A long flight to Los Angeles

“Hi there, I’m Chantelle,” says Chantelle, drinking a glass of champagne.

I’m on an aeroplane. An Air New Zealand aeroplane, NZ001 to be exact, flying to Los Angeles. I’m sitting in business class for this ten-hour flight: a business class flight paid-for by using a particular credit-card and flying a particular airline alliance for a long time, and most certainly not paid for in full, because that way, madness lies.

Chantelle is a lawyer for “the entertainment business”. She joined this flight in Heathrow from Copenhagen, where she’d been working. Last week, she tells anyone who can hear her, which is most people, she was in Germany. She has a meeting in Los Angeles tomorrow morning, but by 10.00pm she’ll be back at Los Angeles airport for another flight, this time to Boston. “I think that flight mileage points are in inverse proportion to quality of life,” she says. She requests another champagne. She has unnaturally fat lips, unnaturally taut cheeks, and the face of a 30 year-old. She has grizzly, old, wrinkly, 50 year-old hands. She is wearing a hat. She has a horse. “I’m going straight from the flight to the stables”.

She’s talking loudly to Paula, who’s sitting behind me. Paula is a quieter British woman with typical British reserve, who appears to be privately thrilled at flying business class to LA. Paula works as a PR person for a major record label. Paula is wearing sensible clothes and a sensible haircut and is not wearing a hat. There’s this conference she wants to be at in LA, but she’s recently had a promotion, and she’s swapped the drudgery of purely pan-European travel for the excitement of travelling over to the US. Paula’s quiet, and aware that we’re not the only person on this aeroplane.

Chantelle knows someone at Paula’s major record label. “You must know Blahdey-Blah,” she shouts at Paula. Paula doesn’t. Paula’s not really in that area. And there are thousands of fucking people in her fucking company, Chantelle you idiot, you can almost hear her saying, except she isn’t saying that out loud, because that would be rude, and British people aren’t rude, even to loud Californians.

“Say, who’s gonna win this one?” bellows Chantelle, pointing at the newspaper’s coverage of the UK General Election. Paula carefully steers clear of answering. Paula’s clearly very good in PR. I feel no option but to jump into the conversation. I opine that nobody will win. Chantelle looks confused. “But who’s gonna be your prime minister?” barks Chantelle. I say who I reckon will be in charge of a hung parliament. Paula looks horrified that I’ve expressed an opinion without checking with my lawyer.

Chantelle is one of those people who remembers your name, and uses it a lot. “So, what’s your name,” she shouts. I tell her. “And what do you do, James?” Well, I kind of work in radio, I tell her, characteristically playing my role down in that British way. She looks unimpressed. “Are you an engineer, James? You look like an engineer, James.” I thank her with heavy irony, then realise that was a little pointless. What the fuck does an engineer look like, anyway? I wear glasses. I am wearing a blue shirt with jeans on. Does that make me look like a fucking engineer? These are things I think to myself, in an irritated manner.

Chantelle is aware that life is difficult for the music business right now. She’s of the opinion that the music industry is all over the place. “It’s all about digitising,” she barks. “It’s all about the digitising”, she repeats, as if it makes it any more comprehensible. According to her, there are two types of music lawyers, deal-makers and deal-breakers. I opine that I’ve only met the latter. “Then you’ve met the wrong ones,” she announces to the cabin at large. “The wrong ones”. And with that, I’m no longer an interesting person to Chantelle.

Chantelle presses the hostess call button. “I wanna see Avatar,” she screams into the steward’s ear. The steward starts showing her how the system works. “I don’t care, honey, just find Avatar for me, and set it going.” The steward does.

Chantelle presses the hostess call button. “No sound,” she shouts down the cabin. A steward comes up to see her. “Goodness, how have you plugged that in there, that’s the power socket”, he says, surprised. “That’s why there’s no sound”. He fixes it. “There you go”.

Chantelle presses the hostess call button. She requests some more champagne. “I’ve had a long day so far. I think that flight mileage points are in inverse proportion to quality of life”, she adds. “I own a horse. Home is where the horse is,” she adds. “I’m going straight from the flight to the stables”.

Chantelle leans over to Paula and I and yells “Hey, it’s gonna be a long flight, huh?”

I think to myself.


Yes, it is.