Before we took off, there was all kinds of trouble. The plane had to offload some luggage belonging to a passenger, who for some reason was not onboard anyway! There were strange warning sounds (something like the Twilight Zone theme) which escaped from the cockpit and made it into the speaker system. Stewardesses (Am I the only one who cannot quite agree on that whole "Air Hostess" thing?) were running back and forth... And yet, this guy was sitting very quietly and motionless next to me. In fact, he appeared to be asleep.
By my best guess, he would be of Pakistani descent. I noticed that he was wearing a white long-sleeved t-shirt. Raking my mind I remember some of the plane jacking jihadders of the 70s wearing white, as it apparently is a kind of funeral attire for muslims. Ready to die, eh? Doesn't care whether the plane crashes or not, since he has his own sinister agenda!
I had to control myself to the utmost to keep from asking him, even jokingly, if he was carrying a bomb. Instead I tried a more polite statement of, "not the nicest sounds..." when those warning sirens came back on again. He mumbled an inaudible reply. Clearly he was told to stay low and not attract suspicion, untill his unholy deed was over. And thus my panic grew.
Here I was sitting with my wife, and 2 small children, of whom only the oldest has figured out there such a concept as death, and for the next 2 hours I would not be able to do a single thing to prevent their death, should the Jihadders deem us all worthy of extinction. I so badly wanted to talk to this man, who in this instance represented them all, Palestinians, Jews, Syrians, Hamas, Osama bin Laden, Afghans, Mujahedins and so on. At the end of the day, it all comes down to this. Do you want your children to die? No? Well, neither do I! So we gotta figure something else out. When everybody love their families, why can't we listen honestly to each other? Why can't we work out something, remembering that the others will also have widows, orphans and worse?
Back home in Boro was a letter waiting for me. Now I have been toiling for 3 full years at University of Teesside to get my degree. Close to loosing health, mind and family at times. And to prove it all, I got this:
I kid you not, this is it. The signature looks photocopied, for sure it isn't the original. No letterhead. Just a piece of paper with 14 lines of text on it. All this "being an academic" stuff sure isn't all it's hyped up to be. I mean, if I was going to fake proof of such a monumental achievement, I would go through a lot more trouble than this. How about the universities, where I seek postgraduate study, will they think I made this preposterous letter myself on a lazy Sunday afternoon? I wouldn't blame them...