As I boarded my Delta flight from Dublin to JFK this week, another Delta flight was making an unscheduled landing in Shannon airport about 100 miles west. Teeny little airport, really just a few wind-lashed sheds in a field. Yet it was there that niece of world renowned fashion designer Ralph Lauren was being hauled off a Barcelona-New York flight and housed till police came. A fashion dignitary of sorts, she had been removed for being drunk and abusive, a threat to the crew and 200 passengers on board.
I thought I was hearing things as the news story from the television screen on the wall at gate 403 leaked through my concentration and confused itself with the plot of the novel I was reading. I looked up. Nope, not hearing things. How odd, I thought, and went back to reading. It was The Goldfinch, and now that I’d finally got a copy in paperback, I was not putting it down till on American soil.
I investigated further, stateside. When an air hostess had found Manhattan-based jewellery designer, Jenny Lauren, crying because her seat would not recline, and tried to help, she was rewarded with a tirade in which Lauren told her to “get the fuck out of her face”, called her “a fucking ugly blond bitch,” and then followed her through the cabin before pushing her against the wall, and branding an intervening pilot “an asshole”.
Now that’s a nervous flyer.
Questions arise though: Didn’t they notice she was drunk when she boarded? Did they serve her too much alcohol? Did she take medication while on board which then contributed to her problematic state? Anyway she spent the night in a Shannon police cell, and the detour reportedly cost the airline $43,000.
I think there is more to this than just a story of the entitled rich New Yorker throwing a diva fit aboard a plane. But the silly girl made one crucial error and poof! went my sympathies. Call me harsh if you like. You see, when the local authorities informed her why she was being detained, she said only one thing:
“Can you say that in English, please?”
Oh no she didn’t.
Now, the West of Ireland accents are as thick and succulent as sodden peat. Words can be stretched like elastic in a 360 degree fashion so that they never ping back into shape. People make sounds as wild and savage as the landscape, as bizarre as the cloud formations. All the same, that was, in fact, English they spoke, you Upper West Side Wharton wannabe. You bland and willowy, East Hampton society chickpea, you posh Park Avenue polo-playing poseur with access to precious stones. Travel beyond your golden triangle of self-esteem enhancing addresses, and prise open your shell-like, Miss Lauren. For as your uncle states in his recent glossy catalogue, true glamour is international.
Don’t get me wrong, what they say over that side of the country will always be incomprehensible (cripes, what a tangle of words!) But just responding with “Could you repeat that?” would have meant my sympathies were hers. They’re not hard won. For haven’t we all been a tad the worse for wear and blurted out the unfortunate dregs of our pickled brains? Okay, maybe not at a pilot…on a moving plane, but still.
Then we might chuckle together one day at a fashionable Manhattan bruncherie, Jenny and I, clinking our Mimosa glasses and laughing behind gloved hand about the irony of the whole thing: that there was no courthouse in the region and the hearing, in which one of the charges was intoxication, was held in the local pub with the Guinness taps proudly erect in the background.
My novel is now available. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.