It is 2018 and I trust nothing. I trust nothing. It used to be I would trust things, but now I do not. I view internet videos with the same arch cynicism that YouTube atheists express for God. (You know the ones: the fedora, the goblet full of Mountain Dew, the pink pebbled skin ceding to a thin orange beard, the ponytail, the Reddit comment "wow, thanks for the gold!", the cartoon avatar of them pulling a quizzical eyebrow and wearing a monocle, the 90-minute late-night live-stream about the friend-zone, the unpublished eight-volume fantasy novel.) It used to be that you could touch things, and smell things, and see them with your eyes, and you could believe them. Now, there's a viral video every other second and I never know which ones to trust.
By which I say: do I believe these Ryanair lads are racking up fat, fat lines of cocaine on a plane? I do not. But I also don’t not. The coke (or coke substitute) is doing that sort of dusty residue thing that cocaine does. The boy in the aisle seems just the right level of blood-spike adrenalin and genuine laugh-and-smile nervousness when the cabin crew member approaches. Also, please recall this is Ryanair. There is enough evidence to suggest this video is real. But also: it absolutely cannot be real. You see where being a cynic lands you in 2K18? It’s a confusing place to be:
Let’s drive onwards with the theory that this isn’t real, but it could be real, but it probably isn’t real, but maybe it is real. On that shaky platform alone: yes, I have some questions:
CAN YOU IMAGINE BEING SAT BEHIND THEM?
The beauty of Ryanair is that it is a great leveller (the horror of Ryanair is everything else). Ryanair, like many low-cost airlines, flies cheap to semi-nearby sunny destinations, so attracts stag parties and hen nights and sixth formers on their first lads holiday, and extremely broad lads in vests who can consume a quite alarming amount of MDMA without dying, and it also attracts families who dress up to fly like they’re going to church, and quiet couples in matching denim jackets reading books, and middle-aged mums more used to BA who absolutely can’t figure out why they can’t put their luggage in the locker directly above their head, and spend the entire 2h 50m being extremely paranoid that someone distantly down the plane is going to steal their handbag full of tissues and spare pens. I once saw a former Premier League footballer on a Ryanair flight, a man who was the walking inverse of my overdraft, but here we both were, flying with no leg room to Ibiza, together, the same.
There is something joyful about the (now rare) crevices and spaces that level out society: pubs, chip shops, Ryanair flights to Spain. There is no class hierarchy on a Ryanair flight (nobody on Earth is rich enough to buy a cup of coffee and two packets of nuts on a Ryanair flight without sweating the price, not even Diddy). Income means nothing in the air. Your education, your class, your privilege, it doesn’t matter: you still can’t use your phone, you still don’t quite have enough room to put your knees out, you still don’t get a screen to watch a film on. But I very much like to imagine that – behind these three lads either racking up or pretending to rack up, doing whatever they are doing with such vigour and force that their banter becomes a gravitational hole in the entire aircraft, every eye and every scrap of attention on them – that, quietly, behind them, someone flying to Marbella to see their granddad is carefully trying to read Eleanor Oliphant while wearing a long linen scarf.
IS THE CABIN CREW MEMBER HERE BEING EXCEPTIONALLY RUDE?
Yes. Sorry, but social etiquette demands that, unless you are actively in recovery, when you are cheerfully offered a line: you have to take it. I’m sorry! These are the rules! I don’t care that the crew member is serving vodka to already inebriated persons (good) and actively ignoring potentially illegal activity on the flight (also good). I care that they are being rude! Do the line!
IS IT FAKE? SUB-QUESTION: DOES IT MATTER?
What makes me think it is fake is my day-to-day contempt for anything being real. What makes me think it is real is literally everything else. Is it possible to smuggle drugs through an airport security system? Honestly, yes: they make you take your shoes off and pour your water out, but they never check if you’ve got a baggy taped to your gooch. Could you rack three monstrous lines out in the middle of the air and take them without anyone saying anything? Also, yes: this is a Ryanair flight where there is already a fantastic amount of shouting. Society does not work up here.
Then there are the little clues, the pointers: the aforementioned residue, that particular male emotion of bolshiness covering nervousness, the leaning in, the hide-in-plain-sight loud secrecy. If you're ever going to do a line of cocaine on an aeroplane, you’re going to do it on a private jet or on a Ryanair, and absolutely nothing in between. What makes it believable is that we’ve all lived this flight, we’ve all been in the same pub as these men. What makes this believable is we all secretly suspect, if we had nuts enough to do it, that this could be us.
CAN WE TALK BRIEFLY ABOUT THE QUALITY AND SHEER HENCHNESS OF THOSE LINES
What I suppose gives me the most evidence that this mid-air sesh is legitimate is the cut of those lines, of what British tabloids are calling "an unidentified white powder", and that cynical commenters in response to the original tweet are calling "coffee creamer, chopped out like an idiot might". That line is, frankly, horrible. It is the size and rough dimensions of a breaded fish finger. It is the consistency of glass mixed with gravel. Looking at that line, of whatever it is, is giving me very horrible flashbacks to every time I’ve been up at 3AM when I shouldn’t be, in south London when I shouldn’t be, in someone’s house when I don’t know them, bathed in the skin-paining halogen of bright kitchen down-lighters. That line is basically saying, "Is it alright if I smoke in here?" to an Uber driver. That line has punched a hole in its bedroom wall and doesn’t have a legitimate curtain. That line just put a frankly terrifyingly high BPM. happy hardcore mix on YouTube and stood there in front of you, eyes closed, finger rapidly bobbing. That line is going to turn up at your house in a couple of weeks asking if you remember it and if it can sleep over at yours for a bit. That line just broke a toilet off the wall. That line comes up to you, wide-eyed at a party, and just whispers the single urgent word: “RUN!”
IS THIS PEAK 'BRIT ABROAD'?
I’ve long been attached to the idea that there are two warring factions of the perceived national identity, and they can be summed up as: you are either in The England Band, or you are A Contestant on Great British Bake Off. These are the two English genders, and they don’t overlap. We think of ourselves as either a hyper-refined, cucumber-sandwiches-and-long-gravel-drives, cut-glass accented lover of the Queen, or we are blowing a trumpet because we love Harry Kane so much. So you have this idiosyncrasy: a lot of people, including British people who live in Britain and know it not to be true, have this idea of the nation as a kind of period drama with bunting over it, whereas, actually, we really do lean more towards getting sparked out with one punch outside a nightclub and eating a meat feast in the back of a cab. Essentially, we think of ourselves as a nation of Mary Berrys, but we are actually more this: three lads, tanked up from an airport Wetherspoons, racking out lines on a Ryanair table-tray. I think there is a quiet, noble beauty in that.