Sunday, November 4, 2007

Flying the bump

I am on a business trip to Singapore this week. Although I travel a fair amount for my job, this is the first trip in a while and the first since bump became obvious. It was booked a few weeks ago, the company insurance has been checked and our team assistant had checked with the airline that they would take a hazardous load. All they required was a doctor's letter saying I was safe to fly. On the basis that Dr D is still encouraging me to do almost anything, he happily signed the letter.

Now, I must selfishly admit, I was rather looking forward to the trip (work aside). More so than Europe, Asia is incredibly child-centric. Being pregnant is viewed as a blessed state, and people usually bend over backwards to look after you. Asian airlines have amazing service, so what better than to be pampered and cared for in business class on the plane? Hmmm, it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Clearly the ethos is that if you are silly enough to fly when you are 30 weeks pregnant then you deserve all the inconvenience you get. It wasn't helped by the fact that I was carrying with me 120 red envelopes with reports in, ten tin cans and 2 kg of flour, two huge A1 posters, a laptop, and a magnetic dartboard (it will take me too long to explain why).

At check-in the clerk had no idea what to do with me. Once she had established I was more than 20 weeks gone, she then stumbled through a series of screens looking increasingly worried until ultimately calling her supervisor who scrolled through a few more screens and eventually allowed me to check in. They made a huge fuss, and I wouldn't have been surprised if she had insisted I stick a "fragile" sticker on the bump.

Once on the plane, I was hoping for a little special treatment. Not a lot, I am not that demanding, but maybe a hot towel, or offering to help me put my things in the overhead locker. I stumbled down the walkway, being shoved out of the way by huffy businessmen who were in a rush to get to their pre-assigned seat and sit there stationary for 4 hours. When I got onto the plane (with a helpful "mind the step" comment because us pregnant women are a bit stupid) I was shown to my seat and asked to make sure I put everything in the overhead locker. Then the stewardess walked away. The lady behind me clearly had her eye on my locker as well and started to shove as much as she could into it meaning that I would have to put my fragile lot half way down the cabin. Not one person, not a stewardess, not one of the many besuitted business men, not even the man next to me who called his children to say goodnight, offered to help me bundle my stuff into the locker.

It was just as bad getting off the plane. As is always the way, especially in business class I have found, the moment you are stationary, normally perfectly rational men in suits are shoving people out of the way to pull down their cases from the lockers. Everyone shoved and hustled past me while I tried to walk against the tide to get down my heavy bags. Again, not a single person helped me.

The same on the carousel, and with the taxi driver.

It was only when I got to the hotel that things changed. I went through check-in in super-quick time, they upgraded me to a super deluxe harbour view room, the doorman carried all my bags and the receptionist insisted, despite there being other people to check in behind me, on walking me to my room personally, checking I was OK and offering to send up a cup of herbal tea to help me sleep.

It continued this morning when I had to get a cab to another hotel for my meeting. When I got there, a doorman took all of my bags, insisted on walking me to the conference room, whereby I found 10 colleagues all more than happy to help me put up posters, climb under and lift tables, stick up dart boards, and set up for me. Then, when we had finished, I had the same number of colleagues offer to dismantle everything for me, carry it all down to my taxi, and make sure I would be OK getting to the office (one even offered to come with me and then return back to the conference afterwards).

My faith in humanity restored, I am now in the Singapore office where I have already fielded at least ten questions about why I am still wearing high heels. Different country, same bizarre ideas.

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