It was my thing, whenever I flew, I’d always try to sit in a seat on the exit row, next to the cabin door. It wasn’t that hard to do, I just made sure I always got to the airport in plenty of time and then it was easy to get the seat I wanted. It was easy to sweet-talk the check-in staff. I flew a lot with my job and this was my thing when I did.
Sitting there was great for getting off when the plane lands, I can just get straight off and I don’t have to stand in the aisle like an idiot as everyone pushes at once, but it’s more than that. You see I wanted that seat in case something happened to the plane. If it did then I’ll have my chance, I’ll jump up and open that door and be able to get people out of there. I’ll get my chance to be a hero.
I studied what to do. I knew how to open the door, how to turn the handle and unlock it. I knew that the inflatable chute opens automatically when the door does. I knew how to get people through the door in an emergency; if someone stops you push them forward. I’d be the perfect hero if anything happened to the plane.
It was exciting, when I flew, that idea that I could be a hero. I mean my life is so pathetic. My job is no more than a glorified courier, I take different prototypes and packages and even people around Europe. I’m on my own since Kerry walked out on me. So I have this fantasy, it’s harmless and could have saved people.
Then I had to get a flight to Edinburgh. It was a Friday and the weather was turning bad. I taking this accountant, Lawrence Young-Hall, up there and he was a dick. I’d wanted to leave early but he dicked around with all his paperwork and we were an hour late leaving the head office. I wanted to take the train, it’s easier and quicker, if you’re going to Heathrow from Central London. This Lawrence Young-Hall said we had to drive because he’d got a driver, some Polish slob who he shouted at all the time. Even if we’d left on time driving up there we’d have barely made it, but we were late. Then it starts to rain when we get on the motorway. It’s bad enough in good weather but in rain it was gridlock.
Young-Hall was shouting at his driver, the weather was turning into a real storm and we’re stuck on this bloody motorway. I just sat back in that car, I knew we were going to miss the plane and if we did this Young-Hall would give me the blame. I was also thinking that I was going to be stuck getting this dick to Edinburgh.
When we got to Heathrow the wind was so bad it nearly blew me off my feet, the rain soaked right through my jacket in seconds. I finally got Young-Hall to the checking-in desk, ages after it had closed. Young-Hall has this screaming fit, until the woman there threaten to call security. It was left to me to arrange seats on the next flight and to calm everyone down that Young-Hall had shouted at, because he’d gone off to the bar.
We never made the next flight. Not long after we’d arrived, the storm turned into a hurricane and all the planes were grounded. Young-Hall took himself off to one of Heathrow’s hotels and I was supposed to wait for when the planes started flying again, then I was to get him.
I was sitting in the Departures Lounge when I saw it on the TV news. The plane we were supposed to be on had crashed in the bad weather, not long after takeoff. As I sat there, that night, I watched the news, I wanted to know everything that had happened. But all I could find out was that it had crashed in a field and about half the passangers had managed to escape before it caught fire.
The next day Young-Hall didn’t want to fly anymore, so he got his driver to take him home. I got the train.
When I got home it was all over the news. They called him “The Hero of Flight 274”. He was called James Mills and had been sat in a seat on the exit row. He’d got the plane’s door open and had got many people out before the fire started. Even when the plane was on fire he’d stayed and got more people out. He died in the fire. He was a hero.
He’d been sat in the seat I should have been and he’d had the chance to be a hero that should have been mine. That was my one chance and I’d lost it because of that Young-Hall dick. My stupid life was over, I was always going to be this no-one forever.
I didn’t go back to work because I couldn’t fly in a plane again. Everyone at work thought I was afraid of flying because that plane had crashed. I couldn’t tell them the truth, I’d lost my chance to be a hero, instead I let them think I was afraid of flying, it was easier that way.
My sister said that I had “a lucky escape”, but she knows nothing.