I was on a plane en route to Chicago. Ok, that’s via Narita in Tokyo with a two hour lay over. I was on board my favorite airline whose hub in Asia is Japan and in the US - Detroit, St. Paul-Minneapolis and maybe, Seattle-Tacoma.
It was the time when Obama was an enigma, revered all over the world as a charismatic, tele-prompter reading demi-god who will deliver the US from evil and make peace with the rest of the world. But that was then. He must have been echoing the dreams of his father for Kenya. (Please, do not thrash, pillory and impale me for making references to a political figure. I can’t even vote. I’m not a US citizen).
I had read earlier from the papers that he was to give a talk to a group of foreign journalists right beside the hall on the same day where I was to attend a meeting in McCormick Plaza in downtown Chicago. I found the idea exhilarating as my husband has always accused me of ‘intellectual bankruptcy of hero worshiping‘, whenever I swoon over a public figure. Well, it’s my life and I was in Chicago and he wasn’t.
So I went on with the bandwagon of Obama mania by reading his first book Dreams From My Father which my sister in LA sent to me as a present. I have to buy my own copy of Audacity of Hope from Barnes and Noble from The Grove though and pay for it myself. Sigh.
Anyway, as I was flying coach (you can only get too many business class upgrades so I stopped pushing my luck) and because my brain shrank while I was at the self-check in kiosk, something I should have done online much earlier, I was not able to choose my seat. That meant: 1. I didn’t get an aisle seat. 2. I didn’t get a seat near the rest room. 3. I didn’t get the forward seats. 4. I couldn’t get close enough to the pilot to see if he was good looking or not.
Now comes the issue of the flight attendants.
They were a multi-racial almost all girls team, voluptuous, tall, nice skin, good teeth, nicely colored hair, curves in the right places, smelled good , hair pulled into a pony tail and those with short hair, neatly gelled into place there never was a stray hair or a strand standing on end. I was certain I was in safe hands.
I was willing to forget that on another occasion, during the flight to Dallas, I was sleeping soundly which I badly needed as it was a 5am pick up time for me from Elk Grove for my 7am flight to Dallas when a sweet voice woke me up. I saw a female flight attendant half-kneeling on the aisle to tell me, sotto voce. ‘Madam, your earrings are gorgeous!’ I had worn my then new acquisition of South Sea pearl chandelier drop earrings (better worn than getting lost somewhere in transit). While I was flattered and amused with her almost childlike eager appreciation, I wanted to smother her because she couldn’t wait until I was awake to tell me that. Next time I’ll take this airline, I’ll wear an eye patch emblazoned with ‘I am insomniac. Back off’ . (Would that be rude?)
So, I was flipping over the Obama book which I found so engaging I read every page, absorbing every interesting detail and insight of his convoluted past and childhood. When the flight got to the part of serving our meals, I was already into the chapter when Obama was spending his childhood in Indonesia.
As it was not a very large aircraft, there were only three rows. That meant one flight attendant to the left and half of the middle row and another flight attendant to the right and the other half of the middle row.
From a distance (and I also read from the flight menu) I heard that the choice would be either beef or chicken.
Would you like the beef or the chicken?
Chicken or beef?
Beef or chicken for you?
What about you Sir?
Chicken or beef Madam?
Now, despite the beauty and grace of the flight attendant assigned to us, she was hopelessly, painfully slow. Unlike the pert and perky, almost jumpy lady to my right. However, her tray was perhaps inferior or there was uneven distribution of people’s preferences that she kept asking the girl on my side for beef.
Do you have some more beef?
Do you have extra beef please.
May I have some beef please. Can you check if you have extra?
The girl on my side was so generous she gave three on one occasion, passing over the hot styro covered with aluminum foil over the heads of people in the middle row towards the other end. And even without being asked, she passed three more packs of the beef. And passed on some more.
‘Here’s more Cindy’, she said sweetly.
Because I was already on the chapter about Obama’s Indonesian stepfather teaching him how to slaughter chicken by slitting the neck and catching the blood dripping in a bowl, I lost my appetite for chicken.
Soon, it was my turn for the multiple choice.
‘Would that be beef or chicken Ma’am’
I replied ‘Beef please’, as I put down the book on my tray table.
‘I’m sorry Ma’am but we have no more beef’
‘Then why did you have to ask me if I wanted chicken or beef?’ I replied, sounding disgruntled.
‘Wait a second Ma’am’
She called on to the girl on the other side to whom she had passed the nine trays of the beef.
‘Cindy, do you have some more beef?
Cindy answered in the negative by shaking her head.
Then the flight attendant turned to me again and said ‘I’m sorry Ma’am we only have chicken.
This time I was livid. I was glowering. And I have such big eyes.
She bit the tip of her point finger between her lips, bowed and closed her eyes in deep contemplation. And then as though waking up from a trance, after a moment of discernment that would make for a higher altitude in her career direction, she quipped ‘You know what, I’ll give you the chicken’, as she placed the chicken dish on my tray.
I stared at it for the longest time while conjuring up images of the fate of the chicken in Obama’s story and the flight attendant together in one recurring scene in my mind.
By then I was so hungry but I couldn’t muster the courage to lift the foil and face the prospect of having chicken inside.
Perhaps seeing I have not touched my meal, the flight attendant went back to me and asked
‘Ma’am do you want utensils with that too?’
THOUGHT BALLOON: You have such a pretty face, do you want brains with that too?