Tom Wrigglesworth on the joys of summer holiday air travel
PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 August 2017
Tom faces some of his worst fears on a stag do in Magaluf
I’m often told that public speaking tops the list of spine-twistingly terrifying things anyone can put themselves through. As a stand up comedian who voluntarily does this about four times a week, I can honestly say that while I do still find the idea of being the centre of attention about as comfortable as a bank holiday Megabus, the reality is more like jumping into a cold sea or the first meeting of your future in-laws. Once you start, it’s seldom as bad as you originally feared.
I reckon my biggest fear is being ‘that guy’. By which I mean that guy rummaging around the pub floor because he’s lost his phone, that guy who puts petrol in a diesel car, or that guy who name is blasted out over the tannoy system in an airport. And last week, guess what? I was that guy.
I had agreed to go on a stag do to Magaluf. For context, the friends involved in this sortie are 41 years old. In Magaluf, the average age of a combat stag do-er is 19. Here, the stag do-er would typically serve a four day tour of duty, but they would be exposed to heavy alcohol, street brawls and pick pockets almost every day.
Due to work commitments, I’d arranged to be airlifted into the combat zone a day after my comrades. Now, it could have been the four hours sleep I’d had, it could have been that spending any time with my oldest school friends had caused me to regress into a helpless, childlike state, but it was probably a deep subconscious attempt to go AWOL for the whole trip.
What could possibly go wrong with a 7.30am flight from East Midlands? I mean, the maths were simple enough, if the gate closes at 7am, I need to be at the airport at 6am, so I have to be in the car at 5am. Easy. But at some point during my all too brief slumber the night before, I must have forgotten I was borrowing my dad’s Toyota, which is a normal car, not a teleportation booth.
Somehow, I set off at 6am, the time I was supposed to be at the airport. This myth was confounded by the clock on my dad’s car still showing the winter time and being an hour behind.
The first 15 minutes of the journey were spent in happy oblivion. I only became aware of my pending nightmare as I tootled through the McDonalds drive-thru. Smugly thinking I had plenty of time, I quipped to the dismembered voice taking my order how grateful I was that McDonalds serves coffee at just gone five in the morning. ‘Well we don’t’, replied the voice. ‘We opened at six.’
I can’t imagine many people arrive at a drive-thru in a calm and collected manner then completely change their attitude between ordering and the collection point, so I would like to apologise to the staff of Chesterfield McDonalds for speeding off without paying for, or indeed collecting, my sausage McMuffin and large coffee.
Upon my frantic arrival at the airport minutes before the gate closed, I cursed myself again for picking the cheapest option regarding mid-term parking. I thought saving a few quid by agreeing to park in the ‘field full of sheep just a simple 15 minutes walk to the terminal’ was a good idea. It’s amazing how adrenaline, no breakfast and a wheeled suitcase can turn a 15 minute walk into a 14 and a half minute sweat-soak stagger.
At this point I had all but written off catching the plane. I was braced for an over-priced re-booking charge and a mind-numbing day at the airport.
If there’s one thing budget airlines excel at, it’s screwing customers over if they veer from the tightly worded agreement. We’ve all heard horror stories of folk being half a gram over their weight allowance, and being forced to remortgage their house to get to their destination, so it was with no confidence that I approached the customer service counter of Jet2 and explained that I am about to be ‘that guy’. Incredibly, what followed was a display of logistics, communication and downright being nice from the staff at, I’m proud to say, the Yorkshire airline Jet2.
As customer service agent ‘Shaz’ and I sprinted through the terminal we were rushed through security, cheered on by headset wearing members of staff and miraculously, I was ushered onto the plane seconds before take off.
Once I met my platoon in Magaluf, we avoided the street brawls between the 19-year-olds, but the alcohol exposure was so great, I did fall foul of a pick pocketer and managed to lose my phone.
Arriving back at East Midlands, a mixture of hangover, chronic lack of sleep and general relief that we were home in roughly one piece caused me to well and truly take my eye off the ball and fill my dad’s diesel car with petrol.
I’d pretty much lived through my three worst fears within 72 hours but I can confidently say, I’d take public speaking, even dying on stage, over this debacle any day of the week.