart from the crying bit), it was just a way of bulking out the intro to this blog post. And the honeymoon was great. The only downside was other people. Dribbling idiots, all of them (well, some of them).

When I think about the perfect holiday set-up my mind instantly darts to the opening scenes of 28 Days Later, with Cillian Murphy wandering around a deserted London. Provided you did all your sightseeing before nightfall – to avoid being overwhelmed by excessively violent ‘Rage’ zombies, while posing for a photo at a key tourist attraction – it would be absolute bliss to wander around a holiday location without the presence of other tourists. Sure, the gut-wrenching smell of bins and lack of public transport would eventually take its toll on the holiday spirit, but those first few days without other people would be great.

Because when I’m surrounded by other people on holiday I can often lose hours of my life obsessing over their rudeness and baffling inconsiderateness. I also end up with a roll-call of identifying nicknames for the most annoying people I encounter, which often sound like members of a crap street gang. Subsequently, my wonderful honeymoon was frequently punctuated with grumbles about ‘Pink Shirt’, ‘Fat Samoan’ and ‘The Inquisitive Brothers’ – to name but a few.

Planes are particularly challenging, claustrophobic environments in which to sit shoulder to shoulder with fellow humans. For instance, there are those passengers who fully recline their seats roughly 20 seconds into the flight, which leaves your headrest TV screen so close to your face you can count the number of screen pixels in Bear Grylls’ eyeball (assuming you’re watching Born Survivor, like I was). I dare say these inconsiderate arseholes would also happily vomit on my Kindle’s screen and wipe their bum on my bread roll, anything to make my flight just that little bit more uncomfortable.

On a flight we took from Perth to Sydney I was driven to distraction by an overweight father of two toddlers, who wandered around the plane constantly – barefoot – like it was his own living room. He spent almost the entire flight doing circuits of the cabin in pursuit of one of his daughters, which was impossible to ignore on account of the fact that Boots Randolph’s ‘Yakety Sax’ rattled through my brain every time he and his daughter whizzed by my seat for the umpteenth time. I then spent the next few hours of the flight fantasising about garrotting him with the cord of my complimentary headphones, or fashioning a shank from the foil tray of my inflight meal; something strong enough to puncture his Hawaiian shirt and the outer wall of protective blubber in which he was encased. However, on the upside, my murderous imaginings actually made the flight pass quite quickly.

It’s also worth mentioning that the sound I associate most with the collapse of civilisation is the chorus of clinks at the end of a flight, when everyone unfastens their seatbelt before the seatbelt sign has been fully extinguished. (Let me repeat that: before the seatbelt sign has been extinguished.) Hell, why don’t we all just charge off the plane, smear shit along the walls of the jetway as we go, pillage each other’s luggage, and rut like stags in the arrivals lounge? Let’s revel in the total breakdown of order!

Unbelievably, I even found someone annoying whilst snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Someone actuallyannoyed me in the middle of the Coral Sea – at a breathtaking World Heritage Site. As I marvelled at the explosion of colourful marine life darting around beneath me, with a vacant expression of total awe – like a man wearing a snorkel mask dipped in paint thinner waiting for the Clown Fish to perform a routine with a bucket of confetti – the bellowing voice of a Russian constantly pierced the calm.  I actually thought I was pretty clever shouting “shut the fuck up!” into my snorkel – until my ears broke the surface of the water and I heard my voice carrying across the waves, sounding like a Borrower hurling abuse from the bottom of bottle.

Thankfully, the Russian didn’t drown me or offer me a polonium-210-coated digestive on the boat journey home, and he eventually piped down and allowed us all to swim around without the commentary.

It should have been hard for me to find anything remotely annoying about the people at Byron Bay, as it’s sort of a mecca for inoffensive types, such as surfers, beach bums and hippies – but I still managed a tiny grumble (even though a bearded old hippie said my wife and I were an “attractive couple” and described me as a “strong man” for carrying a heavy rucksack. He was stoned, obviously, but that’s no reason to doubt his opinion). Basically, everyone in Byron Bay seemed to walk around with their bum out, looking lithe, sexy, bronzed, young and cool, while the surfers darted in and out of the tumbling surf as if they were running a giant thread through the waves in a bold attempt to sew up the ocean. The place has a ridiculously high rate of general attractiveness and effortless cool.

It wasn’t that I found the people themselves annoying, I think I was just annoyed at how old they made me feel. The average male surfer and beach dweller tended to walk around with their shorts sitting just below their Apollo’s belt, while I wandered up and down the beach with my Apollo’s bum bag concealed beneath a t-shirt and some sensibly hoisted cargo shorts. They were young and free, with their lives still ahead of them. Conversely, I could barely remember my youth and freedom, which means that I probably didn’t even know what to do with it when I had it. And now it was gone. I wasted it. That wasn’t the fault of those who’d flocked to Byron Bay, of course, I was just envious of them. It was annoying to think about.

Anyway, I thought I’d better wrap up this blog post by saying something positive, which is that the customer service we received in Australia was possibly the best I’ve ever experienced anywhere, and the vast majority of people we encountered on our travels were beyond fantastic. There was even a guy on one of our flights who retrieved everyone’s hand luggage from the baggage compartment and passed the bags to those who couldn’t reach. Whoever you are, sir, you briefly restored my faith in humanity. Still, me being me, I probably spent more time grumbling about the irritating and inconsiderate few that we came across, which my long-suffering wife will wearily testify to. I honestly don’t know why I do that? I guess I’m just annoying.

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12 Comments

Filed under Personal, Rant

12 responses to “Counting the pixels in Bear Grylls’ eyeball

  1. Damn straight! I hate the general public. French children are possibly the worst – never heard of a queue, sonny?

    Can relate to snorkelling story too: when scuba diving in Egypt, a tortoise-like Italian ‘lady’ kept swimming directly underneath us and then rising suddenly like an octogenarian ninja. No need.

