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Part 2: What it’s like to take a flight to Beirut? “La fiesta”.

Let’s start with the business class. You recognize the regulars as in “business regulars” by their attitude. These are true professionals. Men and women are already on their laptops, busy with their work. That category is not fun and is not born to attract attention so we’ll move to more interesting specimens. After only 3 minutes on the plane, a woman is already asking the hostess in a shrilly voice about the champagne’s brand they served: “habibteh, very little bubbles! Ma32ul?! Unbelievable with the price we’re paying!?” then looking around her for “connoisseurs” approval and finding them …of course. Disdain, disdain, disdain is the trade- mark of the never-happy-with-anything-cause-I’m-sitting-in-business-class-don’t-you-see? In the meantime, the harassed hostess is pushed left and right by over eager passengers carrying heavy trolleys and bags shouting loudly at wife or kids in front of them in a state of frenzy to get to their seats and put their luggage in the cabins before “others”.

Back to 2 spoiled kids unhappy with everything the steward is offering them and fighting together. Their mom shushes them in a bored voice, busy talking to another loud lady describing her trip to famous fashion shops where she found some items at derisory amounts! (numbers are in thousands of dollars and would have fed an average family for a few months). The mom answers gleefully, relishing every word : “oh! dear! such a good price! You’re sooooo lucky! I had to pay the full amount! (more thousands).

Let’s take a look at the economy class. After pu
shing oversized trolleys, bags and the likes in the luggage cabinets and succeeding finally in closing them thanks to some machos-testosterone- over- dozed males, the overwrought hostess, a plastered smile on her face tries to convince some passengers standing in the way to go back to their seats. They don’t even bother to turn their heads, immersed as they are at stating “loudly” (so anyone can listen to their so very original analysis) the latest political clichés they got from a newspaper or from the never ending political talk shows running endlessly on all channels. You’ve got to know that, us Lebanese are thrown in the magic pot of politics (like Obelix, the French cartoon, only for more noble causes) one moment after the doctor cuts our umbilical cord.

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Finally the plane takes off while we enjoy the shrieks of a 4 year-old boy who repeats in a whining, nagging voice that he “wants to open the door and see the “Lebanon” that mommy had promised him!” You’re picturing Mommy trying to hush him? Not on your life! She’s busy babbling to her new friend, 3 rows behind her about her problems with her husband.

When a daring passenger tries to shush her and the kid, she looks around to check with whom he’s talking then realizes it’s her. Her eyes wild with shock she snarls at him, scornfully asking him about what’s bothering him: “Bek shi habibi? Is there a new law against talking?” Speechless, the now catatonic passenger is bereft of speech and the other outraged ones are exchanging knowing looks with each other. They all know from experience that discussing anything with an over- loud woman can only end with histrionics on her side and discomfiture on theirs.

Only one choice is left for regular, cynical and long suffering flight victims: plug their earphones, put any music that can cover the babbling and the shrieking voices or watch a movie. They don’t even try to catch some sleep! Why? Earphones are useless against an over friendly passenger kneeling on your seat to pursue some fascinating conversation about his in-laws with a lady sitting behind you or a grandma pouring her heart out to a perfect stranger, about her vixen daughter-in-law and her “poor, castrated” son. As your luck would have it, she happens to be sitting across your seat. Still adamant to get a nap? Wear a shield to protect you from nudges on your shoulders and ribs administered by fearless passengers going to the restroom.

After hours of this ordeal, you’re numb, apathetic yet ready to kill anyone who dares to speak to you. You have a narrow escape from becoming an axe murderer when the pilot announces the end of your nightmare and the landing in 20 minutes. The flight attendant recovers her faith in God and resurrect from her torpor to plead with some resentful and reluctant passengers to revert to their seats and put on their seat belts. Another flight attendant at the back of the plane is wrestling with a few last- minute –gotta-go-to- the- toilet-or-I’ll-burst-. Sure enough, they didn’t have 4,5,6 or more hours to get to it.

Landing is achieved in the midst of applause or on the sounds of a corny Lebanese music. Don’t worry, you know you’ve made it the moment the plane lands and the symphony of mobiles ringing assaults your sore ears and the cacophony surrounding you fills the small space: passengers are releasing their belts, jumping on the cabinets and smashing a few heads in the process (heavy trollies); Babies and kids are in a fierce competition of who can shriek louder, acquaintances are hollering from one end of the plane to another and parents seem to have lost control of their nerves and are filled with immense hatred to their kids and the rest of the “singles” world. The folklore is complete. You know you have come full circle when you hear the shouts of the flight attendants almost crying from exhaustion, trying desperately to stop the gigantic flow of human bodies and failing miserably. It’s a moment in time you’ve got to treasure especially when you come face to face with crude, unabashed, devouring and avid stares giving you the 3rd degree as if standing next to you annihilated all decency and savoir-vivre rules.

Don’t be impatient, you still have to get off the plane and get your first glimpse of what it’s like to face the “Lebanese music”.

 

 

 

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