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Red wine, a retired bikie and an empty seat
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Upon checking into the airport, my travelling partners and I were disappointed to discover that we were not able to all sit together for the final leg home of our trip.
We (read they) decided that the boys would sit together with the two seats side by side and I would have some space (read fend for myself) way back in the middle of the plane. I was sure this was where the fault line was should the plane disintegrate in midair – a sober thought passing through my pessimistic, sleep deprived mind.
Finding my row, I noticed a rather skinny, scraggly bearded man, who looked like he could have been a bikie in an earlier life, seated in the aisle seat . (I later discovered he had fallen prey to a bikie gang and had three wires in his jaw to prove it.) The smell of red wine wasn’t unnoticed by me as I squeezed past him to the safety of my window seat.
I consoled myself with the thought that the empty seat between us would mean sleep might actually be a possibility tonight. If not, I had the window ledge to cuddle up to which was more than my weary friends had. Successful sleep in a plane depends upon the ability to rearrange body position. With an empty seat beside me and a window, I was in red eye heaven.
I smiled smugly upon takeoff, knowing that the raising of an armrest and the stretching of a leg was all that stood before a final seat takeover and sleep. I executed the move without making eye contact and adopted the “blanket up, eyes closed, don’t disturb me I’m asleep “ pose. This worked remarkably well for nearly two hours as I cat napped. My cover was blown as they turned on the lights for breakfast at 4am. 4am! Who has breakfast at 4am? Obviously the people in Singapore do because there was a plane full of people waking up to eat a sad looking egg and a rather pale looking sausage. I opted for the muffin and juice, which was all I could stomach at such an early hour.
Siezing his opportunity the bikie spoke
“ I don’t know if you realize, but it is 4am on Anzac morning. I wanted to be home in time for the dawn service this morning but I missed my flight yesterday.”
“Hmmm” I smiled politely in response.
“ You look like a well read, educated woman and all. Aren’t we lucky to live in such a good country because of what the bloody soldiers did for us”
Darn… this was requiring a response….. which would lead to a conversation… and we were only half way home…… I had another two hours to possibly converse with this man. Don’t tell me these kind of thoughts have never crossed your mind. Why else do you start talking to the person in the seat right next to you as you are touching down. Because you know that even if you don’t like them, you only have 5 minutes or less to actually care.
So I replied “ Yes we are very lucky to live in such a country that has so much.”
Then it happened. We actually started a conversation that was real, truthful and possibility wine induced at times.
He said he was drinking to the cause today, but I strongly suspect that he had a cause every day.
He introduced me to Leonard Cohen and attempted to sing a few bars to acquaint us. He told me about his marriage to a Thailand girl who had helped him as a down and out tourist. I shared with him the needs of Cambodia and my work there and reminded him about the impact of one person on the world. Our conversation was studded with profanities and thoughtful pauses but it was raw, honest and heartfelt.
It’s funny how a drunk ex bikie can remind you of the vulnerabilities of people, how different and yet how similar we all are. How we can get so caught up in our own here and nows, that we forget about the people parallel to us having their own moments.
“Lest we forget” He sighed as the sun slowly yawned its way across the horizon.
It is interesting that God will use whatever he can to get a message through to you- He has used donkeys and I believe he just added a retired,drunk bikie to the list…..
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