Getting home was foremost on my mind. Not just because it was Christmas – I simply had to get home and see my family, be with my family. Feeling exhausted and depleted from trying to piece together a shattered life in Singapore and eventually starting a new one in Indonesia, the Philippines was my ultimate sanctuary. But before I was to get to my sanctuary, I had to put up with the unpleasant side of travelling beginning with a puffed-up co-AirAsia passenger who couldn’t wait his turn at the counter.
He didn’t have an iota of a brain to respect what I call public space. Be it queues for a turn at an ATM machine or counter (check-in counter, sales counter or McDonald’s counter), one should wait his/her turn until the customer has left the counter. It’s called common decency, which he lacked. Being taller than me, he arched his arm and dropped his documents on the counter and glared at me as if to say “Get out” after he saw that I was issued my boarding pass. I glared back at the Neanderthal and was about to give him a piece of my mind, but my yoga senses kicked in stopping the fusillade of invectives I was so ready to unleash at him.
“He can eat the counter if he wanted too,” I said to myself and walked off, mentally flicking him off like a fly.
It’s a common misconception that public spaces are without boundaries. Au contraire, public spaces are governed by good behavior, common sense and consideration. Airline check-in is just one of the instances where the three codes of conduct coalesce shining the spotlight on one’s upbringing. Are you a well-mannered individual or a boor who is missing half a brain having stepped on the other half earlier on? The three are interconnected. Good behavior is the result of an upbringing steeped in the practice of consideration for others and not being caught up in narcissistic tendencies. But being well-bred doesn’t mean turning into a door mat. Common sense comes in when you need to know how to act, which can be done by “reading” the situation. For example, if there is still someone at the counter tidying up their documents, waiting for that person to leave the counter is appropriate behavior. Common sense doesn’t need Einstein’s mental acuity but people dumber than a box of rocks will certainly have problems with common sense.
Remember that pompous co-passenger? The universe’s wicked sense of humor kicked in and had him sit a row before me. But the universe balanced it with the serendipitous finding of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love at the Periplus bookstore at the airport sugar coated with a purchase discount.
As I said, the universe has a wicked sense of humor. The flight departure had been moved again when I reached the departure gate. The original flight time of 530pm was moved to 615pm when I was checking in, and lunch and a browse through Periplus later, the departure time was moved to 655pm when I reached the departure gate. That’s AirAsia Indonesia for you – ask for the reason for the delay and you’ll receive an explanation that it’s not a delay but a re-timing. Board the plane and you’ll hear the Captain apologizing for the delay in departure – something about technical difficulties and roster problems. Conflicting stories never sat well with me but I was going home so I let it slide.
The universe was being pleasant when I landed at Singapore Changi Airport three hours before midnight. No long queues at the immigration counter, luggage was already offloaded onto the belt and the taxi bay attendant was in control despite the snafu with guests from India who decided to board which ever taxi they wanted despite being assigned specific berths. The next morning started on the right foot as well – the taxi my friend booked for me arrived on the dot and the driver was gracious. Despite the snaking queue at the Philippine Airline check-in counters, check-in was prompt. The attendant was genial, remembering to ask me if I wanted an aisle or window seat. Even the employee at Kedai Kue Kue was very solicitous carrying my bags of keropok udang to the counter.
Then the bubble popped when I ran into Ms. Grumpy Chops at Choco Fantasia who met my greeting with a scowl. It was only 9 am. It is hard work being in the service industry because one deals with various people and long hours. However, without overdoing it, people at the frontline of the service industry should radiate the amiability of Big Bird, the child-like wonder of Elmo and the vitality of Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, not channel the surly vibes of Voldemort and Neferet.
“Let it slide. Just get the chocolates,” I told myself, as I went up and down the aisles of chocolates.
Let it slide became my mantra until my flight landed at the Centennial Airport. I let the disagreeable mien and disposition of the cabin crew slide – they probably woke up at the wrong side of the bed. I let the 35-minute delay in the departure slide – ranting at the pilot won’t move the plane an inch. I let the intermittent thumping on the back of my seat slide – the passenger seated behind me must have been frantically searching for the barf bag. I let the brusque answer of the steward slide after I asked him if my crackers wouldn’t get crushed after he shoved another bag in the overhead cabin – he probably had enough of dealing with doubters.
Mantra two was “I’m going home” and that was all that mattered.