13 August 2010

Cabin Fever

The frequency of meetings held in Kuala Lumpur picked up over the past few months.

I have been in KL so often that in any given month since April, I have been at home only about ten days.

The discussions at the meetings have been largely parochial. Discussing the criteria for the Airman Of The Year award. Career progressions for pilots. Management of the helicopter fleet into 2025. Exercise Kelawar. All irrelevant to me now that the Air Board has approved my request to leave the force.

I fly down and back on civil airline military charter. The passengers you meet are varied. Some talk, some don't. It was taking on the pre-fisticuff tone of Fight Club. Definitely I didn't have the friendlier encounters of Up In The Air.

Then there are the wannabes. Ah Bengs in compensatory shoes that would make Alladin curl his toes in embarassment. The Indian yuppies replicating black American yuppies.

I was on route to Labuan one evening on the 1845H MH2636 MAS flight. As the call to board the aircraft was announced, I trailed a young Indian chap, replete with stubbly Van Dyke and frameless spectacles. I was ensuring that I didn't stand too close behind him as we shuffled into the cabin, as he had been ardently picking his nose from the departure lounge all the way into the aircraft, going at it like he would never be done deboogering himself. I discovered that I was to be seated in 22C, and he was just next to me with the aisle separating us. He was still picking his nose after buckling in, his indexed right hand rotating through all headings on the compass as he endeavoured to have the most sanitised nose in the country. He looked affluently grunge enough to never have lived hand to mouth, though hand to nose was another matter.

Meanwhile, one seat away from him, a cute old Makcik was reading a tabloid at the window, the centre seat between them empty. While the passengers settled down, the safety and emergency brief was given by the cabin crew while pushback and start was executed by the aircrew. We taxied to the runway threshold and lined up for take off. The first officer called for the cabin crew to be seated while the lead steward announced that the cabin lights would be dimmed for take off. This is normally done to unload the generators so that maximum engine power is available for take off. Indian yuppie had not completed his nose sanitation.

As the cabin lights flickered to near darkness, the Makcik fumbled at her tabloid, screwing her eyes at the overhead switches, wondering how to turn on her reading lamp.

Indian yuppie gallantly reached over and turned her reading lamp on. Makcik gasped Terima Kasih repeatedly and returned to her tabloid, pressing her spectacles against the bridge of her nose to continue her page turner. I  was touched at the Muhibbah spirit exhibited by the debonaire Indian yuppie.

Makcik, whatever you do, don't turn that lamp off yourself.


Quality time, bonding with the wife and kids.

We were gathered in the hall one night recalling how once when we were on Christmas holiday in KL, we returned to Labuan after our home had blacked out for two weeks and the smell of putreficiation red carpeted our luggage-laden way up the stairs. Ethan and Ellen were young kids then, Brenda full in the belly with Rowena.Then how I had to clean the fridge of wrigglies, from every conceivable point the eye could see.

"EEEwwwww, that's gross!!" Ellen quipped in typical Yank teen fashion. Rowena was in concurrence with her elder sister.

"It's all in the attitude, how you see the maggots," I insisted."Yes, it may appear disgusting at first, but you put your hand to it and then you will find that you can do it, pong and all. They are used to clean up rotten flesh on patients suffering from gangrene in hospitals."

Ethan listened silently. I continued, sensing that my point was being made.

It's like all that plastic dog shit from Hong Kong. I was in school once and while I was away from my desk, my classmate placed an authentic-looking turd on a piece of paper and positioned it dead centre on my desk hoping to gross me out. When I returned to my desk, a few guys were gathered 'round me to see what I would do. I gazed at it calmly, and picked it up with my hand, returning it to the waiting owner and to the disappointed surprise of my friends. It's relative. It looked disgusting, but once I told myself that real dog crap doesn't end up neatly on a piece of exercise book paper, I could pick it up with my hand. Just like with maggots."
"Oh," said Rowena, her mind a million miles away in absorption of the concept. Then her face piqued in puzzlement.

"Dad??? When on earth did you ever get to Hong Kong?"