Chav takes a plane (IV) : X-rays

Security checks always made Chav feel guilty about something he hadn’t done, however cordial the agents were being. Maybe more if they’re especially friendly because then something doesn’t quite seem to fit, they should be strict in their mirror glasses and buffed black boots, then at least you can whip up hate for them in revenge for the humiliation of having to remove your belt and see your bags ravished. He always felt most relieved when they didn’t ask him to take his shoes off, and not just because he might have accidentally put on socks with holes in or ones that flopped about on the end of your foot like a spent johnny.

To while the time away and to cover for his nervousness Chav was just playing with the rollers on the ramp where your case comes out of the X-ray machine, surreptitiously spinning them backwards to see if he could slow the trays as they trundled down the ramp, when he saw that his own had been diverted from the main track and was now on a kind of parallel Suspect Luggage lane behind thick, bombproof plexiglass. A cul-de-sac, a blind alley, a roadblock, an end of the line.

Chav, more disappointed at finding his accoutrements slandered than annoyed at the setback, still harrumphed chastely to himself, knowing that it meant he would have to comply with the command to open his case and they might want to rummage in his dirty linen and then there’d be all the hassle of putting the Bourbon biscuit packs back in unbreakable, tidy rows. Ah, so it could be the biscuits that looked like bite-sized sticks of dynamite on the screen.

Wrong. The security guard must have had his lunch already and had no interest in the biscuits but wanted to know what the three metal objects were that he and his pals had seen on the screen. Chav smiled in relief and told him that it was just a set of glowplug sockets he’d bought to fix his niece’s car because it would only start reluctantly and when it did it coughed up great clouds of black smoke and purple haze.

Chav was a bit puzzled that even though the guard now knew that the objects were harmless, he still wanted to actually see the long, gunbarrel-shaped chunks of metal sitting in a pretty row in their blue plastic snapcase, and he foolishly assumed that the guy was a toolhead like himself and wanted to leer at a tasty piece of shiny chrome-vanadium, so he gladly complied with the request, only to feel totally perplexed when the guy dismissed them with absolute disinterest. Luckily the man wasn’t being too thorough and didn’t require him to pull out the phone charger he had jammed tightly into a spare shoe with a clean pair of socks. It made you feel safe to know they were doing their job, even if they do try to humiliate amateur mechanics by sticking the drugs and explosives sniffer probe into their dirty clothes bags. The guy waved him away.

Cleared of smuggling or otherwise, Chav repacked the case, put on his belt, slipped phone and wallet into the left front pocket of his trousers, pouch of tobacco into the back left, coins and handkerchief in the rear right, keys and lighter in the right-hand front, and put his reading glasses back on his forehead. If you wear your glasses on your head people look at you while still some distance away but when you get closer they look away for some reason best known to themselves. So maybe it works as a handy barrier to keep people at arm’s length, as might a woolly rasta hat, a Hell’s Angels grubby denim waistcoat or fluorescent pink tights.

Chav takes a plane (II)

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting extracts from my forthcoming new book – this time a novel – provisionally titled “Chav takes a plane”. Feedback welcome!

Filling an aircraft with people is a slow process. Chav bumped his case up a couple of steps each time a traveller disappeared from sight above him. Luckily he had done this before, as well as seen it happen on television, so it wasn’t as if he was worried about being swallowed by a giant bird and anyway, through the portholes he could see people moving, not swimming in avian gastric juices. He imagined trying to explain the procedure to a redneck member of a lost tribe from the Appalachian mountains and reassuring them that yes, even though the wheels did indeed fold up into the fuselage, flying differed to taking a Greyhound bus only in minor details, no chickens allowed on board, that sort of thing.

Once on the plane, case stashed wheels-first in the overhead locker, Chav sat down in his seat, 17E. On his lap he held the brown plastic carrier bag containing the last of Diana’s apples as well as what he suspected was the last cheese and tomato sandwich and a brightly-coloured plastic packet of chewy, gummy, rubbery, slightly sickly pseudo sealife brought along to counteract high-altitude ear-popping. Moments later he was joined by a tall, bearded young lad who sat next to the aisle. More moments later they both got up again to let the occupant of the window seat get by, a young woman who said something to Chav which he missed even though she was speaking in English. Luckily, whilst making the utterance she was also pointing to the seat next to him so he got the gist anyhow.

He hoped she wouldn’t be one of those people that takes the window seat and then doesn’t bother to look out, but to pay extra to reserve your place sounded to Chav like an attempt to buy freedom from the claws of fate, and taking pot luck on the seat you were assigned – even if the lots were drawn by a machine – better reflected his attitude towards determinism. Just imagine you paid to get seat 17F and that was the only one on the plane decimated by a stray meteorite or seared by a blast of green zap from a trigger-happy Klingon.

Chav checked his mobile for the last time before switching it into flight mode. The window-seat girl turned a page in her virtual romance with a dainty finger-swipe across the tablet touchscreen. Chav checked to make sure his seatbelt was tight and half-listened to the cabin staff doing their safety demonstration. The part he always liked best is when they put a lifejacket over their heads and pretend to be blowing it up through the spout should it not inflate automatically when he pulled the cord or if it started to deflate, pummelled by dark, heavy night-time seas. And the whistle that went with it to call the attention of rescuers. And the call to adopt the “Brace! Brace!” position which really did turn out to be the best option in a crash, confirmed in a test in which aeronautical scientists actually wrecked a real jetliner in the Mexican desert the day before their permit ran out, and the test dummies that didn’t put their heads down got hit by flying debris. Mind you, later on he remembered that he hadn’t been watching when they pointed at the nearest exits, which might be behind him. He popped a jelly mermaid into his mouth without biting off its head so that it would not suffer, then promptly chewed and sucked it to death, getting bits of blue fish-tail stuck between his teeth.