“Oh dear! I’d see that as an omen,” said the lady in the luggage dept in TJMaxx as I tried to decide which suitcase to buy to replace mine with the broken.wheel. I decided not to see it her way. No bad omens for this girl.
Getting ready to travel to Qatar and Uganda, I’d spent days packing and repacking the old black soft-sided suitcase we bought for a trip to Chile over twenty years ago. Then, as I rolled it out to the , wheel disintegrated, marking our light oak floor with sticky black goo. The fact that it cleaned up easily was a good omen to me. I shrugged off the saleslady’s jinxy comment, found a replacement quickly, and made it to the Boise airport with time to spare.
The Alaska Arlines flight to Seattle was like all flights of late, crowded, and the guy in front of me ground his seatback into my knees the whole way. But it was only a one-hour flight from Boise to Seattle. Once there, I was met by an affable wheelchair runner who got me through the labyrinth that is Sea-Tac these days. That, I chose to believe, was another good omen.
Wait a minute, some of you are saying. Wheelchair? Yes. When the Professor and I went to Kentucky last fall I tweaked my knee at the airport in Boise before we left. Since then I’ve learned that walking really fast on hard floors is not going to bring me happiness. So I requested a wheelchair assist going and coming. Despite being a little embarrassed, the wheelchair experience in Seattle was also good omen.
I was impressed with Qatar Airways (QA). They seemed a throwback to the days when flying was glamorous. The flight attendants wear professional clothing and their sleek black hair in upswept buns. They’re svelte and oh so thoughtful. Especially to the guy next to me. The flight attendant introduced herself to him and asked what he’d like to drink and then got it for him even before we left the ground – all the while avoiding eye contact with me. Hmmm, I wondered. Was it a gender thing?
“Do they offer drinks to the rest of us?” I asked him. He sheepishly explained that he’s a member of their Gold frequent flyers club. I’m a lowly Burgundy. Ah,. that explained it. Once in the air, she was just as considerate to me. QA – in the air – has great customer service.
The flight attendant, JacqueIyn, was polite but clearly tired toward the end. Bossy passengers, kids whose feet stuck out into the aisle and blocked her cart, and a very long shift were grueling. She told me she’s based in Doha and makes 3 flights back and forth to the US a month. Not a job I would want (or could do).
And food? QA serves lots of it. Potato chips, wafers, pretzels, two full meals, breakfast sandwiches, and all the juice, soda, and coffee you’d want. And remember when airline food was good?
The first meal was that. A nice glass of sauvignon blanc, honey mustard chicken, – not overdone or dry, tiny roasted potato wedges, a cold spicy corn salad, a roll with a garlic butter center, and a dessert that I would order off a restaurant menu. It was a light, tart, citrusy sweet cream with a dusting of graham cracker crust. The meal came with real forks, knives, and spoons and was served hot. Sorry I didn’t take a photo.
After the first meal, dinner when I should have been sleeping, I started writing so I didn’t forget. As we blasted 31,000 feet across Canada, the map on my screen told me we had a long way to go. Twelve hours to Doha. If you drew a line straight down from the plane on my screen from where we were then, you’d come pretty close to Denver. The ice caps on the map ahead were in the shape of Greenland. It was -65 degrees outside on the wing. Inside, I was toasty… and well-fed. By the fourth hour though, no longer intrigued I recalled from previous trips how infuruiatingly slow a plane moves across the screen.
The second full meal (for which I was not starving) was good in parts and ok in parts. I chose chicken and rice (because the father behind me ordered it in a thick accent and it seemed a Middle Eastern choice vs. eggs and potatoes or waffles. The rice was fluffy, and the chicken tender and moist beneath its rich, creamy blanket of spicy curry and pepper sauce. With it came underripe cantaloupe and pineapple chunks and a cup of thick yogurt with unidentifiable (by sight or taste) small red berries in an unsweetened sauce. The chicken and rice more than made up for that.
On the whole I’ve not had much to complain about with QA. In this age of airlines that move passengers like cattle, I appreciated the service and the experience. Except the dang leg room (or lack thereof). Every time I fly across the world, swear that next time I’ll upgrade and have done so incrementally. I’d better step it up next time though, or I may never take long flights again.
One final observation. Middle Eastern toddlers – of which there were very many on my flight – vocalize freely. They fuss, burble, scream, and bawl just like American children. Middle Eastern parents dote, scold,and pander to their children just like we do. Mid-night I wanted to run screaming from the plane, but of course that would have been foolish – if the fall didn’t kill me the temperature would.
So I overrode my own tantrum with compassion and kindness for the children whose ears probably ached and the parents who were powerless to help them. I remember the same drill with our daughter once upon a time a long time ago.
And suddenly in a big-duh revelation, I wondered why we must see ourselves as so different from each other when we have some pretty important things in common. We love our kids, they exasperate us. We travel to and from home, connecting with people and places we value.
Like the guy and his family on our flight who’d been with us since Boise. His wife wears a hijab, his son a BSU sweatshirt. He smiles broadly when we meet at the lavatory and insists I go first. Kindness. Compassion.
Back at home I’d see our differences. Here I see our similarities. More of us should see each other that way.
So far, the lady in TJ Maxx was wrong. And the omens on board QA bode well for a great trip. We’ll see. Ahead lies Qatar. And Uganda. Oh goody!
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Thanks for taking us with you! Insights already. Love it.