There are few things worse than having to talk to people on a plane when all you want to do is sit and think about your sore lip. Or so finds Jackson Biko who has not yet discovered a way to politely rid himself of annoying airplane interlocutors.
I ran into some acquaintance at a liquor store at the Duty Free in JKIA. I was inspecting this whisky in a very odd-shaped bottle when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Nobody taps anyone on the shoulder anymore. It’s a very Cold War kind of behaviour. I hadn’t seen him in years. I follow him on Twitter where he’s loud and brash and colourful and is prone to quoting Machiavelli. In person he’s small and meek with small flowery ears and he wears T-shirts with a pocket. If only Twitter knew. We hugged. He introduced me to his girlfriend, who had on those trendy torn jeans folded at the bottom. She had wrists as brittle as the legs of a heron. They were headed to Doha to visit his sister. I was headed to Santorini, Greece. Three days ago I had bitten my lower lip while eating so I had a sore lower lip and I wasn’t in the mood to talk and answer the same old questions that his girlfriend was asking me; where do you get your ideas from? (Hint: From people who want to talk to me when I have sore lips). Anyway, I was polite even though I wanted nothing better than to be left alone with that odd-shaped bottle.
“So what takes you to Greece?” He asked and I told him I was turning 40 years old in three days. The girlfriend emitted a small shriek. She looked about 29; young and idealistic and convinced that she will never get to 40. “Yeah, I know. But I don’t have any hip problems and I don’t feel the need to take a leak all the time.” I told her. She said she was surprised that I didn’t look forty. Right. The shriek had said otherwise. “But how can you go to Greece alone?” She asked and I said. “I’m not.” Then she said, “but where is she?” I said, “She’s in the ladies,” and the man with a pocket on his T-shirt laughed as if I can’t be with a woman who goes to the ladies. I think that was a compliment.
It was them again in the plane, three rows down. He kept drinking that godawful alcohol they serve in the planes from those dwarf bottles which was fine but problem was he kept making pit stops by our seat to tell me something about branding. (He’s a branding guy.) at some point everybody around me knew what “Positioning statement” and “brand architecture” was. My lower lip throbbed harder. I wanted to remove my Glenmorangie from the luggage compartment and swig the whole of it down to numb his commentary, but then it was in a sealed bag and I wouldn’t be allowed with it in the connecting flight in Doha. It’s probably the only time I craved an alcoholic drink all my years flying. I see people who crack open a beer just after the seatbelt sign has been switched off and they don’t stop until touchdown and I’m impressed at that talent. Then those who are a nuisance when they are drunk. They laugh loudly at the movie they are watching. They nap and snore so loudly it’s worse than going through turbulence. Then those who want to talk to you when high. I have also wondered who uses those sick bags in the plane. I once saw one person who had had too much wine use one. It was worse than altitude sickness.
When we landed in Doha he was a mess. He spoke from the corner of lips. He had tucked in his t-shirt. His girlfriend- sober as a monk- grinned apologetically. “Happy birthday Biko,” she said as we parted to our connecting flight and them to the blistering Doha. She then added, “and don’t write about this.”
But how can I not?