News, Culture & Society

Elizabeth Day tells it like it is: ‘I’m a monster when I travel’ 

Elizabeth Day tells it like it is: ‘I’m a monster when I travel’

It’s lucky I didn’t have to get a flight from Gatwick over Christmas. The disruption caused by those pesky drones would have infuriated me for two reasons. The first is that, in my experience, people with drones are awful. They are the worst type of technology geek, the kind who pores, sweaty-palmed, over gadget catalogues and gets excited at the thought of installing invisible cameras on the dashboard of their wife’s Fiat Uno. Whenever I’ve met someone who has a drone, they will bore on for hours about what a ‘great piece of kit’ it is. I wonder whether they’re called drones because, once someone owns one, they drone on about them until the end of time?

‘I’m going to try to be more zen when I travel. We’ll see how it goes,’ writes Elizabeth Day

But there’s another reason why the interminable flight delays would have left me in a state of apoplexy and that is because, when I travel, I become a monster. An overly long queue at check-in for a flight can have me muttering loudly under my breath about how the airline really should open up another desk. In the security lane, I will be audibly sighing at the family in front who have failed to remove their iPads from their bags and who seem surprised that they must take off their coats and boots, and utterly amazed to discover that there is a 100ml limit on liquids or gels.

While waiting to board a budget airline with randomly allocated seating, I will be the one giving death stares to the customers who have been sensible enough to fork out extra for speedy boarding – an expense that seemed so ludicrous at the time of booking (along with the additional cost of putting a case in the hold) that I had blithely laughed at the computer screen and congratulated myself on being a seasoned traveller who did not require the comfort of such amateurish excess. Of course, by the time I get to the departure lounge I’m so frazzled that I regret this insane decision. But, like childbirth, you forget how bad it was the previous time, and so I’m condemned for ever to make the same mistakes.

When I’m on the plane, God save you if there isn’t enough room for my case in the overhead locker. I will manhandle your anoraks and your duty-free bags and squash them into the corners until the sweat trickles down my back and I will shoehorn my case into the improbably small remaining area. While doing this, I will casually ignore the air steward who gently tells me there’s not enough room, madam, and why don’t we take it further down the aircraft, madam, because I refuse to have my case stored anywhere other than above my head.

Why am I like this? In normal life, I believe I’m a fairly calm and reasonable individual, but there’s something about modern travel that brings out my inner Hulk. I’m not the only one. I’ve seen it happen with friends and family, too. I think it’s because we live in an era of immediacy, where we have been subconsciously trained to expect the instant gratification of our desires. If we don’t know the answer to a question, we google it. If we want a book or a dress or a new frying pan, we order it to be delivered the next day. It’s a service economy that encourages us to rate everything from taxis to restaurant meals. So if we want to travel somewhere, we expect it to happen with the utmost efficiency, no matter how little we’re paying for the privilege. In this haste and rush to judgment, perhaps I’ve forgotten the simple joy of being transported from one place to another.

I’m going to try to be more zen when I travel. We’ll see how it goes. I’m currently writing this on a train and am trying not to be annoyed that the passenger next to me has claimed the one and only socket to charge her phone. Still, at least she hasn’t got a drone.

This week I’m…  

Reading Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith, a book about a man murdering his wife’s lover that manages to be both chilling and humorous.

Wearing Brushed-cotton pyjamas from Muji to get me through January. They’re soft, durable and don’t shrink in the first wash like some brands.

Listening to The Archers. I’ve been a fan since I was four. It’s got better of late, mostly thanks to the scandals of Lower Loxley twins Freddie and Lily.


Main photograph: Jenny Brough. Jumper, Bella Freud. Skirt, Kitri.