Robert Gott, bearing up in economy.

Books, On the Run

Taking our brand of crime to the US … or how I broke the flight barrier

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Crime writers Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott, Jock Serong and Emma Viskic have begun their US tour, On The Run: Australian Crime Writers In America, and have promised a daily update of proceedings.

In this first instalment, ROBERT GOTT gets down and dirty in the air … dealing with the horror that is economy class, coping with fellow travellers and spilling wine, while still maintaining an optimistic, if self-congratulatory, tone. 


There are so many things I hate about flying. I know there are so many things we all hate about flying, but just at the moment I’m flying and you’re not, so my entitled complaining seems personally compelling. All the awful things about flying begin long before you get on the plane. Our flight was early in the morning so Jock Serong, who lives in Port Fairy, stayed the night at my place. That’s not one of the awful things, although Jock might beg to differ. The futon in the front room has full clearance in Pyongyang as a sleep deprivation tool. Also, the room is piled high with books many of which have lain undisturbed for so long that what lies beneath them is a mystery. The Beaumont children? I just don’t know.

The awfulness began with the taxi driver. We’d barely gone 500 metres before we learned that Jesus loves us all and that mothers needed to teach their daughters how to cook because no marriage could survive a wife who couldn’t offer her husband a hearty meal at the end of his manly day. In an aside he declared that if more people ate almonds fewer of them would need Panadol. He needs to put almonds in his taxi because I certainly felt a sudden need for analgesics after chatting to him.

I don’t know about you, but as we’re queuing and as we board and as people take forever to stow their luggage, my thoughts turn to death.

We arrived way too early, which meant enduring the autopsy lighting at check-in for longer than is good for anyone’s self-esteem.

I am not a misanthrope, really I’m not, but I hope we can all agree that people are frightful, and that’s just how it is. I wouldn’t have thought, for example, that queuing would fall outside anyone’s basic skill set, and yet there are those who stand dumbly still as the people ahead of them move on. There are even those who require a nudge to activate their lapsed synapses, and not just one nudge but a battery of them.

We’re flying QANTAS. Economy. I’d hate you to think we were comfortable. I spilled red wine on the white pillow on the seat beside me, not long after take off. Fortunately, it was a spare seat between me and Sulari, otherwise a very angry stranger would be demanding we swap trousers and trousers swapped in anger is no way to start a journey. That’s been my experience at any rate.

I don’t know about you, but as we’re queuing and as we board and as people take forever to stow their luggage, my thoughts turn to death. Are these the people I want to die with? Is the jerk in front of me who pushes his seat back aggressively, and who adjusts it again and again, is he the person I want to share the inflatable life-raft with? No, he isn’t, because I’m fairly confident he’s an arsehole. I’m also fairly confident he’s colour blind. I’m judging this from what he chose to leave his house wearing. An ophthalmic disability is the only explanation.

And then there is the inescapable effluvia issuing forth from my fellow travellers – and yes, from me too. I breathe; I effluviate. It’s just the volume that is horrifying. Please, someone, open a window.

For an introduction to this series, click here.

4 responses to “Taking our brand of crime to the US … or how I broke the flight barrier

  1. As Robert is fully aware, I am not an avid reader. I am, however, the partner of his sister Linda. I therefore feel obliged, almost compelled, to tune in each day thesaurus in hand. It is a somewhat soothing feeling to know that each day, I will have access to the diaries of these four amazing Australian ambassadors. One is family, another I have had the privilege of meeting. The other 2 I look forward to learning more about through this medium. Kudos to you all.

  2. Three words, Rob: EXTRA LEGROOM SEAT. I know you and Jock are on the short side but it’d take the arsehole in front out of the equation – and you’d have the benefit of being first down slide and first in the raft if things went pear-shaped (ie. you could decide when to push away from the sinking plane) Or, if it’s a Miracle on The Hudson scenario, you’d be the first to get views of the Manhattan skyline from the water, trying not to spill the red wine as you exit onto the wing.

    PS . Did you get that phone at Cash Converters on Sydney Rd? If so, it’s probably stolen, though you’d be protected by the statute of limitations. They haven’t made those since 1995. I see you have the model without an aerial….

  3. Surely four crime writers with time on their hands can devise a way to dispose of a simple aeroplane seat-mover*? Without leaving any clues of course. There aren’t any mustachioed Frenchmen wearing Homburg hats on the plane are there?

    *Why are the seats still allowed to move now that they’ve removed ‘all’ the room behind them?

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