She came and sat beside me like a wraith, smelling of lavender or some other noxious weed. “I hate foreigners, don’t you?” she whispered into my ear
Surprised, I looked around the waiting room for foreigners but could see none and wondered why the minute woman had confided in me. I probably looked as foreign as anyone else in the room.
“Why’re you worried about foreigners?” I ventured.
She looked surprised that I should ask. “Think of all those Arab gymnasts.” The wrinkled old thing beside me sat closer and almost overpowered me with her scent. “All those planes bombed.” Then, “What’s he up to?” A sharp elbow in my side.
I followed her gaze to a man hauling a small child into the gent’s toilet. He, plus a little girl and a woman holding a baby had just made their way in and were seated near the front, by the window. “Guess he got lumbered with changing the baby.”
Short sniff of disdain. “Foreigners! Why don’t you check on him.” That was almost an order. I didn’t move except to lean away from the woman.” I am not good with diapers; anyway, I was trying to make out what the woman had meant about Arab gymnasts.
Then we were called to board the plane and I hesitated so that my unwanted companion might get seated a long way from me. Incidentally, the man who checked our tickets and identities looked foreign to me.
As I walked to the plane I came to a sudden stop and the lady behind me ran into my back. “Arab Gymnasts!” I said aloud. “Jihardists!” Oddly, I was allowed to board the plane and shown a seat. There was no sign of my erstwhile companion.
But I didn’t escape her attentions. I was settling down in my appointed seat by the window when a young fellow wearing a baseball cap sat beside me. We grinned companionably until there was a bit of a kerfuffle behind us and the lad got up, apologized to someone and permitted that inane woman to slide in beside me. “I told him he’d got the wrong seat,” she breathed all over me and buckled herself in.
We went through the usual procedure before the flight, the time when passengers try to follow instructions, a then the female steward, who did have an oriental cast to her pretty face, came by to see if we idiots had got everything right. “She looks foreign,” said the woman next to me.
“Probably a gymnast,” I suggested, and was ignored.
The plane took off successfully and we headed out over the snowy Purcells. I was enjoying the view from the window seat when I got another sharp jab in the ribs. I looked down; the woman had boney hands, no rings and painted finger nails. She was probably someone’s maiden aunt.
“You see that?” She said. “She’s got a huge bag under the seat in front of her.” She nodded at the couple across the aisle.
“It’s a massive bomb,” I replied wearily. “We’ve had it. ” I took the in-flight magazine from the rack, hoping it might not be the same as I’d read last year. I was also wondering if I could get the nuisance beside me under a seat with my feet on her.
When the stewardess came round with the free drinks and expensive alcohol, my companion tried extremely hard and not subtly to peer into the contents of the wheeled tray while I gritted my teeth in preparation for the remainder of the flight.
We arrived in soggy Vancouver without being blown to pieces but, on the way down the ramp, I accidentally dropped my return ticket. Without hesitation, I ducked under the rope that had been placed to guide us and bent to retrieve the document before it blew away. To my amazement, several burly men accompanied me and the stewardess cried, “Please don’t do that. Get back in line or they’ll shout at me.” I wondered if she meant Jihardists or gymnasts.
Meanwhile my fellow auntie terrorist had scurried away into