Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What are the Odds?

Last night I returned from a Thanksgiving vacation with dear friends in New York and Connecticut. I flew JetBlue from JFK Airport to Oakland International. A week before I had flown out of Oakland on a red-eye. The flight was full; families with babies, dogs (who seem to be the latest passengers) old people, young people. It was a singularly uneventful flight, which for me is the very highest compliment one can give to a flight. At JFK last night I sat at the gate and engaged in one of my favorite pastimes, people watching. I saw many of the same families and passengers who were on the plane a week before. I even saw two of the same dogs, a teacup poodle and a coiffed maltese. Approaching the area of the gate I saw a father in a big broad brimmed black hat, he had a grey beard and payot, (the side curls of religious Jews.) His son also wore a wide-brimmed black hat. They both wore black suits. A young girl in a dark blue dress accompanied them. I looked at them and thought, "I am not on my way to Israel, they are not flying to Oakland, this cannot be." We boarded the crowded plane and I looked ahead at my row. The family were standing next to the very aisle seat I had reserved - MY seat. When I reached my seat the young girl was strapped into it. "Excuse me," I said politely, I am in 12C." Her brother said "yes, yes, she will move," and he muttered to her while their father kept everyone waiting in the narrow aisle as he first put in their rolling luggage sideways, then frontways, then backwards, until a woman reached up and shoved it firmly in. The girl unstrapped and moved reluctantly into the middle seat. At her feet was a very large brown cardboard hatbox which she pushed under the seat in front of her. Directly across from me sat her brother, then her dad. As we taxied down the runway her brother, Shalom, called to Rachel, then he leaned over me and handed her a parcel wrapped in aluminium foil. She unwrapped it to reveal a hefty sandwich of hallah bread with some kind of meat and lettuce. I couldn't resist - "I hope it is kosher," I said to her. Very seriously she assured me that it is. Her tray was down with the sandwich on it and every time she took a bite crumbs covered the tray, her lap, my lap, and the lap of the man next to her. Shalom leaned over me again, this time to hand her a salad. But just then the plane was readying for takeoff so she had to put up the tray and passed the food back to Shalom.He then passed her a prayer book and she opened it and read the prayer for safe travel. Her brother and father prayed next to me, and I decided to join in. Rachel had lovely blue eyes and was quite a sweet little girl. Once we were in the air she got her food back from Shalom, who also passed a few cookies along. Then she told him she was not feeling very well and she closed her eyes. It was a night flight and quite soon everyone, including myself, began nodding off. I was rudely awakened by a bump and thud. A sleeping Rachel's head had fallen onto my shoulder. We both startled, she muttered "I'm sorry" fell back asleep instantly and back came her head. It remained on my shoulder for the rest of the flight. After five and a half hours the pilot announced we were beginning our descent into Oakland. Their was a hustle and bustle as everyone sat up, put their seats back and closed their trays. Not Rachel who was fast asleep. Across from me both Shalom and his father had fallen asleep with the same open mouthed poses. I did see dad begin to move and he nudged Shalom who also began to stir. I gently patted Rachel and put her tray up for her. I know Dad saw me, so did Shalom who gave me a half smile. One would think Dad would have said something to me, maybe a teeny weeny hint of a smile, a nod of thanks, but of course he didn't acknowledge my presence. We deplaned and the three headed out of the airport without a backward glance. Oakland, not Israel, and I have to be the one next to the religious Jews - I think God is trying to tell me something, but it is not clear what!

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