Review: Air Babylon
This book by Imogen Edwards-Jones tells the tale of a character who works on a big airline. It actually feels like a collection of hilarious anecdotes tied together by something vaguely resembling a storyline.
For instance, we get ironic puns about how to get Semtex bombs aboard, details about the irritating boy band who sneaks away with the hosties in first class and how rude people get tagged at check-in so they later can be served food spiced with laxative. For the extra juicy bits, we learn how to effectively deal with couples getting it on in the tiny toilet space while a large queue is waiting outside as well as what really happens when the tired crew get together in a small space with a lot of tax-free alcohol. In other words, no big surprises here.
Furthermore, it goes into great length to explain why luggage always get lost at Heathrow, what the hostesses really feel about the ridiculous rules being enforced after 9/11 and how “far queue” is the most polite way of saying “fuck you” to people who do and don’t deserve it. The stories goes on about dropping wheels before landing, hiding people who die during the flight and proper handling of snakes on a plane (not the movie).
The tone is definitely elitist and often aggressive against all those who fail any of the thousand informal rules set by the crew, frustrated as they are by the stressful and ungrateful job.
“There’s a saying at the airport that passengers pack their brains in their suitcases before they arrive; they are always disoriented, distracted and seemingly incapable of looking after themselves. ‘Airport brain’ is an official phenomenon. It is the only way to explain why perfectly normal people suddenly become useless as soon as they set foot inside a terminal.”
I see her point and I sometimes resemble a vegetable at airports myself, but the easy explanation is of course that people are tired from long journeys, disoriented by jumping time zones, low on nutrients due to irregular dining hours and so on.
It’s witty, cynical and often very entertaining. Most likely popular with airline employees. I remember reading this book on a flight from Singapore when the steward approached me with a big grin and said “great book! you’ll love it!”.