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Who’s My Neigh-bore?

Neighbours are generally a preoccupation with people, but they become even more crucial on board an aircraft! Jason Samuel enumerates a series of his experiences to that effect

There are many travellers who are petrified just at the thought of flying. One of the reasons is that they realise that once they are up in the air, they are closer to God than they have ever been in their entire life, but another reason for apprehension is the fear of who their neighbour will be on board the aircraft.

Being a frequent flyer myself, I often find myself wondering who my neighbour will be. And among my innumerable experiences, I have picked some of the choicest to highlight the importance of a good companion especially on board a long-haul flight.

Tip Slip
On my first in-flight experience, I found myself sitting next to an Arab gentleman who couldn’t speak a word of English. He asked me to help him fill his disembarkation card. After I helped him out, he promptly tipped me 10 dollars! At that point I returned the money, but today I would have probably retained it.

Sleeping Beauty
Another time, on a flight to London I sat next to an ‘Indo-American’ lady from Gujarat who slept all the way from take off to landing. She was by far the most boring neighbour I have ever had to date.

Twin Shock
On yet another flight, I met a gentleman who was sitting on my right and had to turn his head to hear what I was saying. Later, I found out that his left ear drum was damaged in a mortar attack in Vietnam. When I introduced myself, I said my name was Jason and he said he was Samuel. He didn’t hear me properly. Later when I saw his passport, he was Colonel Jason Samuel from the US Army. Imagine sitting next to someone with exactly the same name!

Name ‘n’ Fame
On another flight from Vancouver to Toronto via Calgary, during the winter Olympics, I was sitting next to Barbara Walters. Boy, was she gorgeous! I didn’t know who she was, but she had to be famous with so many co-passengers asking for autographs. Eventually, I figured out that she was a famous television personality.

Con Job
Like most men, I mainly recall my female co-passengers, so here’s about another experience from Bangalore to Mumbai. It just so happened that I knew a lot of people on board that particular flight and we exchanged pleasantries. Having noticed that, this pretty lady next to me asked me if I was the Mayor of Bangalore. Surprised, I replied in the negative and inquired why she had asked. She explained that I seemed to be very popular. To elucidate, I informed her that I was a nobody. She introduced herself as Mayor of Orange County, California, which obviously impressed me. It was only while parting ways that she admitted she wasn’t the Mayor, but a stewardess with American Airlines.

Flight Delight
Recently, while I was flying Delhi to Lucknow, I was seated beside a woman who worked for Singapore Airlines, Delhi. While chatting with her, I told her I was India’s largest ‘miniature aircraft model’ collector and have featured in the Limca Book Of Records 2002. She expressed her willingness to add to my collection. Now, do I wish I always have neighbours like that on a flight.

(The author is general manager, Forvol International Services Limited)