    Glad you had fun though, despite having to mingle with people!

    • andyt

      I knew I could rely on you to harbour a similar hatred of the general public! When snorkelling, I also received a punch to the face and kick to the leg from two different people. My wife also received a kick to the arm, even though we tried to stay at the back away from everyone. Is snorkel rage a thing, do you think? I definitely felt its cold, icy hand on my shoulder. (But that might just have been another snorkeller manhandling me out of the way so they could get a better look at the giant clam beneath us.) Idiots.

  2. Diana

    I too hate the tossers who fully recline their seats the very second the “fasten seatbelt” sign dings off. I usually stare at the back of their headrest, imagining my eyes boring hatred beams into their skulls, and huff and complain loudly (awful I know, but I just can’t help it – my boyfriend always looks embarrassed). Thing is, I can’t just recline my own seat because quite frankly I hate to spend an entire flight in a semi-horizontal state, it feels unnatural. So sometimes I “accidentally” give the back of their seat a hefty kick in frustration. What can I say – I’m a very childish flier.

    • andyt

      If you flew with me, you’d get nothing but support and encouragement for delivering hefty kicks to the fully reclined moron in front. I might even buy you something from the Duty Free trolley as a reward for your fine work. (And I love the term “hatred beams”!)

  3. Andy, you would have loved being at the great barrier reef when we were there. I helpfully puked over the side of the boat (not once, continually) bringing fish from miles around to gorge on the recent contents of my stomache. Jez, meanwhile, managed to rescue about 10 people, men, women and children when we snorkelled off a tiny sand island and half of us realised that we couldn’t swim very well. Yep, I was one of the embarrassed 10 having to be pulled along on a rope whilst trying to look supercool in a wetsuit.

    Congrats on the wedding anyways. Wishing you many happy, not to annoying, years ahead. Jenx

    • andyt

      Jen, your comment made me laugh so much this morning! I think it’s wonderful that you selflessly shared your breakfast with the marine life of the Great Barrier Reef. And the image of you being pulled back to shore on a rope will make me chuckle (in the nicest way possible) for a long time!

      And thanks for the congrats. :o)

  4. Keily

    Fab. I also hate the people, who when we all want that last wee before the seatbelt signs go back on, decide that it’s time for a full body wash, teeth clean and christ knows what else, taking 20 mins while you stand there, legs crossed. And you just KNOW, that that little light is going to come on before they emerge, forcing you back to your seat for the next 40 fucking minutes while the plane lands.
    Glad you had a lovely time, Oz is ace x

    • andyt

      Yes! That is annoying! In fact, I recall waiting for the toilet on the flight home, with Heathrow only about 40 minutes away. Eventually – after a fucking eternity pricking about in the loo – a Singaporean gentleman emerged with wet hair, fresh face, minty breath, and carrying full wash bag. I was absolutely livid.

      Hell, why not run the hot tap and get it all steamy in there, then sit in a towel and beat yourself with some dried branches? Chill out! Relax! It’s not like I’m pissing my pants at 35,000ft or anything. Idiot.

  5. Klare Tootell

    Is it just me that hates it when people come back off holiday/honeymoon with new ‘couple friends’? Being on a tiny island for our honeymoon, Tom and I spent a great deal of time actively and strategically avoiding any couples who might befriend us or do the ‘let’s have dinner together’ crap. Like you, we had nicknames for everybody including a fat German in headscarf who reminded us of Poochie from the Simpsons.

    On our 11hr flight home, we were told the in-flight entertainment was broken with nothing but a couple of screaming toddlers alongside us for distraction. Neither of us had the time on us and the more I lost track of time poor Tom had to put up with me clawing at the window every 20mins, wildly claiming I could definitely see East Anglia coming up, only to accept 4hrs later it was Bulgaria or Lebanon.

    Glad you had a wonderful time though despite the general annoyance of other people.

    • andyt

      I can’t believe you had to endure an 11hr flight home without any in-flight entertainment! Even if it was just one of the cabin crew being made to do a little dance in front of the passengers, at least that’s something.

      We were also very keen not to chat with any other couples. In fact, ‘Pink Shirt’ (who I mention in the blog post), was my nickname for a ‘rival’ couple who were sat in front of me on the flight to Hamilton Island. Firstly, the guy (sitting directly in front of me) had to be told to put his seat forward for landing, even though everyone had just been told to put their seats forward for landing. (So I instantly hated him, thinking: “So, ‘Pink Shirt’, you think the rules don’t apply to you, eh? Well they fucking do!!”

      Then, after we’d landed, ‘Pink Shirt’ (the couple) were just everywhere I turned. The icing on the cake was when everyone was checking into the resort, which led to four queues being formed at the check-in desks at the island’s main hotel. Annoyingly, ‘Pink Shirt’ – so desperate to check-in before everyone else – actually split up so that they could cover two queues at once, with the idea being that one of them would eventually melt into the queue that was progressing fastest. That made me hate them even more.

      Much to my delight, however, neither of their queues were as quick as the one we’d chosen to stand in. So even after we’d been given our room key and had been directed to the waiting golf cart that would transfer us to our Palm Bungalow, they were still huffing, puffing and waiting.

      I didn’t actually hear any of the reception woman’s “welcome to Hamilton Island” spiel because I was too busy being smug.

  6. I, too, find it hilarious how that when one person unclicks the seatbelt, the almost the rest of the airplane follows in action — even before the pilot has turned off the seatbelt sign.

    • andyt

      It’s an unstoppable sound wave of clinks. When one person removes their seatbelt…everyone else follows!

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