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April 5, 2017

Seatmates and 24-Hour Flights

Tom McLaughlin

I boarded a flight back to Borneo from Seattle to Dubai aboard Emirates Air. The attendant asked if I would like an exit seat. This meant I could stretch my legs as far out as they would go.


Yes, please. Then she asked if I would like a window or aisle. I couldn't believe my luck. I said window. For a 14-hour flight, this was as good as it gets.


I boarded the flight, put my pillow next to the fuselage and promptly fell asleep. I ate the first meal and slept again. I ate the pizza and fell asleep again. When I awoke, I had slept a full 10 hours. This was the first time I had ever, ever slept on an airplane. Usually, I am watching movies, reading a book, playing with my iPad, or simply staring google eyed into space. By the time I get off the flight, I am a wreck. I have no idea where I am and sleep walk to the next gate.


With just four hours to go, I struck up a conversation with my seatmate. He was returning home to India on emergency leave to perform the rituals for his mother who had passed away in her sleep the night before. I offered my condolences, and I told him it was better that she expired peacefully than to have a long, lingering illness. He, through sobs, agreed.


Trying to change the subject, I asked where he worked and he said Microsoft. I told him all I know about computers was how to turn them on and off, write an e-mail and use Microsoft Word. I could also navigate Facebook, but that was about it. He chuckled and said he was a software engineer.


Curious, I asked him why anyone would want to hack into Yahoo and steal all that information about its clients. I mean, what good is it? He informed me that the e-mails are bundled into groups and are sold to advertisers. Let's say you bought some soap over the net. Then, the e-mails having to do with soap are sold to soap companies. Ditto with other products.


I asked him about financial information. He said that was usually ignored because it has become too hard to break into banks and steal the money. There are some people who try, but they usually do not succeed. Eyeing my checking account with about $23, I just can't imagine anyone bothering with it.


Then I pressed him about the Russians and their efforts to disrupt the election. He told me there had to be somebody in the United States to pass on the material. He became very technical, but I just remember there had to be someone in the United States to help. He said they were looking for that "someone," but he had probably covered his tracks by now. I asked if that "someone" was paid, and he answered "most probably."


The plane landed and I wished him well. As the oldest son, he had to perform the funeral rituals for his mom and was bound for Mumbai. I found my plane to Kuala Lumpur and discovered I was seated at the very back, I mean the very last seat, but it was an aisle seat.


My seatmate was a Brit who was heading for Bali with his girlfriend. She was a young lass in her early twenties with black hair, slim and very pretty. She gave me a look over her boyfriend that said if you talk to me I will dissolve you into your seat. I believe from her red eyes, lasers would come out and do the job quite effectively.


I chatted with her boyfriend, gave him some tips on Bali and Kuala Lumpur and he fell asleep. I watched movies and the plane landed six hours later. I had another two hour flight, but at least it was the last of them.


...Life is good. . . . .


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