The Lamentations of a Crab

On my last day at work, my work-mates gave me a farewell. They took me to a nice restaurant and fed me well. They gave me a nice going-away present. That pleased me greatly. I like to eat. And I like presents. I felt affectionate and loving towards my colleagues and supervisors.

I called my supervisor as soon as I stepped out of the building though and bawled like a baby, babbling about not wanting to leave and pouring my heart out to him about That Dreaded 16 Hour Flight. He was one of my buddies, but also someone who I looked up to tremendously, so we always had that arm’s length thing going.  He took the outburst well, however, and tried to do the entire consoling bit. It didn’t work, I howled the entire way home with him trying his darndest to shut me up. I figured I could do that now since he was no longer my supervisor and professionalism could go fly a kite.

Scheduled to fly to a far-off destination within a month, it shouldn’t have been hard to get used to the brief staying-at-home stint. But the grass, as everyone knows, is always greener on the other side. I found myself lounging from bed to couch back to bed, missing my office and lamenting about what a great place it was. I snapped at everyone who crossed my path, growled, barked; you name it. I accused my parents of cruelty and the injustice of sending me off to an unknown land via That Dreaded 16 Hour Flight. They hid their smiles. They seemed pleased at the idea of getting rid of me.

No honest, this is my sad face!

One month passes fairly quickly though, as it is apt to do. Before one can say Robinson Crusoe, I find myself on the above-mentioned Dreaded 16 Hour Flight, grumbling and muttering and bawling again. There is an eight hour stop-over in the UAE. Possessing a green passport, I have the pleasure of being confined within the walls of the very enlightening Abu Dhabi airport.  Also, having never experienced such a long stop-over alone, I find myself getting crankier and crankier. Back on a plane, some six odd hours later, the flight attendant keeps her distance; she has long realized that her pleasant smiles won’t work on this crab. She serves the meals fast, pours the drink and makes off before I can pick at her for filling only half the glass. Typical airline behaviour, I think as I stew silently. They expect us to drink a thimble-full of Pepsi and be happy.

The lady next to me is in an annoyingly bright and chatty mood. She wants to know where I live and what my husband does and who is my favourite Bollywood actor. I answer her monosyllabically, hoping she’ll hush up soon. She doesn’t take the hint. Her favourite actor is Shahrukh Khan by the way. No surprises there. She suggests I watch his latest movie during the flight. I agree whole heartedly and switch it on. Anything to have her put a sock in it.  Shahrukh Khan prances on to the screen in all his typical glory, stuttering and over-acting as always. Brilliant. Just what I need. 3 further hours of unadulterated boredom. I drift in and out of sleep only to find my neighbour poking me. She needs to go the bathroom. Again? I almost ask, incredulously. It’s the fifth time. Oh the woes of an aisle seat.

They switch off the overhead lights. I make myself comfortable hoping to get some shut-eye. The neighbour has similar plans for herself. She has pulled her legs up quite conveniently. She wraps a blanket around herself and pretty soon, she’s out. I am the lucky recipient of her snoring; the seat next to her occupied by her daughter who grins and tells me her mother always snores. Great. Excellent. Her snores coupled with her unavoidably smelly feet (which are almost in my lap by now) make for delightful flight companions. I stuff the useless ear-pieces in my ear. They are exactly that. Useless. They keep falling out. I try to hold my breath hoping to be able to keep the stench at bay. It doesn’t work.

Apparently you need oxygen to breathe or something…

The attendant is back. This time she has ice-cream with her. I perk up. Ice-cream in the dark, a certain way of beating the blues. She looks at me tentatively. She almost passes me by. Hello? I call out. Ice cream, please. She makes her way back and whispers that she couldn’t tell whether I was asleep or awake behind my glasses. Not a very bright girl, I think huffily. Isn’t it her job to make sure everyone who is awake gets their snack?

Several years later, they turn the lights back on and tell us we are about to land. They hand out landing forms. I, obviously, lack a pen. I must borrow a pen from The Smelly One. She looks positively thrilled at my lack of preparation and instructs me on the importance of always keeping these basics in one’s bag. I nod along ‘yes, yes,’ tuning out as her lecture starts getting more intense.

Finally we land. Rough landing, the pilot seems to have fallen asleep and let the plane land on its own. The Smelly One starts reciting Quranic Surahs out loud, one after the other. And obviously clutching on to my arm. Clutch your daughter’s arm, I think but am too polite and well-brought up to say so.

Immigration takes a year to get through. The line is long. The Smelly One has attached herself to me here also, telling me in great detail about the bad experiences people with green passports have here in this Land of the Eternally Just. I hum and haw appropriately.Luckily, the immigration people are in as crabby a mood as I am and don’t seem particularly keen on picking out would-be fugitives. Which is great. Suits me perfectly well.

We growl at each other sulkily, I say my farewells to Stinky & Co. and make my merry way out the terminal into the Great Unknown. Let this New World bring on what it may, I, alongwith my infamous Green passport, am ready for it.

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Categories: The World I Know

Author:Alliya Iftikhar

Is still working on a by-line!

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