A chance meeting

According to Aviation data companies in the past year there were an average of 9,728 planes — carrying 1,270,406 people — in the sky at any given time… there are about 25000 plus number of crew members serving that huge number above.

I had got into the plane on a normal clear skies day with the wind at 10mph. The weather was hot and there was nobody I could complain to about it at that time. The plane was not planned at the sky bridge and the airport bus was to ferry us to the Boeing 737 that was parked on the tarmac quite close to exit 3 of the runway, so that it could make a quick getaway considering that it was already 30 minutes late from departure. The inbound run from the country to which I was flying was delayed and that set off the cascade as far as flight times was concerned.

The airport bus ferried us, about 60 passengers in all, in one bus. It seemed this was one day where everyone who had booked the flight were available at the exit gate considering the departure time had already elapsed. The bus made its way and moored itself to the star board side of the flight SD439 and as we came out of the air-conditioned comfort, the heat and the wind made quick bites at our skin as we climbed on to the flight deck, with hand baggage in tow.

The passengers including me settled into our seats by keeping our baggage and duty free supplies in the cabin loft, as we made minor adjustments to the seats and got ready for a 3 hour flight in the mid summer noon sky. The air hostesses; 3 of them were making us comfortable to get ourselves seated and I was glad the flight was not to even half of its capacity. That meant either I would get or not get a companion by my side seat. I was thinking of taking the window seat if no one took it and so my eyes were on the landing deck to see if any new passenger would come onboard.

None appeared, and the flight crew got the orders to close the doors and get ready for take off. The safety instructions came up on the screens, and we readied ourselves, as the jet taxied on to runway 2 waiting for the final signal to take off. Within minutes, it picked up speed and we were in the air taking a steep ascent before we leveled at 1000 feet or so, my eyes glued on to the screens for altitude and speed information.

You seem to have an eye for details, came the voice from behind. I turned back to see one lady who looked like an hostess sitting behind me. I wondered why she had taken that position, as most of them should have been at their designated seats during take off. Don’t worry I am off duty today, she said reading my thoughts.

Hello, I said, yes the take off and landings are special as also a bit nervous to me. Which one you fear most, asked she. By the way, I am Lucy and you,? I introduced myself. I fear takeoffs because of the plane taking its time as it gathers speed and the bumps on the runway not helping much. But did you know, landings are more difficult for the pilots to navigate. Yes, I replied but for the passengers like us, it seems a bit more easy.
Hmm she replied, looking straight into my eyes, I averted mine from her, as I felt a bit uneasy.

After the seat belt signs had gone away with the jet at around 10000 feet and still climbing, it was time for the refreshments. I opted for a can of juice and crackers and made myself comfortable. The lady behind was not to be seen as she appeared to be at the rear in the pantry. I shifted to the window seat though there was nothing much to see at this moment..this is the captain speaking we would be hitting rough weather in a couple of minutes so please put on your seat belts..the crew was running around to take the empty cans when the first wave of turbulence hit us..the plane dropped a bit giving us the butterflies and the wings outside were flaying wildly..hope they can take the stress..i prayed to myself..

Why do we pray when things look pretty bad. That’s how we are wired I guess I said smiling to her second appearance now next to me. Where had you gone..Oh just to see my fellow mates at work. Hope they were happy to get an extra hand today…Nope I didn’t assist them they needed no help since there are only few passengers to feed.

The liqour and soft drinks round had started and one of her colleagues came over stopped asking what would I prefer to which I thanked her saying it is fine. I won’t be having any. She went across to the passenger in front. Why, she didn’t ask you for any drink. It is okay. I don’t. Why did you say No..was it because I am sitting here, it was her turn to question. I do not while travelling, I replied.

Normally there are 4 persons who serve us. Is someone absent or is it you who is playing truant I joked.

There are 4 generally but I guess with 67 pax, 3 is a good number, she said as she held my hand firmly.

Within seconds the jet hit another volley of turbulence and I felt glad she had held me at that moment. Did you see that coming? Mmm experience you see, she smiled her sweetest smile revealing a set of pearl white teeth.

The other crew members looked a bit dazed or sad I couldn’t pin point on what exactly it was. It looked they were going about their tasks in a depressed way or was it stress.. I couldn’t guess.

Looks like your colleagues are tired or is there something else to it. You are very observant; yes they are tired. They didnt get rest yesterday night nor they were rested today. It happens to us; the stress, the separation from loved ones, all gets into us one day or the other and takes it toll on us. Life is a tough taskmaster on the ground as well in the air. How I worked to get this job and see how lifeless it seems now. We never get grounded once we get snuffed off in the midst of a tragedy.

At 30,000 feet the engines were cruising smoothly though my mind was disturbed after hearing her talk.

I didn’t want to change the subject yet asking her as to why she thought so, might be taken as intrusion of privacy.

What chances do we have while we are forced to land on water. I asked her and why do you people smile so much?

We are in a pressurised metal capsule depending on 2 engines and wings with a lot of electronics onboard. Add to it the weather, skills of the crew in the cockpit and the decisions they make, all this makes it stressful to us while we play host to hundreds of passengers like you. Some are at peace while some are curious and others too demanding at times… so we smile all the time; make it a part of our habit and suppress the frown to far off corners.

This job might seem glamourous to you from the ground but like each job it has its pros and cons.

What about my first question?

We do give instructions on how to conduct yourself if at all we need to land on water..but coming to think of it, it all depends on the reason which caused us to try to land on water. First of all this is no seaplane or an amphibian. The chances are less unless the plane is still manageable and the sea calm as a sheet which is rarely the case. You cannot have both options on your side unless the Lord decides to come on your side she said with a sad smile this time.

Have you served on other airlines or is this your first? This is my third and last she said with a delay..Contemplating retirement or a career switch asked I as she looked to me in her late thirties. Yes, a switch which I pulled yesterday. You see I am no longer serving…I called it a day yesterday..time to settle elsewhere where my … mind beckons. Her stunning eyes had me in their grip..I guess I should leave you now. You need to rest I guess, must have been a hectic week for you? Yes it was I smiled back. The cabin lights were switched off now and most of us were trying to grab a bit of sleep.

I saw her walking back to the crew members in the pantry.

I got up when another crew member asked me to adjust my seat as we were preparing for landing…I looked around for Lucy, she had not moved out of the pantry or must be resting herself in some seat as she was off duty.

Within minutes the plane landed at the destination, the pilot thanking us for taking the pleasant journey. I readied my retrieved backpack from the cabin loft and waited till the cabin doors got opened and we walked into the skybridge. I looked around for Lucy but she was not to be found…maybe I will catch up with her on my next flight, soothing myself, I got into the booked cab taking me home about 40 minutes away from the airport.

I got home and had my hands on the morning news paper in the evening. On the 3rd page I came across a column that read Air hostess commits suicide in hotel room yesterday morning…

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