On The Fly

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Plane_2 “Excuse me, but that’s my seat.”

She looks up at me, and then blinks in that rapid, nervous way old people are wont to do when they are confused. She fumbles for her boarding pass, searches the small print for her seat number. She does this in no hurry, taking her sweet time, as I stand there, blocking an aisle full of impatient people.

“Oh yes, you are right, I am in seat E, I should be in seat C. I’m sorry,” she smiles up at me.

I smile back, “It’s OK.”

She stands up and steps into the aisle, letting me maneuver myself into the E seat. As I vacate my space on the aisle, I sense a flurry of movement; people eager to get into their own seats.

We settle in, the little old lady and I, she in her aisle seat, me near the window. I watch as she very daintily fastens her seat belt, fusses with her bag, and leans back on the seat. I remember her from our long wait in the pre-departure lounge, she in her smartly cut tan pantsuit, the shimmer of daytime jewelry, the coiffed hair. Her lilting sing-song on the phone in my dialect caught my attention. She was talking about the copious amounts of native delicacies she was able to get for a bargain in Cebu–danggit, dried squid, dried mangoes, pork cracklings, an assortment of pastries.

She, like me, was traveling alone. I stretch my legs and settle in to observe the steady flow of people coming into the plane. It was the 5 PM rush of harassed travelers, short-fused moms, complaining children, tried business men. The overhead bins were filling up fast.

Relaxed now and smiling, the little old lady turns to me, saying casually, “So, you’re going to Iloilo too?”

I blink in surprise. “Tita, this plane is bound for Manila.”

Her elegantly-made up face dissolves into fear and panic so fast I was unnerved. I thought she was going to faint on me.

“Oh no, I’m going to Iloilo!” I thought this plane is bound for Iloilo!,” she sputters. A panicked tug rips off her seatbelt.

I try to recall the past boarding announcements. “I think they called that flight just a little while ago. Maybe you can still make it, if you hurry.”

She was already on her feet, struggling to open the overhead bin, twisting this way and that, fumbling for her purse. I motion for the steward, and in a rapid slew of sentences, explain that this lady needs to board another plane, fast.

A small commotion ensues as she rushes up the aisle, going against the flow of the last few people boarding the plane. Her slight frame makes short work of the distance to the door, and in a flash of tan suit, she is gone.

Wryly, I observe that for a little old lady, she sure can move fast.

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