Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Curious case of the Dragon Tattoo

The curious case of the Dragon Tattoo ©
Early morning starts can sometimes be very tedious and to some extent this one was no different.  Mid June had brought warmer nights but the air was uncommonly cool as I stepped out of the house to take the taxi to the airport.
The driver was disarmingly awake, which, in a way I was glad of.  He was driving me to the airport.
Not at my best at 3.30am, I begrudgingly conversed as he excitedly went thro his routine for the hapless traveler; “passport, tickets, money” as he grinned into the mirror.
Where was John I thought as I played dead in the back seat?  John knew early morning taxi etiquette by heart.  Polite, efficient and silent
John is 68, had a day job, a night job and still had time to taxi.  He told me all this when he picked me up from the airport one day.  John knows taxi etiquette.
With ruthless efficiency we arrived at the airport and managed for once to remain in utter calm through security into the area commonly known as “still open for beer even so it’s only 4.30am” and asked for my coffee.  I was struck by how many gamely dressed young men that happened to be at the bar.

Ryanair, Europe’s biggest low cost carrier had moved to my terminal overnight.  Thus I am surrounded by scores of young men, dressed as women and groups of young women with very risque outfits all drinking copious amounts of alcohol from three litre jugs.  My order for a Frappuccino seemed rather out of place.  Stag weekend trips had come to my terminal!
I woke as we seemed to crash land in Amsterdam, having missed breakfast..again and feeling miffed, disembarked.
What on Gods earth were so many people doing here so early? In droves spending money.  No recession at this airport I can tell you.  Diamonds to Tulips, I pads to ridiculously cheap Scotch Whiskey.
Platinum status has its benefits.  No “lounge” issues, Personal “in-your-seat” greetings, when you are sat next a group of families with children under 3.  Why do airlines allow children onto planes?  Children need to be outside with a nanny, and not be in a jet aircraft cabin.
So, after being walked to the front of the boarding queue (that Platinum again) I found myself next to an old gentleman, his hands clasped onto the top of his stick.  Good Lord, this could be me in another 20 years!!!  Surely not?
I shuddered and a cold shiver swept over me.  Did I even look like him? He looked up and his wizened eyes met mine and I smiled.  He didn't blink.
What I then saw was the medal pinned to his chest.  A Russian Star.  This signified he was “A Hero of the Russian People” and here was I stood next to him in an airport. Not a usual event.
In that moment I realised how insignificant all of this was, going on around me.  Here was this old gent mixing with us and yet he must be wondering what it was all about.
As the call to board came, I offered an arm to help him to his feet.  He declined thanked me and hobbled down the air-bridge.
Securely sat in my seat and just mulling over the encounter just, I was distracted by a darkening of the cabin.  
The Bear had only just got through the main door.  Not especially tall, he was as wide as the aisle, with arms truly as large as tree trunks. Usually forearms fit with the relative proportions of the rest of the body; you could have fitted 3 of mine into his!  Oddly though what really drew me to him was just how badly he walked. Maybe he needed the old man’s stick I thought. 
As he stopped just at the row in front of mine on the opposite side of the cabin, we all took a sharp intake of breath.  Aisle seat. ….Mm mm good choice I thought.
So close I could hear his muscles growing, it struck me that this person was very interesting.
His head was compact, his neck non-existent.  What was visible was covered by a large red tattoo reading “fight me” 
Clearly not a shy introvert then.
His hands were massive and stubby, killing weapons, his feet strapped in flip flops looked amphibian, and his eyes were so close to his nose, prescription sunglasses would clearly be needed.
He turned and caught my eye and I smiled nervously.  Then it was time to strap in.  Thirty minutes into the flight he had to move.  Like a wounded animal he got onto his knees on floor in the space in front of the seat, rested his huge chest onto the seat base and promptly fell asleep.
Lunch was served around him.  A sleeping bear is a dangerous bear and so the stewardesses went about their routine, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
The Captain switched on the seat-belt sign as we started our descent.  This was going to be interesting.  Who would wake him? how would they wake him, would they leave him?
Motionless as a corpse he was going to have to be woken.  Then from the other side of the aisle the Soviet Peoples War Hero reached over the aisle with his stick and prodded the Bear on the side of the head and snapped what could only have been “C’mon son wake up we’re going to land”  He got the old mans stick!
250 people gasped and held their breath.  The Bear stirred, look at the Hero and grunted and sat down.
So as we all obeyed airline cabin etiquette, the Bear let the old man out first and I followed behind.  We exited the aircraft and walked up the air bridge and then the Bear turned, and in the campest and most feminine voice I could have ever imagined he said. “hi there, you have a nice smile, would you like to see my Dragon Tattoo?”
Etiquette forgotten I pushed past the Soviet Peoples Hero and lost myself in the airport throng.
History is history and so were they!

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