By Bikram Vohra
There you are at the airport all checked in and waiting to board, looking forward to a few hours of anonymity and solitude. Time to read a book, watch a movie, switch off that horrendous and overwhelming mobile phone, have no intrusions, actually ease off and savour the flight. Might as well start the book now. Flying is that one activity where you can actually escape remotes, shrill rings, pointless e-mails and messages and bask in solitude
Unless…Suddenly you see this familiar face and you pretend you haven’t noticed and he is waving at you, his face a mask of delight. You groan inwardly. Hey, says the new entrant, fancy seeing you on the flight.
Why, what is so fanciful about it, don’t people take planes, what’s so special about it? You want to say that and squelch him away but instead you say whee, good to see you even though it is anything but and you feel like a fly caught in the spider’s sticky web and there goes your freedom.
What a pleasant surprise, he says, as your heart sinks. Then he parks himself next to you. Puts his bags down, then pulls out his mobile and calls his wife and says guess who is on the flight, you’ll never guess, come on guess and you could strangle him now. Then she guesses and obviously she can’t get it right and then he starts giving her hints like we were some game show, and you want to say, look just tell her, will you. Then he tells her and she ostensibly expresses delight so he passes the flipping phone to you to speak to his flipping wife and you flipping don’t want to and now you and she are making idiot conversation and she is saying, isn’t nice, you both have each other for company.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah, I don’t want him for company. I want to be alone, I want to read my book, I do not want to chat with your husband.
So, what is your seat number, he says, full of energy and ready to chew the fat.
Reluctantly you say 8C, expressing the faint hope it is a full flight.
I am 12D, he says, we can change on the plane. And it is always one of those pompous, yappy, full of themselves types who impose on you. Their fam, their success, their comical tragedy which is still heroic because in the end they win and now he is prattling on about his narrow escape and wait till you hear this story and you wonder what the punishment is for strangling someone now in cold blood. There has to be mitigating factor, your honour.
So then you try to get away from him by going to the loo but he keeps the seat free for you and he says here, here, as you try to duck past him. Then we get on the plane and now he’s badgering the steward to change seats and turning to the passenger next to you and requesting him to please change places, if you don’t mind, we’re friends, lots of catching up to do. And that poor stranger of a passenger, he is kind of agreeing to swap and there goes the book, the movie and the solitude.
And this chappie is the sort who must talk to the stewardess and spray plastic charm and turn the flight into a party and next thing you know he has planted himself next to you and is now testing the seatback and the belt and reading aloud from the refreshment card and now you will have to pretend to sleep for four hours to avoid his incessant nattering.
The last time it happened to me and I turned to the passenger next to me and said, please, if that man there ask you to change places with him, don’t, just say no, I realty would appreciate it. .
Why, you don’t like him.
I don’t dislike him, I don’t want to spend four hours with him, if it is all the same by you, really, I am not in the mood.
You are not an airplane talker, are you?
No, I am not, I don’t want to chat.
And you won’t ask for my card and discuss politics because I have a book to read.
I laughed with relief and said, so do I, so please rescue me.
And sure enough, along comes my so called good friend and asks the guy, can you please shift, we are good friends, we want to sit together, that is my seat there.
No, this is my seat, I am not shifting.
That is unreasonable, you can be a sport.
You did not hear me, I said, no, I am not shifting.
I look all sad and shrug, what can you do, some people are idiots, much as I would love to sit with you this guy is stubborn, let it go, catch up at after landing.
Thanks I say after ‘good friend’ recedes to his row, I owe you for that.
I’ll give you a tip, says my co-passenger, next time this happens, tell him you have a severe flu and it is infectious and you don’t want to give it to him, that is what I do.
Bikram is former editor of KT. Everyday humour is his forte