“Do Air Hostesses get cabin fever?” I asked myself.
I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure I do. Well, I’m not a real air hostess, but putting on that uniform, doing that safety demonstration over and over again, I feel like I could be one. Maybe.
Maybe, I’m delusional, or maybe I wish to escape so badly that I’ve convinced myself I am one. Inventing trans-Atlantic flights, funny stories about passengers and scary turbulent moments that churn your stomach and turn your face green. Am I merely fleshing out a character, or becoming slightly disturbed?
Maybe I’m human? Fantasising about living a different life, whilst struggling with the notion that my freedom to move around has been inhibited. Feeling trapped, isolated, restless, irritable... am I coming down with a bad case of cabin fever?
“What is Cabin Fever?” I asked myself.
VeryWellMind.com[i] (a website I have only just stumbled across for this blog post) lists symptoms of Cabin Fever as:
Sadness or depression
Lack of patience
Changes in weight
Inability to cope with stress
Yep, I can associate with a lot of these within my initial two-week spell of confinement. But the more I looked at the above list and thought about them, the more I thought maybe it’s not such a leap to compare these indicators of cabin fever with the affectations of sexual harassment? Restlessness, depression, hopelessness, social isolation? Do they strike an accord, ring a bell or sound a little bit familiar?
When Flock Fest decided to take the festival online in the wake of the burgeoning COVID-19 crisis, we were only too happy to figure out a digital offering to submit. Something to keep our minds active during the lockdown, plus an opportunity to perform a new version of our sketch to a wider audience.
However, the more we worked on adapting the sketch for the screen, the more I began to draw parallels between the cabin fever I was experiencing in my own home, to the claustrophobic pressure of sexual objectification and harassment that the piece explores.
The Guardian, quoting the Equality Act of 2010, defines Sexual Harassment as:
“unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.” It covers indecent or suggestive remarks, unwanted touching, requests or demands for sex and the dissemination of pornography. It is often portrayed as murky or ambiguous legislation, on the grounds that it’s hard to tell the difference between a bit of banter and a humiliating remark.”[ii]
Occupational Hazard, follows two air hostesses eating breakfast, travelling to work, catching up and preparing for their day. The safety demonstration, take off and cruising at 40,000 ft.- everything is going to plan, but then….
Something goes wrong, be it an overbearing passenger, an ‘unwanted touch’, a seemingly innocuous word that reads as a ‘humiliating remark’, or a rapidly spreading, highly contagious global virus that flips life upside down, and inside out.
Our air hostesses, are left scattered. Isolated, trapped and withdrawn. They try to reach out, but can’t find the words. Restless, scared, and confused they have no idea when this will end, how long it will last and if there is indeed light at the end, how it will feel.
Coronavirus or sexual harassment, who knows? Symptoms or symptomless, our experiences are informing our behaviour, our mood and outlook now and for the future.
And after all those thoughts and reflections, I'm still not sure whether air hostesses are affected by cabin fever. Anyway, here’s the video we submitted to FlockFest – enjoy!
Occupational Hazard - Flock Fest Version Performed & Devised by Anna Cabré-Verdiell & Charlotte Arnold Video Footage by Alison Grace
Sound by BBC Radio 2 & Bad Guy by Billie Eilish
[i] Lisa Fritscher. (2020). Cabin Fever Symptoms and Coping Skills. Available: https://www.verywellmind.com/cabin-fever-fear-of-isolation-2671734. Last accessed 3rd April 2020. [ii] Williams, Z. (2017). Sexual harassment 101: what everyone needs to know. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/16/facts-sexual-harassment-workplace-harvey-weinstein. Last accessed 3rd April 2020.