Friendly Skies

One of the wonders of travelling is the variety of people you meet. On long air- plane flights, you not only meet people, but the time you spend sitting next to them enables you to get to know your fellow travellers. Such was the case on a trip to the States, when I found myself sitting next to a son and his father.

The son, Tim, and his father, John, were returning from four weeks of exploring India in search of their inner selves through the teachings of Buddha and meditation. Since Tim had selected home schooling rather than the traditional method of “conformist” education to attain his high school diploma and planned to continue at a university in India, this trip was particularly meaningful to his plans.

I was introduced to these two travellers as a slight vapor of a substance from a spray drifted across my face as they doused their faces after their seat belts were securely in place. After an interval of an hour, I received more side effects from a gentle mist. Both Tim and John were delighted when I ventured to ask about this mist which seemed to drift across to me at regular intervals. After reassuring me that the spray was a homeopathic anti-jet-lag spray concocted from all natural ingredients and ozone friendly, I was momentarily speechless (for the second time in two months) as I received the full impact of a concentrated dose of spray. Fortunately, in reaction to the shock, I had closed my eyes and ceased to inhale. The spray left me fully awake and alert, and John launched into his first rendition of his travels to India while his son smiled happily and nodded encouragement and agreement.

John, properly introduced himself as a freelance test engineer who destroyed devices to test their lack of durability and/or weakness and was well paid for his destructions. He had chosen this profession because he was a mathematical genius, he ventured modestly. I wondered if he was any relation to any other characters of recent history, but restrained myself out of courtesy to his son. John did not enjoy working for any company or establishment, as he felt this was too restrictive and confining to his life style. He enjoyed working his way through life in casual attire from one tested destruction to another watching his bank account increase and his realm of travels expand. Quite simply, he loved his work.

For the first part of the flight, and during the course of conversation – yes, he paused now and again to allow me to say a few words – he shared further bits of his great intellect. Among other talents, John was an expert on German history (he shared this bit of information in great confidence and modesty when he learned that my background was Germanic). After an hour or so of his tirades about Catherine the Great and the German people in Russia, we were interrupted by dinner followed by another dose of the stimulating anti-jet-lag spray.

After the verbal repose during dinner, my travel acquaintance had renewed his energies, and I was privileged to hear that John had friends who were friends of the former Shah of Iran – in response to my comment that I had lived in the United Arab Emirates during the Iranian Revolution. In fact, John had flown to Iran to experience first-hand the turmoil and the dangers of this revolution. Such daring. Such courage!

Then we reverted back to India. Was John feeling a little uncertain about the fabrications of his adventures in Iran and his brief renditions of the Iranian Revolution? In India, he related to me, he had viewed the body of Mother Theresa. This contact had given new meaning to his life. John and his son, Tim, had been so awed by this woman of such small stature, who had had such a profound affect on the lowest casts of India, that both father and son had continued the rest of their trip through India helping the poor by distributing

50 Rupee notes to most of the beggars they had encountered. “What a profound affect on India,” I complimented. Tim smiled and bobbed his head happily. John, however, was undaunted and very encouraged by my continued interest in his tales, as he launched into revelations of the deepest, publicly undisclosed secrets of the Taj Mahal as related to him by one of his friends who had been with a team of anthropologists researching the crimes of the Mongols.

Again we were interrupted by a meal, and another refreshing homeopathic revitalization. Fortunately, John’s many talents did not include eating a meal and engaging in discourse simultaneously. The meal did, however, enable John to draw from his vast intellectual reserves to continue his tales from his adventures and personal contacts. But even John was beginning to wind down. As the anti- jet-lag spray ceased its wonders, he began a peaceful slumber, no doubt reliving the invasions of the Mongols as they explored and fought their way through the hidden chambers and corridors of the Taj Mahal.

I continued my trip by reading and then watching a movie. A bit sedate after the stimulating recounters of John’s adventures. John?s slumber was interrupted when his ears perked to a low comment by a woman as she knelt in the aisle by the passenger across from John. “Hi there, I?m a United Airlines Public Relations Person. I would like to talk to you if it is convenient.” John was ready and waiting for his turn. As soon as the U.A.P.R.P. finished her goodwill chat with the passenger, John lightly touched her elbow, beaming and delighted to have a new audience. Unfortunately, I could not hear their conversation, which was dominated by John as he launched into major discussions in tight, animated whispers. Made me ponder what wonders he had discovered on this flight. Perhaps he was describing me as an asylum seeker from the Balkans whom he and his son were escorting to safety at the request of the Secret Service!

As we neared the end of the flight and the narrated adventures of John in the air concluded, I began to gather my belongings. Because I had a window seat and could not get out, I watched as passengers streamed past us. John and his son were gathering, sorting, discarding, and organizing casually.

“Do you have the anti-jet-lag spray, Tim,” John inquired of his son.
“No, dad, you have had it the whole time,” Tim countered.
“Good heavens. I hope we haven?t lost it!” John exclaimed.

Their attempt at departure continued now with searching, resorting, and reopening everything less casually. I waited patiently in my seat by the window. I was getting a little nervous. Like, when does the crew leave the plane, when do they remove the stairs to the plane?

“Ah, here it is,” John suddenly exulted. “I found the spray.”
Relieved, the three of us began to file out and enter the aisle.
“Ladies first,” John smiled, as I caught my farewell explosion of spray in the face. “Have a nice stay in the U.S,” John chirped as Tim smiled and bobbed his head again – he was quite good at this by now.

The crew at the exit looked up in surprise as I scurried up to them. “We thought everyone had departed,” one of the crew commented.

As I descended the stairs and pursued the path to customs, keeping a wary eye out for the dispensers of the anti-jet-lag spray, I wondered why people complained about boring flights. And I was convinced that John was in the wrong profession as a test engineer. Maybe his talents would have been put to better use as an undercover agent – or maybe not. I might have been arrested or escorted off the plane by one of John?s contacts.