Airport Mammy, the Irish woman who’s having none of it, is a national treasure

Brianna Parkins: I heard a loud ‘Excuse me just one second now!’ Airport Mammy stepped forward

People love to complain about flying. There’s a wealth of material that’s been bled dry by 1990s-era comedians. There’s the gelatinous nutritional mystery served in sticky tinfoil that passes for food for a start.

But none of this really bothers me. I have done six 27-hour trips in the air in the past 18 months. I know all the hacks. From where to transit, to which seat on a Boeing Airbus A380 gets served their free-flowing wine first. I pay good money to go with decent airlines where the bridges are always connected to the plane so I don’t have to do an undignified shuffle across the tarmac. But even with all these little luxuries, I still don’t escape the pain of air travel.

That’s because the only issue I have with flying is the other people.

There’s something about aviation that causes humans to act like we are the only one of our kind left in the world whenever we hit an airport and we become feral.

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Based on the behaviour I’ve witnessed on one leg alone, I think I’m going to finish myself off rather than attempt to survive any impending collapse of society

Suddenly we’re unable to respect personal space and consider the needs of others. We’re hoarding USB outlets for multiple devices so that our family may live (sit quietly for a few hours) even if others may die (go without their curated Beyoncé hen’s party amp-up playlist).

People rush on to flights so that they can jam their carry-on suitcase into the locker above their seat lest their last worldly possessions be stripped away instead of being just checked into a different part of the plane.

They crowd the luggage carousel, blocking everyone else’s view with their craned necks, keeping a close eye out for their bag. As if a Penneys hard shell with county ribbon on it containing souvenir shot glasses shaped like a woman’s breasts in a bikini top is prime target for thieves.

It feels like planes make people forget about the laws of physics. They forget they are solid and will just walk through you in the aisle – clearly only made for one person at a time – just so they can rush to sit down in a seat they won’t be able to leave for the next 14 hours at least.

It’s a small glimpse into what the apocalypse will look like. How incredibly determined we are to ruthlessly satisfy our own needs. Based on the behaviour I’ve witnessed on one leg alone, I think I’m going to finish myself off rather than attempt to survive any impending collapse of society.

Forgive me for not trusting my life with the woman who I saw barely 10 minutes ago get 1 litre of hand soap confiscated at security because she failed to understand basic instructions

I view flying as a group survival experience. We’re all strapped in together and it’s up to us to determine what kind of time we’re going to have. Help a mum with her arms full of squirming toddlers fold up her pushchair so we can get on board quicker. Don’t get too drunk that you need to be escorted off the plane, holding everyone up.

But others view it as a chance to practise their cunning self-preservation skills by demanding more blankets, hogging the arm rests and trying to claim empty seats as their own as if it was a sky bus and not a plane where tickets are thousands of euro and people pay to select their seats.

Don’t get me started on the exit row passengers who are meant to be all that stands between us and survival in case of an accident. Forgive me for not trusting my life with the woman who I saw barely 10 minutes ago get 1 litre of hand soap confiscated at security because she failed to understand basic instructions.

However, humans are also sometimes the thing that gets us through sitting in a metal tube for hours watching the same movies, eating Pringles and breathing in recycled farts.

Such as the Airport Mammy – the assigned middle-aged Irish woman who appears when you most need her to sort things out when an airline has done you a dirty deed and doesn’t seem to care.

I heard a very loud, very assertive, ‘Excuse me for just one second now!’ in a Galway accent from a passenger wearing orthopaedic shoes

We arrived early into Heathrow for our connecting Dublin flight but were told we were too late by the airline staff as we needed to clear security and the lines were long. They kept repeating that we had missed our flight, and not that actually we were on time, but they would not fast track us through the counters the airport did not have enough staff on. They dismissed us with a flick of their uniformed hand and went to clack off on their high heels until I heard a very loud, very assertive, “Excuse me for just one second now!” in a Galway accent from a passenger wearing orthopaedic shoes.

It was our designated volunteer Airport Mammy stepping up and using her special powers all Irish women of a certain age seem to have when it comes to straightening out situations that just won’t do at all.

She persistently argued her case while we, a crowd of grown adult strangers, stood behind her adding only emphatic nods, and before long we were all rebooked on earlier flights and with a refreshment voucher for our troubles. I would have followed that woman into battle.

There’s a certain type of veteran Irish lady who is having none of it and they are our national treasures.

If we could figure out how to harness the grand coalition of Marys/Assumptas/Bridies and weaponise them for the greater good, we would have the health service and housing crisis sorted in time to put a roast on for tea.

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