He then took out a leather attaché case from the overhead compartment and opened it on the rack between us. It was a specially made case with spaces for six round tin containers and six knives. Each tin container held a sampling of delectable cheese.
“Our very best cheeses,” he said, like a proud father showing off photographs of his children. “Now all we need are crackers, and I think the airline can manage that.”
By the time we reached Paris, the tins were empty and we were laughing like old friends.
IT’S A GOOD THING I TALKED TO HIM
This was most fortunate for me, too, as a transportation strike had crippled Paris and nothing was moving out of Charles de Gaulle airport.
If I had undertaken nothing more than the short perfunctory greeting I am more inclined to give a stranger seated next to me these days, I would probably have been stuck at the airport until the next day.
As luck would have it, he was able to give me a lift to my hotel in the company car.
NO NEED FOR A MOVIE
FROM TOKYO TO NEW YORK
The best story, however, deserves to be told last.
On a flight from Tokyo to New York one day, I was seated next to an American couple who had just visited Tokyo and Kyoto for their honeymoon.
When I reached my seat, they were the picture of marital bliss, holding hands and smiling at everyone.
Prior to cocktails, they showed me trinkets they had bought at a Kyoto shrine and Polaroid shots of schoolgirls in Goth attire walking down Harajuku in Tokyo.
Over dinner, unfortunately, they began arguing. By the time I was enjoying my dessert, this had escalated into a full-blown battle that culminated with the wife throwing her raspberry cake at her husband.
THE RELUCTANT FAVOR
The husband was just about to retaliate with a half-eaten garlic roll when the wife suddenly turned to me and said: “Can you do me a big favor?”
I was almost afraid to respond, after what I had just witnessed.
But the wife continued, “Would you be kind enough to sit in between us? I don’t think I want to sit next to him anymore.”
What exactly do you do, when asked something like this?
Without waiting for a response, she stood up expectantly and so I was forced to stand up as well and let her have my seat.
FROM TOKYO TO NEW YORK
I blame this instance of being unable to say ‘no’ on my youth, as this also happened ages ago.
And therefore I spent the remainder of the very long flight playing Switzerland to a warring couple.
They never made up inflight, and I remained quiet for the flight’s duration, fearing that my being nice to one would provoke the other.
To top it all, my headphone system conked out and the flight was full.
Without any spares, I could only ponder my unhappy fate as the buffer between two tempests.
When we finally landed at JFK Airport in New York, they left by separate aisles without even a word of thanks.
Yet when I finally cleared immigrations and was heading for the luggage carousel, I spied them sharing a trolley and pushing it with arms linked together, smiling sweetly at each other like newlyweds are supposed to do.
You can imagine my surprise at this instant flipover, although I was happy for them, of course.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
Interestingly, I travel so much these days that I’m on a plane at least twice a month.
But I’ve never had experiences like these that I’ve just related from two decades ago.
Those were certainly the good old days of real in-flight entertainment, and it was certainly already a never-ending Travelife.