November 25, 2007

The night before I left for Bali, I didn't sleep well. At 3am, I was woken up with the sound of a German Shepherd barking in the stairwell of the building, and then a searchlight coming in through my window. I opened the front door of the flat and there were several policemen.

"What's going on?" I asked.

I was told, in an exceedingly soft-spoken manner, that someone had alerted them to a "suspicious figure" on the roof below my window.

British police are so polite.

"A suspicious figure?" I said, mildly mocking his description while at the same time letting him know that I now feared for my life.

"You mean someone was trying to break in?"

The policeman gave me a look. Even the dog stopped sniffing for a second and seemed annoyed. "Yes, madam," he said, "we're looking into that possibility."

He attempted to reassure me by pointing out that there were two bicycles on the roof, which meant that there was indeed rooftop access.

So what? I let him know that those bikes had been there forever. They shouldn't count. Then he tried to reassure me that there was no one that he could see. But I let him know the killer could be crouching down and that he should go out there and make sure. Then he tried to reassure me that it was most likely a false alarm. "But how do you know?" I asked.

At this point, he gave up trying to reassure me. "It's fine, madam," he said, "Try to go back to sleep."

The following morning when I arrived at Heathrow at 6am, I was thrilled to discover I had been bumped up to business class. It was a 13-hour flight from London to Kuala Lumpur and I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was sleep. "You'll be seated upstairs," the woman at check-in told me. "It's very quiet there."

I've never looked forward to a 13-hour flight before but business class meant the seats would turn into beds. Plus, sitting upstairs? The only time I've ever been upstairs on a plane is when I once snuck up there to use the toilet and then lied and said I had a bladder infection so that I wouldn't get in trouble.

But this time was different. When I got up there, it was filled with men. Not just men, but giant men, all dressed in black track suits.

There were about a dozen of them and they were filling the aisles, with their giant bodies, laughing and calling out to each other. I was the only woman.

I took my seat and the man seated next to me looked like The Rock. His bicep was the size of my head. "Hi," I said, sounding worried. "Is this a football team?"

No, not football. Rugby. The New Zealand All Blacks. The entire team.

And me. For 13 hours. Upstairs. I looked around.

There had to be someone downstairs who wanted to swap seats with me.

Wasn't this every single girl's dream? To be stuck in a confined space with some of the fittest men on the planet? This was what most women hope to win in a raffle - or bid for in an auction. And all I could think about was how I wouldn't be able to sleep. I turned to the one next to me and asked, "Do you think you guys are going to be very loud?"

I didn't think it was such an unreasonable question. But apparently, the team found it hilarious. From across the aisle one of them shouted, "What did she ask?" and the guy next to me shouted back: "She asked if we're going to be LOUD!" Then they all started laughing. Loudly.

This was not good. As my father later pointed out, "Expecting the New Zealand rugby team to be quiet on a 13 hour flight is like expecting The Pope to convert to Judaism. It ain't gonna happen."