Thursday, August 31, 2006

One Wednesday evening on a flight from Dubai

He was the last passenger to board the plane at Dubai. Armed with two large shopping bags that had been picked up in the duty-free shops at the last minute and a suitcase which should never have cleared the weight/volume criteria laid down for hand baggage and got past security, he puffed and panted his way in. All overhead luggage space was taken, but as he was blocking the passage and being a nuisance, a flight attendant put him out of his misery and accommodated his suitcase and packets somewhere.

He settled down in his window seat, in the row just ahead of mine, and asked the flight attendant to get him a glass of water. He gulped it down and asked for some more, still struggling to recover his breath.

The flight was taxiing down and about to take off, when he rang the bell again and asked for an English newspaper. And for a magazine, soon after.

Once air-borne and the drink trolleys were sighted, he ordered a glass of red wine. A packet of peanuts came along with the wine. He polished off the peanuts in record time and asked for one more packet... and one more. Also, another glass of red wine.

Food was served. His came last, as he had ordered some special meal. As the food was being kept on the folding tray, he asked the attendant to give him some extra bread. And, another glass of red wine, if she didn’t mind.

Half way through the meal, he decided he needed to have another portion of the rice and the curry. The attendant managed to locate this somewhere and had it brought to him. Clumsily, he dropped one of his forks on to the floor and rang the bell again. A replacement fork was soon delivered free-on-board his seat.

At this point in the proceedings, he realised that he needed to use the toilet. He put his tray under his seat, and then forced the aisle seat passenger to get up and make way for him. He returned in a few minutes, made the aisle seat passenger get up again (the latter holding the food tray in his hand, in both instances) and got back to the unfinished task of eating.

He asked for one more glass of red wine to wash down his meal. And when coffee was offered, he asked for an extra packet of cream and sugar – to fetch which, the attendant had to walk back to her cabin with the coffee jug in one hand and tea jug on the other. Having finished the coffee, he enquired if cognac was available. The attendant obliged. A repeat order was placed soon and the second glass of cognac was also supplied.

The meal over, he pushed his seat to the ‘fully reclined’ position, took out his pillow and blanket and was about to doze off, when he decided that he must have an extra pillow for his back. By now, the attendant had realised, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls. The bell rings for thee” and, presently, the second pillow materialised.

All this while, he had the ear phones on, listening to the in-flight music. Suddenly, he woke up from his sleep, rang the bell again and told the attendant that the ear phones were not working and could she please bring him another set?

Thirty minutes before landing, he asked for the Customs Immigration Form, filled it up and tore it in disgust realising that he had made some mistake. A fresh form was sought from the attendant and this was soon brought to him.

After gulping down two glasses of water which the attendant was thoughtfully passing around, he felt the urge to go to the toilet again, just when the captain announced that ‘we would be landing in Chennai shortly”. The process of the aisle seat passenger getting up, making way, getting up again was repeated.

When the plane landed and was moving to the parking bay, he jostled his way to the front to pick up his suitcase and duty-free packets and was the first to get out of the aircraft. He was gone with the wind.

He had made sure that he had got good value for his money; the flight attendant could have a restful sleep that night with her conscience applauding her for putting in that extra bit more effort to justify her fat salary and I could go home with the feeling that I had never before been so well entertained on a 4-hour flight. Win-win-win situation.


dazedandconfused said...

Guessing you were the aisle passenger...?

Raj said...

d&C : Actually, I was seated in the row behind.

Usha said...

You know what puzzles me? these very same attendants are absolutely rude when someone who is meek asks for one small thing. Unless you were in business class.

I can see how amused you were - were you betting on the next thing he was going to ask and how soon he was going to do it?

Raj said...

Usha, I sat there, quite fascinated with the way that guy kept asking for something or other. He pulled it off so well !

Anonymous said...

and you write it so good...