He gave me a second look and I didn’t find it odd. I actually noticed him earlier while waiting at the boarding gate for the annoying voice to call out to me. Worn out denims, pod plugged in with dark blue ear plugs, red tee that was a shade darker than my top. He’s carrying a back pack that matches his brown boots. His hair filled with gel, is pulled back into unnecessary perfection. While I noted these oddities, he notices me looking at him and nods, adding a toothy-smile. Crap! I half-smiled back to be polite. A big mistake!
The flight is unusually full today. Mostly squint-eyed people fill the seats near the window as they boarded the flight at the HK airport. So what’s left is the aisle seats. The number of babies on this flight, is unnerving. I love kids, don’t get me wrong. But from previous experiences, I know better than to occupy the front row seats. The baby cries uncontrollably because of the drop in air pressure the mom is completely unaware of what she is to do with it.
So I settle for an aisle seat in the 40th row, “D” to be precise. The hair-gel lover is seated in “E” right beside me. Another teeth-exposing smile. I pray silently that maybe he’s shy, smart enough to not talk to me or just doesn’t know how to talk.
“Hey! On your way to Dubai?”
No… just thought that since I was bored, I’d warm this seat right here. “Of course, that is why I boarded this plane, right?”
“Oh. Ha ha, my bad! I’m not even sure of why I bothered asked you that?”
Don’t know why you bother to breathe either.
“First time to the UAE?”
Why do I feel like I’m at the UAE immigration centre all over again? What’s with the million questions? “I fly every few months. Love flying Cathay. Their flights are so peaceful and quiet.” Hint hint, please god let him get it this time.
“Oh, so you live there? Where about?”
I would have smacked my head real hard if I wasn’t struggling to take out my shoe to throw it at the question box sitting beside me.
“At the marina.”
A confused look… “Where is that? Is it near the Burj?”
Just what I needed! A guide-book reader! I have mentally slapped myself for not carrying my ‘Beware of Bitch’ sign.
“Tourist?” I ask.
“No, just visiting my uncle.”
Man, he sure didn’t look that stupid! “Oh. Have fun.”
The silence made me believe that he’d actually gotten the hint this time around.
The flight has taken off and 10 minutes after the seatbelt sign has been flicked off, he starts again.
“Maybe you could suggest a few places I must visit.”
“How long has your uncle been living there?”
“15 years,” he says proudly “isn’t that cool?”
“It’s only been 7 years for me though. So, I’m sure your uncle knows the city better.”
He leaves me alone, clearly upset at my curt response. So I take the opportunity and switch on my iPod and search for the ‘really loud music’ list. He watches me as I use the jog dial to find a nice song. He knows nothing is playing yet so he has a few seconds more to squeeze in another question.
“Whose voice soothes your soul?”
Well, certainly not yours! And are you going to get any less personal with the questions? My look startles him (I often find it tough to stop immediate reactions like an offended stare) and so, he rephrases.
“I mean, which artist do you like best?”
Much better. “Jason Mraz.”
“Is he new? Not heard of him. I am an aspiring DJ btw. I hope to spin out music and make people dance to my tunes”
Now I see his problem. He is delusional, poor guy. “Jason Mraz is a similar genre as John Mayer.”
“I don’t like that man.”
Ticked me off. “Why not?” Mental slap, reminding myself that asking a question continues the conversation, doesn’t end it. So I continue. “Well actually, you have your own views. Have a great flight!”
I’m praying silently that the rude reply to my own question keeps him shut. But I notice him fiddling with the remote control to the in-flight entertainment and I know who he is going to ask for help. Just then the captain gives my neighbor a new topic to discuss about.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Due to dense fog conditions we are unable to land in Dubai at this time. We have enough fuel to remain in holding position for the next two hours. I will inform you once we have clear skies to land this flight. Enjoy your flight!”
And he begins…