I am travelling from Colombo to the United States.
Who doesn’t like a change of pace?
There will also be additional passport stamps. While I consider myself a pretty well-stamped man, one cannot be satisfied with past achievements…
I absolutely love flying. I am looking forward to the reading and catching up on movies. I’ve wanted to see “Argo” for a while now. I’m also looking forward to the miles. Now that I’m Platinum, I get double miles whenever I fly. This is one sweet deal.
It’ll be Colombo to Abu Dhabi to Chicago to elsewhere today. That’s how it goes if one’s flying from the island and not wanting to spend the big bucks.
Colombo to Abu Dhabi came and went.
Abu Dhabi to Chicago is about to begin. I’m making my way to the back of the cabin. I have just located my seat.
“Hello,” I tell the woman seated in 43-A. I usually go out of my way not to speak with people on airplanes. I don’t like small talk under any circumstances and running my mouth invariably cuts into reading time – something I cannot ever have too much of.
“But you are not a lady,” she tells me.
The fact that she’s said this is highly unusual. But, at this point, it’s not only about what she’s said. It’s how she said it. It was a statement loaded with utter trepidation, as if I were putting her in imminent danger by removing my Kindle from my backpack.
“Excuse me. I requested a ladies seat.”
“This is 43-C, right? I think this is me,” I tell her. After I say this she’s looking even more terrified. She definitely understands a lot of English. I am starting to draw some conclusions about the woman’s background, worldview and religion, but I decide to keep those thoughts to myself. I think I’m a pretty open-minded person, respectful of other peoples’ beliefs and cultures. But if sitting next to another woman was this high a priority for the female now sitting to my left, I just wish she had done a bit more research before she boarded an Abu Dhabi-Chicago flight.
I figure the issue is over, but that I’ll need to be sure not to look left for the next thirteen hours.
My fellow traveler has now flagged one of the flight attendants, reiterating that she had requested a ladies seat. The flight attendant responds without hesitation.
“I’m sorry, we don’t have ladies seats. We only have seats.”
Shortly thereafter, the woman to my left gets the attention of another flight attendant. Who says that she’ll “see what she can do.”
The woman seated to my left, lady in green, is not bad-looking. She’s dressed like many of the women I went to graduate school with. She even has a nose ring.
“What country are you from?” I’m not expecting to get an answer, but I just can’t help myself.
“Why do you want to know?”
“No reason, just curious.” I tell her.
She’s anxiously waiting. The flight attendants are looking for a new seat for her. This Abu Dhabi-Chicago flight is nowhere near full.
She’s just gotten up, rather abruptly. She’s leaving. No idea where she’s headed, but she’s not spoken to anybody. She’s fleeing the scene of a potential crime. I suppose.
I’m trying to get away. I’m trying to lose myself in the reading. The earplugs are in. The bladder is empty. Foreign Affairs and The Economist are with me. I’m just getting into the January/February 2013 edition of Foreign Affairs, thinking I have – at least temporarily – left Sri Lanka. Nonetheless, as I’m reading one of the shorter articles on protection and compensatory relief for civilians in war, I realize that I’m wrong again. Sarah Holewinski writes that Sri Lanka poses a unique challenge.
“By shelling the area indiscriminately and summarily executing the group’s escaping leaders, the government wiped out the insurgents – and killed tens of thousands of civilians in the process.”
The situation is made worse by the fact that the government is “promoting its model abroad,” as if what transpired is something to be proud of and/or a model for others to emulate.
I turn to my left and gaze out the window, thinking about that apprehensive lady in green.
I’m not a person to be making comments about gender – now or ever. I’ve never thought about questions pertaining to gender very much – until I came to Sri Lanka. Now, I wonder if I’m overthinking it. I was somewhat nervous about publishing this piece, because I thought I might be vilified by some of my (pleasant) feminist friends in Colombo, New York City or Washington, DC.
I’ve just been informed that we’ve reached our cruising altitude of 36,000 feet. I’ve nearly thirteen more hours to think about these issues without interruption, but I don’t think I need any more time. I think I’ve already had more than enough time. Perhaps it’s best just to admit that certain people may have influenced me and to leave it at that for the time being.