The air stewardess nudges me from a fitful doze for the third time. I know she means well but it’s getting kind of irritating.
“How are you feeling?” she asks.
She has the mask of someone concerned for my welfare but really, I know she’s anxious I’m spreading my germs around flight QR21.
“Well, I’m… ill… again,” I say, carefully choosing my words – I’m British, I can’t possibly say my guts are on fire.
The stewardess nods and says, “Well I really think you should see a doctor when we get to Doha.”
“Oh,” I say, “No no, I’m fine. I just want to go home.” Oh God, the fuss. My misery multiplies.
“Well, I really think you should,” she says more firmly.
Her tone purveys concern, but the undertone screams, “you’re not getting on that flight to Manchester until you see a doctor because I’m not bearing the responsibility of a pandemic.”
“Fine,” I mumble.
I’m hustled into first class to wait for an escort to the medical centre. It’s a glimpse into a world I will probably never know on a journalist’s wage – the leg room, the BIG PILLOW! I can see why cabin crew might think you’d enjoyed your flight.
I’m collected by a curt airline rep who barks, “Come!” and I wonder if he’s been briefed that I’ve not eaten in three days and can’t hustle at such a pace.
“Can you walk?” he shouts over his shoulder.
“Umm…” I reply weakly.
A wheelchair magically appears. He asks when I’m due to change planes and I tell him my next flight is in two hours, which increases his pace tenfold.
Doha airport is like a small island deposited in the desert, where you’re advised not to go outside because you’ll burst into flames. We pass a huge teddy bear sculpture which looks like the stuff of nightmares. Ruth Googles it and learns it cost someone with more money than sense $6.8m.
I’m transferred to a buggy which we share with a woman in a burkha. I perch on the back, hunched as my stomach cramps.
“Are you ok?” she asks
“Ah… yeah, fine!” I say brightly.
She pats me on the hand, “Welcome to our state,” she says with a smile.
I arrive at the medical centre where a doctor swiftly hooks me up to a drip.
My terror of needles leaves me quivering on the gurney and Ruth carefully extracts her hand from my knuckle-whitening grip and proceeds to distract me.
I end up telling her the entire plot of The Good Wife, substituting Cary Argos’ name throughout with the phrase, “that lad from the Gilmore Girls” because I can’t think straight.
I realise my trembling isn’t fear but the ice cold fluid of the IV coursing through my veins. In some sort of strange panic, I kick off my flip-flops and hear them drop to the floor.
I’m heaped with more blankets to combat the shivers and Ruth decides to retrieve my Havaianas.
“Where’s the other one?” she says.
“What do you mean?”
“There’s only one.”
“There can’t be, I heard it fall on the floor.”
“Yeah, but it’s not here. Did you definitely have both of them on?”
“Of course I did, I’d remember walking around with one shoe.”
She shakes out the sheets, lifts up the mattress, crawls around on the floor.
“For fuck’s sake, I’m not going home with one shoe,” I grumble.
“Well it’s not here.” She laughs. “Where is it?!”
It’s a good distraction. The situation suddenly seems quite funny and I laugh hysterically like I’ve been sucking on helium.
With the drip sucked dry a nurse comes into help with the flip flop search and locates it behind a trolley on the other side of the room. How it got there will forever remain a mystery to all involved.
I hobble to my awaiting chariot and am zipped to the gate and chivvied through to the waiting area. Priority boarding was made for rich people and separating those with infectious diseases away from the general public.
I have successfully changed planes but lament that I seem cursed when it comes to Asian air travel.