Archive for September, 2007
There are consequences to booking cheap flights with Aeroflot, Russia’s national carrier. One of those consequences is an inevitable lay-over at what is surely one of the world’s worst airports. Another is the flight itself.
I’ve just got back to Hong Kong (it’s 3am, I missed the ferry to Lamma and there are no sampans around so I’m writing this from the office, waiting for the 6.30am ferry) after a 24-hour trip from Bodrum, via Istanbul, via Moscow (with lengthy lay-overs at each). The last 10-hour leg was especially eventful.
I was crammed into a blue leather window-seat in economy, beside an ebullient Russian man the size of large prop-forward. He had long brown hair pulled back into a pony-tail and was travelling with two female companions, who sat in the seats behind us. All seemed in high spirits.
As soon as the plane was stable in the air, my Russian neighbour — who must have been in his mid-30s — ordered four small bottles of duty-free whiskey. The purchase turned out to be a (transparent) front for a larger bottle of Glenfiddich, which he smuggled stealthily down from the overhead compartment, only to indiscreetly flash it around the cabin to show his friends.
After a quick couple of stiff shots, chased by Pepsi, a flight attendant spotted the bottle. Yes, yes, yes, he would put it away, he appeared to say in response to her admonition (the interchange took place in Russian). True to his word, he did put it away — under a cushion tucked in beside his left hip.
The Russian gentleman knew approximately one English word, and it always came with an exclamation mark: “Drink!” Brandishing the bottle, he extended the invitation to me and two slightly frightened-looking Arab guys sitting opposite and seem perturbed when all politely declined, as if the thought of not drinking on a plane was unfathomable.
“Too early,” I offered, pointing to my wrist, which, had I been wearing a watch, would have indicated that the time was 10:30am. He chuckled.
By the time breakfast arrived, my friend had downed at least five strong pours — though it was hard to keep track, such was his stealth and quickness of hand. Ten minutes into the meal, his tray-table resembled a crash site. Piled on it was his meal, two of his friends’ unwanted salads, a stack of four empty plastic cups, an overturned cup with the remaining drops of a spent whiskey, a half-drained can of Pepsi, half a cup of orange juice, and a cup of tea with a slice of lemon floating on top. His belly pushed against the flimsy table from underneath.
With the tendrils of drunkenness firmly ensconced, he set about unpicking his foil-enclosed meal of fish and potato balls. He dropped the butter, fumbled with the cutlery’s plastic wrapping and eventually, with meal held at chest height, reclined and fell asleep. He stirred only to put his food down before sinking into deep slumber.
His companions, a little tipsy themselves, took great delight at this turn of events. One, a pretty strawberry blonde in her mid-30s with slightly bucked teeth and a hint of acne high on her cheeks, produced a digital camera to capture the moment. For the front-on shot, I leaned over and held two fingers up in ‘V’ sign by the man’s head. It wasn’t until she sat down, giggling, that I realised I was utterly trapped.
A lull. Then the Russian sat up with a start. His mouth blurted, as if a rat inside had suddenly made a desperate dash for freedom. I knew in an instant what was happening and rushed to grab a paper bag from the seat-pocket in front of me. In my panic to open it, I tore it slightly down the side. (By this stage, the man’s table had been cleared, save a couple of napkins, the orange juice and the Pepsi.) I shoved the bag into his hands just in time. Most of his vomit met its target; the rest dribbled down his front. As he leaned forward, he knocked over juice. Remarkably it didn’t spill over the sides. I hurriedly summoned an attendant and retreated as far as I could into my corner.
The attendant, clearly unimpressed by the man’s escapades, wasn’t in a hurry to help out but eventually brought over for some hand-towels for the clean-up mission. Somehow the drunkard managed that himself. As he was settling back, I took the opportunity to escape to the bathroom.
On my way back I found a better seat by an aisle and with more legroom. I deliberately chose it because it was beside a quiet, middle-aged couple. I soon fell into a happy sleep. Two hours later, I awoke to find them cracking open a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label…
I’m taking off on a trip to Turkey for a friend’s wedding. Much of that trip will be spent on a boat that doesn’t even have wireless internet. Geez, next thing they’ll tell me is that it doesn’t even have a bar. Anyway, that means this blog will be sitting lonely like an abandoned pet until at least Sunday, September 23. Maybe then I’ll have some pictures to show off.
In the meantime, let me point you again to my friend’s new blog, which, despite only two posts, is showing great promise. Today, for instance, he wrote about why capuchin monkeys piss on themselves.
I knew there was a reason for it.
Here I am.
Drama! Blood! Guts! Strange sexual escapades on crowded escalators!
None of that happened. I’ve just been busy, and on a business trip to Bangkok, where I was treated to two nights in the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, and conference presentations in Thai. I used that time effectively — to write a letter to my grandma.
In the meantime, I have some good news to announce: my friend and opinionated comment-leaver Dstring has launched his own blog — Dstring’s Logic Emporium. He’s based in Ontario, so his first post is very Canada-specific, but Dstring is an intelligent and witty guy with a large breadth of knowledge across politics, chemistry, journalism, and heavy metal music. He reckons his PhD in chemistry and master’s degree in journalism qualifies him to author an anonymous blog.
Now, go read about rioting monks in Burma.