Schedule Page 9
When you’re on a lengthy book tour, especially if you’re travelling a lot, small things start to take on disproportionate significance – food, the bathroom facilities, the friendliness of air stewards. Today, my North Carolina to Dallas flight was significantly enlivened by the rogue air steward who, among other things, announced: “We are now at what we call the Alec Baldwin time of our take-off procedures. Please turn off all portable devices.. Flight mode is not sufficient, nor is Don’tThinkTheStewardCanSeeMe mode.”
He possessed some kind of nitrogen capsules that meant he handed out glasses of water surrounded by a dry ice mist that Michael Jackson could have moonwalked out of. I’m not sure if his superiors would have approved, but we passengers enjoyed it. Here was a man who enjoyed his job. It is fair to say that this is not the default expression of many air stewards these days.
But there was one point where I saw his composure falter. A middle aged woman had fallen asleep in the aisle across from me. As we prepared to land in Dallas, he leant across to wake her and put her seat in the upright position. There was no response. The man beside her said: “She hasn’t moved all flight.”
“Oh she’s having a nice sleep. Ma’am,” said the steward, and tapped her gently on the arm. “Ma’am. It’s time to wake up now.”
By now we were all agog. He tapped her arm again, more firmly this time.
“MA’AM YOU NEED TO WAKE UP.”
Nothing. Her head lolled to one side and the colour actually drained from his face. Only those of us nearby could see what was happening.
The steward glanced around for his colleague. A hushed conversation ensued. Then he leaned across one more time. “MA’AM WE ARE ABOUT TO LAND.” And with a gasp she jolted awake. A few of us exhaled. I saw him mouth the words oh thank GOD to the heavens. His knees seemed to actually buckle a little with relief.
“Glad your passenger wasn’t dead!” I said cheerily, as I stepped off the flight.
“Me too, honey!” he said, equally cheerily. All in a day’s work.
I write this on the connecting flight, from Dallas to Portland Oregon. I am perversely proud of the fact that I have travelled the US so much this year that I can now negotiate my way around the triple-football-pitch sized Dallas Fort Worth airport, even its sky train, without breaking a sweat. As I knew I would be tired by this part of the tour, I treated myself to an upgrade. This proved to be the best decision I have made in some time.
“Hello ladies and gentlemen,” said the steward at the gate. “We appear to have overbooked this flight. We are now offering a $500 voucher for anyone who is willing to take the later flight. Anyone.” There was only the faintest tinge of desperation in his voice. “Anyone? Someone?”
And then came the more serious news.
“It emerges that there are 119 people on the coach portion of this flight, and only 20 sandwiches. If you think you are going to be hungry, please buy some food here.”
This flight is four hours. I am upfront with a sure hot meal coming and my bodyweight in emergency hotel chocolate in my handbag (I told you I was getting good at this flight stuff). I am trying to ignore the words of the twitter friend who announced that we should have just eaten the ‘dead’ passenger. See you on the other side. If they don’t eat me first.
PS thank you to the lovely staff and readers of Flyleaf books, Chapel Hill last night. You were an absolute joy.