Sometimes, when you fly, you just get lucky. I’m not talking about a seat upgrade, or something as routine as an early arrival home or getting an open middle seat, although all that is nice. No, I’m talking about getting treated to some real entertainment while aloft.
She was wearing a smart green jacket and matching straw hat. She was an older woman. She seemed very put together, yet very slightly clueless. The gate agent, an extremely helpful young man, I thought, called her by name. I thought, hmm she must be a frequent flyer. A VIP is in our midst. I’m not sure that’s true… anymore.
We boarded and I helped her put up her bag, as she was very concerned about her inability to lift it overhead and sat there saying aloud, “I need help with my bag”, to no one, in particular, although I believe the intended recipient of her directives were the flight attendants. She required the flight attendant to confirm she had put her phone into airplane mode. Ok, I thought, all theories about being a regular or frequent flyer be dashed. She returned to her seat. We had an open window seat next to us, so I moved over to take in the view of take off. Had I only known… All seemed normal.
She needed to use the restroom before we took off and, fortunately for her, we were very slightly delayed as they refueled the plane.
Then the drinks cart arrived. She ordered a gin. There was a long discussion about the types of gin available. She selected one. Not long after, she ordered a second of a different brand from a different flight attendant. This continued. Her ordering process included raising a finger for attention or tapping a passing by flight attendant. I think she was accustomed to more exclusive service. She could never open the bottle and would say loudly “I can’t open this, I can’t open this” holding the bottle aloft like it was made of pure gold, until an attendant arrived.
She wanted a snack and was displeased with the quantity of carbohydrate-filled offerings. “Do you have any fruit?” “No”. “Cheese?” “No”. Troubled look. She selected a gluten free nut. She ate very few of them before spilling them all over the seat and the floor and the seat next to her. Fortunately, for her, and everyone else, she had an entire bank of three seats to herself. She rose to alert the flight attendant that her area needed cleaning. Someone had spilled her nuts. The female flight attendant was asked to clean them from seat, tray table, floor and aisle.
With a freshly cleaned area, she settled back down into gin #3. One from Dingle. From Ireland where we’d just left. I’d thought maybe the smart green blazer was some kind of tip o’ the hat to her Irish heritage until she was talking about the quality of the Dingle gin compared to the English Hendricks. The male flight attendant preferred the Dingle, a name she failed to recall every time a new order was placed, “because it’s Irish”, he said. “Oh that’s right”, she replied, “you people don’t like the English”. Nope, not Irish. Another case closed.
After polishing off her fifth gin in a span of about 75 minutes, she lay down for a nap. She twisted and turned. Head on the armrest, head on the seat. Back up, back down. She spilled her tonic water on the aisle seat and up she went to procure another flight attendant to clean up the mess. Back down for a nap.
Now, maybe she’s a nervous flyer. Or maybe she’s got a little dementia or has a real drinking problem. And I don’t mean to make light of any of that, and despite being incredibly high maintenance, she was actually kind of delightful. And, she knew what she was doing. She ordered each drink from a different attendant or at least not the same one as the last time. And each time she ordered, it was as though she were at a wine tasting. “Hmm, I think I’ll try the Hendrick’s this time”. But she was clearly plastered and at that point the busy flight attendants were less so and had probably now had time to compare notes to realize she had been really over served.
We landed and were waiting for the door to open and the young man in front of us had a can of Pringles potato chips sticking out of his backpack. She whacked it with her finger, not delicately, and gave him the thumbs up. “Are you hungry?”, he asked. (Best response ever, btw, tip o’ the hat). She smiled and mumbled a bunch of unintelligible words except for the word “Pringles”. She was clearly pleased. Another thumbs up. Nope, she just approved of his culinary choices. All carbs concerns flown out the window.
The door opened and released her and her smart outfit into the Lisbon night. She was nowhere to be seen at the customs line. Like a magical little entertaining gift whisked off, just like a dream.