Friday, February 27, 2009

A Curious Plane Incident

Three hours into my flight to London, I sauntered down to the lavatory allocated to my particular aisle. I stood outside and patiently waited - for a good 15 minutes. I was even able to remove my contact lenses, put on my flight socks and do some stretching exercises.

As I was wondering if the occupant of the lavatory was suffering from a serious bout of diarrhoea (I might want to refrain from entering, you see) or has lost consciousness somewhat, I saw the sign "Occupied" flipped to "Vacant".

Ah, the guy is not unconscious afterall!

Curiously, the occupant did not emerge. There were some sounds within, so I boldly decided to push the door open.

A 70 plus year old Caucasian man stood, quivering. He looked like he had exerted much effort getting out of the bathroom and was unable to talk much. You can go in now, he mumbled. But he barely moved enough for me to slip in.

A little exasperated, I offered him assistance back to his seat. He was surprisingly amenable to the idea and grabbed my hands immediately.

We started hobbling one step at the time, in the quest to look for his seat, him walking forward and me, facing backwards.

Old Man: Okay, I am going to go "Left, Right". You just follow my steps.
Me: (thinks) Wah lao. Is he from the military or what?

His grip was very strong and he was actually steering me. At some point, he leaned to look if it was his seat and I felt as if I could not support his weight. Everyone around was staring in curiosity.

Old Man: Don't worry about me. I'm not going to fall..
Me: Uh.

We reached the only empty aisle seat.

Me: Is this your seat?
Old Man: I'm not sure....
Me: (thinks) Great! Now he can't remember where his seat is?

I grabbed a bag on the seat with my left hand while supporting his weight and showed it to him.

Me: Is this your bag?
Old Man: YES! YES! I think so!
Me: *relieved* Great! Please sit down and I will get your sandals you left in the bathroom.

He was rather grateful and thanked me when I return with his sandals. I looked for a steward and informed him to assist the old man in any of his trips to the lavatory.

I watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona (which was quite funny by the way) and fell asleep midway through Transformers. When I woke up, there was a commotion at the lavatory area behind. I heard the same old man approached a lady behind me for assistance.

Old Man: Can you take me back to my seat?
Lady: Oh your seat is just a few steps ahead, go on.

This dialouge continued with the old man, now indignant that the lady is not helpful. The lady seemed experienced in handling elderly and was seemingly under the impression that the elderly man just wanted attention. She did not waver in her decision.

The old man walked slowly a few seats forward and now spoke to someone else. Eventually, a steward and stewardess approached him to help him get back to the seat. For some reason, he refused. Then, it escalated to some kind of scuffle.

The stewardess boomed,"SIR! We will have to restrain you if you do not return to your seat. We need to protect other passengers!"

Another stewardess came with an oxygen mask and tank. The old man grabbed the mask, shouting "NO! I WILL NOT PUT IT ON!" The stewardess screamed,"You're going to break it!"

It was a dramatic scene. Three persons (man)handling an old man, who is quite strong for his age.

Subsequently, they managed to restrain him with a rope around the chair. The old man yelled and howled. He rejected offers of water, medicine and oxygen. After an hour or so, he calmed down a little when a different stewardess cajoled and sweet-talked. It makes me wonder if some elderly men really have such an insane streak of stubborness. He reminded me of my paternal grandpa. It also makes me wonder if all these would have happened if the lady initially offered her assistance. Afterall, he didn't make such a huge fuss when I interacted with him.

We landed uneventfully, the old man still restrained on his seat. We were not allowed to disembark because the paramedics and police were called in. Even then, when they approached him, the old man yelled "I WANT TO SEE YOUR IDENTIFICATION!" repeatedly.

The air stewardess, after much delays, decided to re-direct another exit route for us.

Welcome to London, me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wah such an eventful plane journey! -adeline

9:37 PM  

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