It was a morning like any other of my recent ones. I had a flight to catch for Hyderabad (a city in India) for a one-off meeting. It was a one hour flight which was supposed to take-off at 7am.
It is 6:10 am and I am standing in a frustratingly slow-moving line at the airplane’s gate; watching people trying to scooch their way through the attenuated passage of economy class.
What happened next followed from a choice which I had made an hour ago.
5:20 am: “Sir, would you like a middle seat?” the Airport staff asked, rather impatiently.
“Don’t you have a window one? I like fresh air.” I joked.
“Yes, but it’s in last row, near the lavatory.” She said with a straight face, apparently unmoved.
“Well, Ok.” I said with resignation.
So it was this choice that decided my fate for the next one and a half hour.
6:20 am: Still in the slow-moving line, I can make out a girl sitting right next to my seat (actually she is right left to me). Is she flying with me?
6:23 am: I settle down, hand over the water bottle to her with a polite smile. She responds with a smile.
6:33 am: Say something, my inside is thundering. I steal a glance at her. Cute girl. Way out of your league! Forget it! I sit with my head down and breathing normal.
6:45 am: Some passenger onboard gets sick. The flight attendant announces that the flight will get delayed by a half hour.
I continue to steal glances at my co-passenger. She is reading a novel. She looks ok, a bit nerdy, but ok.
6:55 am: My inside screams, Say something. She is not that hot, but not bad either for an hour journey, which otherwise I will have to spend staring through plane’s window or humming Linkin Park (ok…Avril Lavigne!).
To my right is a 30 something man, sniggling his nose and giggling each time the air hostess bends down to pick something.
I mumble “This is a jaw-dropping adventure.”
“What?” she says.
“The novel you are reading”.
She looks puzzled and goes back to her novel. She is reading The Alchemist.
My breathing is back to normally abnormal.
7:10 am: Silence…
7:15 am: Uncomfortable silence.
7:20 am: Unbearably uncomfortable silence.
Plane takes off…
7:25 am: Even the inner conscience is mute, like my sports teacher used to chide me “You are hopeless.”
I ask her “So you going to Hyderabad?” We share an awkward smile (The plane has no other stop)
7:25 am: “Yes, how about you?” perhaps she decides to humor me.
And so begins my smooth magic.
7:26 am: Silence.
7:27 am: Uncomfortable silence.
7:28 am: Unbearably uncomfortable silence.
7:29 am--8:30 am: Conversation somehow picks up. We discuss series of important topics from soccer player Gerrard (whom she finds very cute, I think she might have confused him with Gerard Butler) to Pamela Anderson (She says something about her being a temptress, I couldn’t agree more. She also says something about her acting skills which I don’t really understand).
8:30 am: Flight lands at Hyderabad. I pick up her luggage and we stroll together. The city never looked more beautiful and I have a feeling that the next few minutes are going to be best minutes of my life.
8:31 am: Silence.
8:35 am: Uncomfortable silence... Well you know the routine!
8:42 am: I get a call, my meeting stands cancelled; the other party had some last minute change of plan.
“Oh great!” I think. “Plan!”
Then I see just how unplanned life really is. I could never know when I will be back in this lovely city. And no matter how good I plan it, it never actually goes the way I want it.
I look at the girl with whom I have spent the last 2 hours, 19 minutes and 21 seconds, and say:
“Hey! I had a great time flying with you…”
“Me too” she says.
For the first time my conscience doesn’t scorn me... But really – great time flying with you - What kind of line is that?!
8:42 am--8:50 am: “You know, I really do not know anyone here and have a whole day and nothing to do. But even if I did know someone, I still would like to go on lunch with you.”
“I have to go home” she says.
“Then take me with you. Introduce me as your friend. I really don’t want to spend time thinking what could have happened here” I say
Ever After: Things picked up from here, we had dinner later that night. She told me how she feared spiders because they have eight legs. I told her that I sometimes have nightmares about a shoe, because it looks like the face of an angry bull (which she found strange! Girls…)
I am flying back to Hyderabad today. She’ll see me at the Hyderabadi Biryani (the famous restaurant). BUT
Life is never planned, right? But I had this idea only when I came back from that trip. As this butterfly did not take wings there, the events that actually happened were a bit different:
6:20 am–8:42 am: Same as above, except that at 8:42 am I did hear an inside voice screaming: “great time flying with you – Who uses such lines?”
8:43 am: I get a call; my meeting had been rescheduled half an hour earlier.
“Shit I’m late!” I rushed from the airport and never looked back.
So did you notice, during this whole time, I did not even know her name?
Morale of the story: Ask names, be relaxed and enjoy life.
God I wish I had a Time Machine.
Title Justified. Period