Although Susan would be the first to admit she was not exactly well-travelled, the journey and landing at Kyiv Borispol airport was just as she liked it: uneventful except for an unexpected outbreak of clapping as the plane thumped its wheels down on the tarmac.
What on earth was all that about? she asked herself.
Her neighbour behind spotted her confusion and explained that it was common practice for East Europeans to clap as the plane landed as a kind of “thank you” to the pilot and crew – but how many people reckoned that the clapping was actually to thank God instead. Without prompting the man, dark, stubbled and with a red T-shirt bearing a Turkish crescent and star, carried on talking as he checked and rechecked he had his passport.
“I’ve flown Russian planes before and they can make you very nervous. Oh my God…Aeroflot!” He raised his eyes to the ceiling, “I was in Khazak once when we were overloaded. The plane was full of women and children and goats. Yes, goats, everywhere, and chickens as well. So, the pilot opens the cabin door and shouts down to the stewardess that the plane is overloaded. ”Get rid of four!” He shouted. The stewardess stood up, clapped her hands to get quiet and calmly started an auction. “100 rubles to anyone if you leave the plane.” Nobody moved. “200 rubles if you leave the plane.” Still, Nobody moved. “250 rubles is the last offer,” she shouted, and five people put their hands up. “huh!….220 rubles.” One man lowered his hand. She paid the four passengers cash as they picked up their belongings and left the rear of the plane. The plane was now the right weight and they could take off in perfect safety. Problem solved!”
Susan smiled politely at this story so with the queue not moving her neighbour felt encouraged enough to tell her another one of his experiences. “I was in Kharkov in a small propeller plane in first class. First-class has a small curtain and a bigger locker but I couldn’t get my bag in it because it was full of parts that had fallen off the plane. They keep them in there.” He grinned and she spotted an odd gold tooth. Susan smiled, a little weaker this time, and looked over his shoulder to the door. No more stories please, she thought.
That said, he was cute she thought but a bit naive and although she hated the term as it was so patronizing – “Unsophisticated”. But, maybe a bit of rough was what she needed after Tom. When she was hit on the head for the second time by a bag being pulled from the overhead locker she stopped thinking of being pushed hard against a mattress. This lot were like animals. The plane was still taxiing for God’s sake… why were they all jumping about? The poor stewardess was swamped as she tried to get everyone to return to their seats and she vainly shouted through her mic.. Mobile phones all sprang into life with the same ringtone as they were turned on and as everyone got a signal they started to call, text and scan their emails. The stewardess repeated her message on the mic but to no avail and as the engines suddenly shut down, it was a free for all. Susan sat and glared. Were they all going to be like this?
“My name is Mo, by the way,” said Mr T-shirt hard on the mattress, and he extended a business card. “If you need anything whilst you are here please ring me.” He gave a broad grin again and she took the card, pushing it between the pages of her passport.
Later, at the Immigration queue, she’d drop the card and it would remain on the floor until the early morning when it was swept up by a cleaner. Mo would often think of Susan and for the first few days believed it may be her ringing him on his new HTC. He was to remain disappointed.