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An excerpt from my autobiographical book, "Who's that weirdo dancing in the corner?"

July 1999

"Fuck this shit. I‟m never hopping on a plane again. Flying and me are finished."

That was the claim I made and had every intention of sticking to, until I remembered I was on a plane to Fiji at the time. Fiji being an island, unless I wanted to charter a boat across the Pacific or swim home to Australia, meant I was going to have to catch a flight back.

As part of Manny‟s visa requirements to leave the country every six months, we decided to spend a week in Fiji.

Bronson dropped us off at Sydney airport and we did all the check-in malarkey. We bought some cheap, 1litre bottles of bourbon and vodka, duty free and went to the departure lounge. We waited impatiently for the call to board the plane. A week away on a tropical island, leaving the middle of winter behind us, couldn‟t come fast enough.

Soon we were boarding the plane and sitting in our seats. The usual preparations were taking place for takeoff as we started to taxi onto the runway. The plane moved into position, waited briefly for the all-clear, and then, the familiar feeling of being pushed back in our seats as the plane charged down the runway. Those twenty odd seconds careering down the runway can take forever sometimes. Just when it felt like the plane should be taking off, the plane started to behave as if we‟d just landed. The brakes came on, the wing flaps opened, our seatbelts stopped us from moving forward and the plane was well and truly still on the ground.

All the passengers looked at each other confused as the plane taxied back to the terminal. Soon after, the Captain announced over the PA that there had been a problem with the take off system. We were back at the terminal and we could see out the window, men working under the plane. Time passed and passengers spoke of other experiences of long delays sitting on the tarmac.

Just to go on a tangent here. My friend Julia has this great story of when she was on a flight from Frankfurt to London and the plane was delayed. She and her fellow passengers sat in the plane for hours without going anywhere. Julia struck up a conversation with an Italian lad sitting nearby. Just as it looked as if the long delay was coming to an end, and the plane might be on its way, Julia asked the Italian,

"What are you doing in London? Have you been there before?"

"London? I‟m going to Rome."

"But this plane goes to London."

The Italian asked someone else; "London." was the reply.

Julia told me of the absolute panic that came over this guy‟s face as he realised he was on the wrong plane. So the plane was delayed even longer as they had to get the Italian off.

Getting back to our flight to Fiji, we didn‟t have to wait long before the Captain came back over the PA to inform us of what was going on. Now, I‟m not the bravest of flyers and I find taking off the scariest part. I heard once that it‟s the most dangerous part of flying. So I, too, had a look of panic on my face when the Captain announced;

"Ladies and Gentlemen, engineers have been working to fix the problem. We‟re not sure if the problem is fixed but I‟ve decided we‟re going to take off anyway."

My God! Who the fuck says that to a plane full of people when their safety is in your hands? The announcement raised more than a few eyebrows amongst the passengers. Children can be so honest sometimes, and funny. I said sometimes. I didn‟t find it funny at all when a boy sitting nearby asked his father,

"What happens if we take off and we fall back down to the ground?"

The boy gave a demonstration with his hand in case we didn‟t understand the implications of falling to the ground. A valid question I thought. One I wanted to ask the Captain. Daddy just dismissed it, "Oh don‟t be silly, Son."

So without the all clear from the engineers, the plane was once again preparing for takeoff. As we sped down the runway, I was twice as nervous as usual and held on tightly to my armrests. It didn‟t help that the plane was shaking like a mother fucker and making all sorts of noises. My imagination ran wild. I was worried the plane my not hold together. I‟ve caught many flights in my time and have a good idea of the usual noises a plane makes but I didn‟t recognise the loud grinding noises that could be heard. The plane managed to take off. At the time I wished it had stayed on the ground. The plane was still shaking and rattling during our ascent and then just to add to my fear of the plane falling apart, the big screen that shows the in-flight entertainment fell off the wall. Scared witless this is when I declared to never hop on another plane again.

Once up at cruising altitude, the rest of the flight went quite smoothly. I calmed down and once again looked forward to spending a week on a tropical island. There were the odd periods of turbulence and on one occasion Manny spilt her orange juice all over the in-flight magazine leaving a big orange stain. Smooth flight or not, I was happy to be alive when we landed at Nadi airport.

Shit Mick, who says, "We have a problem, don‟t know if it‟s been rectified, but let‟s risk our lives anyway"? It‟s like saying, "I don‟t know if I packed our parachutes properly but let‟s jump and find out."

Well Manny and I spent a very relaxing week in the sun. From good food and drink, to friendly locals and travellers, to snorkelling and sunbaking, through to cheap shopping, we had a lot of fun. A highlight was spending a few days on Beachcomber Island, a small island that took just seven minutes to walk one lap around its shore.

The week was over and it was time to catch our flight home. At the airport, I said, "After this next flight, I‟m not flying again."

Manny and I were a bit apprehensive, especially as there had been a Fijian internal flight, crash land in the mountains during the week. We boarded the plane and for some reason we had the same seats we had on the outbound trip. We sat down and Manny pulled out the in-flight magazine and AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!! We were on the same fuckin‟ plane. There, on the magazine, was the same orange juice stain from when Manny spilt her drink during the flight over.

We made it back to Sydney alive with plenty of stories to tell our friends. It was 16 months before I‟d hop on a plane again. It was pointed out to me later that the Captain knew what he was doing. If the take off system hadn‟t been repaired the plane would never have left the ground. Of course, I knew that.

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