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'My 15-hour flight seated next to an abusive drunk guy.'

What’s better than a 15-hour flight? Why, sitting next to an abusive drunk for 15 hours, of course…

I don’t need to explain to any Australian worth their weight in frequent flyer points just how bad the final leg home from an overseas trip can be.

Anything upwards of ten hours on an airplane brings out the very worst in humanity: the farters, the droolers, the aimless walkers, the bad-breath-heavy-breathers, the snorers. And on last week’s final haul from Dubai to Brisbane, I had the bad luck of dealing of the worst of them all: the drinker.

Since I’ve been a child, I’ve had the wonderful ability to fall asleep on demand. I can catch some zzzs anywhere from underneath a table to a clothing store fitting room (a skill I was, unfortunately, fired for when I worked in retail as a student with a penchant for lunchtime siestas).

Plane flights for me are therefore a piece of cake. Whilst others wriggle and writhe and pop sleeping tablets like lollies, I prop myself up on a carefully constructed pillar of flight pillows and drift off to sleep, snoozing peacefully for most of the flight. But not this trip. This trip, my sleeping spell was broken by one very loud, very rude, very drunk Irishman.

It was six hours into a 13-hour flight home and, for the first time in my life, I was still awake.

Nerves? Good book? Waiting on my meal? Eavesdropping on a particularly juicy martial argument?

No, I was awake listing to the sweet strains of a supremely pissed man ranting on to the semi-conscious woman next to me.

Slumped over her tray table with one eye slowly peeling itself open and shut, she was barely managing the ‘uh huh’, and ‘mmm hmm’ that was spurring our Irish friend on. It was a grim scene, and I knew she needed to be saved.

“Anything upwards of ten hours on an airplane brings out the very worst in humanity: the farters, the droolers, the aimless walkers, the bad-breath-heavy-breathers, the snorers. And on last week’s final haul from Dubai to Brisbane, I had the bad luck of dealing of the worst of them all: the drinker.”

In front of him were eight beer cans, two uneaten meals, one bag of pretzels, and three empty plastic cups which – judging by the smell – once housed some of the finest airplane whisky.

He was slurring and waving his beer can around, blissfully unaware of the major stinkeye being thrown his way from surrounding passengers. Alas, it was ‘night time’ at 39,000 feet, and the flight attendants were nowhere to be seen. It was then I realised – WE MUST ALL BE OUR OWN HERO.

Taking off my eye mask, earplugs, travel blanket, snuggle scarf and noise cancelling headphones, I extricated myself from my sleeping cocoon and slapped on my nicest Charming Passenger smile. Leaning over the slumped and exhausted woman to my left, I tapped our vocal friend on the shoulder.

“Sorry, Sir – I don’t want to be painful, but would you mind keeping your voice down?” I beamed my highest-watt smile.

“Wha?”

“Your voice. Could you maybe just like, er, speak a little quieter?”

The look I received was so venomous I may as well have asked him to please put on a tiny bowler hat and perform Liza Minelli’s Cabaret soundtrack up and down the aisle of the plane in fishnet tights and sequinned underwear. My stomach lurched. I had provoked a full-blown crazy.

The diatribe that followed was like a symphony.

It started softly, and slowly, with slurred whispers – “Who the f*ck do you think you are? Lady Muck?” – building up to an impressive crescendo of stabbing the air with his finger and yelling in his Irish accent: “I’m in the IRA! I could have your throat slit!”

It wasn’t funny.

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He began pushing the woman in between us over from side to side as he tried to physically get into my space, he violently swatted away her hand when she tried to hold it up to say ‘calm down’, he hurled insult after insult at me, and overall just asserted the fact that he was big, and I was small, and that was making me – despite every ounce of shrieking feminist I am proud to be – very, very scared.

Sandwiched between an abusive drunk and a plane wall 39,000 feet in the air, where the hell was I meant to go?

“He hurled insult after insult at me, and overall just asserted the fact that he was big, and I was small, and that was making me – despite every ounce of shrieking feminist I am proud to be – very, very scared.”

Twenty minutes after the drama begun, a weary-looking flight attendant showed up.

The passengers surrounding our seat (pathetically quiet up until now) decided to pipe up and support my sad tale of the drunk Irishman. Who, at that very moment, was hazily text messaging the IRA about my imminent throat-slitting whilst swigging from his 9th can of beer. I decided against reminding him that there was no reception in the air.

Slightly trembling and on the verge of tears – hunger, mostly –  I gathered up my sad little collection of my most treasured inflight possessions (travel pillow, sour cream and chives pringles, tube of paw-paw ointment, and unread Time magazine) and sniffed pathetically as I was forced to crawl over the drunken villain. Who, surprise surprise, refused to move from his seat. Like an embattled victim, I shuffled my way forward to the smiling flight attendant waiting for me in the airplane kitchen.

Throwing myself into her very surprised arms, I began to cry and choke out what petty insults I could manage: “He (gulp) was (gulp) a (sob) BASTARD!”

It took 20 minutes for a flight attendant to show up.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. Emirates moved me to a new seat, in between two men whose only crimes were claiming the arm rests. I ordered an apple juice. I ate my Pringles. I read my Time magazine, I watched a movie, and I knocked over at least half of my email inbox, which – when offline – finally felt like an evenly matched enemy. But I did not, and could not, sleep.

I wanted to have a rant about this incident for three reasons.

1) Firstly, whoever you are that was seated in 66E on the Emirates flight from Dubai to Brisbane last Wednesday, shame on you. I hope your hangover was BRUTAL. Also, you’re a scary, mean, and abusive drunk. Get a grip.

2) Secondly – what happened to the good Samaritan? Of the fifteen or so people within earshot of the conversation (if you could call it that), not one of you stepped in to help me. May the in-flight Gods one day also curse you with a Drunken Irishman.

3) Lastly, if you are a flight attendant, I implore you to be more careful with the serving of booze on long haul flights. Everyone on that plane paid the same fare to be there. We were all exhausted. We all just wanted to get home. We didn’t need the in-air dramz.

And let me tell you, if this Irish moron has ruined my ability to sleep on planes forevermore – God help him. I might even call in the IRA.

What do you think? Should alcohol be banned on planes?

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