In the bad old days when Air Asia had just two Boeing 737s, boarding for this budget airline was a free-for-all race to the waiting aircraft the moment the ground hostess touched the PA's microphone. The spectacle of flustered buck-tooth teenagers, backpacker with a paunch, granny with light-brown dyed hair all lugging an assortment of suitcases and cargo load of cardboard boxes of parochial cookies, guitars and spare BMX bike wheel and dashing helter skelter across the tarmac, clambering noisily up the aluminium staircases is still seared in my memory. No wonder Air Asia was the airline of choice for sports people especially 100-metre sprinters and head-butting footballers.
I remember in one of my trips, I squeezed through the melee in the aisle shouting inaudible profanities to fellow passengers who shoved their suitcases (invariably fake Santa Barbara Polo and Country Club) into my nose instead of the overhead compartments. I had to elbowed with a steely resolve to finally claim a microscopic aisle seat with a gusto that almost break the chair. As the mayhem swirled around me, I thanked my lucky star like as if some unlucky passengers may have to stand for the full duration of the flight.
Centre seats in a three-seat arrangement are always the last to fill up, and not wanting to sit beside a sumo wrestler or a hip-hop rapper, I plonked my laptop on it as if claiming the space for a friend, then pretending to be busy trying to read the laminated leaflet telling me how to escape in the event of an emergency. The plane was now beginning to fill up as more and more passengers boarded. A Ray-ban wearing dude with both ears plugged with ipod earphones, on seeing my reluctance to budge, vaulted nonchalantly over my lap to get to the window seat.
By then, most of the seats were filled up as the passengers settled down. There were still some empty centre seats at the back as I craned my neck to see. Suddenly a huffing and puffing gargantuan mountain of a man appeared at the entrance, no doubt a result of his inability to join the tarmac race. With a bewildered look and a sweat-drenched shirt he lumbered into the aisle. Oh no, I can't be that unlucky.... Please...please don't come near me, there are some more seats at the back.... please.
And....you guess it. All 200 pounds of fat and flesh stopped beside me while I was frantically checking on how to put on the life vests.. Can't you see I'm busy? Can't you see this seat is taken for my friend who's in the loo? No, he couldn't. I had to concede, but knowing his anatomy disqualified him to vault like Mr Ray-ban, I had to get up to let him in. And horror of horrors, he couldn't even get pass in between the seats!
Help came promptly in the form of a lithesome air hostess, baseball cap attired with the ponytail bobbing like a horse's tail.
"Sir," she volunteered with a most business-like tone "could you move to the middle so that this gentleman can sit here?". It was almost a decree.
For gawk sake, I didn't pay nine dollars ninety cents, put on my Adidas in lieu of my Gucci so as to be able to partake The Sprint, to be crushed between a blab of sweating fat and a hip-hop head-swaying junkie for two hours. It just ain't fair... it just ain't...
"Sir, can you move...." With visible indignation, I turned and suddenly found myself staring at the sweetest smile (whether genuine or sarcasm-laced, I don't know even until today) and the most perfect set of teeth since my college days. Damn, Tony Fernandes really knew how to pick a winner!
"Of course...." I spluttered as I swayed my neck like a hungry giraffe looking for more leaves to chew....I mean, other empty seat to escape to, but alas, it was too late. Some stragglers had just boarded and claimed all the empty seats. The plane was full. I pouted like a schoolkid, half hoping Smiley would give me a peck on the cheek (none come, not even a hug either) as I sidled up to the middle seat and sat down unaware my laptop was still there.
"Excused me?" A startled Fatty looked challengingly me.
"Oh, its my computer, I just sat on it" And if it's spoilt, its all your bloody fault.
"Well, thank you for your seat" Fatty puffed with a strong gust of hot air into my face, which was only two inches away from his. And if I get chicken pox, its all your fault too.
The seat creaked alarmingly as his massive frame settled in while his flabby love handles flopped on the arm rest. In the meantime, Mr Ray-ban was blissfully unaware of all my misfortune and continue to bob his head like Stevie Wonder on an overdose of Ecstasy. Let me describe this scenario in just one sentence: Two hours of hell at 30,000 feet.
This has got to be a nightmare, I told myself. I just read a recent survey about the most annoying characteristics of fellow passengers especially seat mates who are total strangers. Among the tops are obese passengers, arm rest hoggers, passengers with BO, loud talkers, the seat shakers, the incessant yakkers and the hyperactive two-year-olds with indulgent moms. Though Fatso scored only three out of seven, my overriding thought then was to get the hell out and sit in the toilet for the rest of the journey telling Miss Nice Teeth I've got diarrhoea.
P/s: The above anatomical features and demeanours of the characters have been grossly exaggerated for more graphical clarity and are not meant to disparage anyone, living or dead. Fatso was actually a retiree with a disproportionate pot belly vis-as-vis his body weight. Mr Ray-ban was actually a nerdy spectacles wearing teenager but was really wearing an ipod. Only Miss Nice Teeth was faithfully recreated except for the freckles on her nose. The writer had actually paid more than RM9.90 (as advertised) for the flight, an extra amount of RM25.00 was levied as "oil surcharge".
Director: N Salba.
This has been a Funnymayhem Production.