Story Three: THE TRANSIT LOUNGE
Edward had been sitting in his Business Class seat for over 2 hours, along with all the other passengers aboard the Cathay Pacific flight from New York to Hong Kong. The crew has been trying their best to ease the passengers’ collective concern, but no real definitive answer had been given. Every one felt trapped inside the plane, and it did not matter if they were giving all the passengers free-flow drinks and snacks. To make matters worse, JFK had always been Edward’s least favourite airport.
Suddenly, a voice in the speaker hammered through the restlessness.
“This is your captain speaking. Firstly, I thank each and everyone for bearing with us in the last 2 hours. I regret to inform all of you that this Cathay Pacific flight will not be taking off at all. We are all required to take our belongings and exit the plane immediately. I sincerely apologise that no further details can be provided at this time. I implore everyone to please cooperate with the in-flight crew to make our disembarkation as painless as possible. Once again, I do apologise but this is the reality of our current situation. It is critical that we do not panic at all times. Just follow the instructions from the flight attendants and everything will be fine. Thank you for your kind cooperation and understanding. All flight crew – please proceed as instructed.”
Confusion and silence gripped the plane, as nails gripped the walls. At first, no one moved. They were not quite sure what they had just heard was really happening to them. Edward looked at his fellow passengers. They were as bewildered as he was. Then the flight attendants appeared out of nowhere to facilitate the disembarkation. Everyone started packing up his or her own belongings. Some people were removing the in-flight slippers and started putting on their shoes. Others began to tremble, fearing some impending doom. All the exit doors of the plane were opened in unison, signaling the urgency of the situation. Gusts of cold wind burst into the plane, waking up every passenger to the truth of the Captain's announcement.
The whole plane fell into a somber communal movement. There was no pushing, shoving or rushing for once. At every row, passengers came out from their seats and moved towards their respective exits. All the flight attendants did their best to help the elderly, the young and those with special needs to make through the exit before everyone else. No one dared put up a fuss. Perhaps the tone of the Captain’s voice had cemented the gravity of the situation. He was serious. Above all, he sounded sad – very sad.
As Edward emerged from the sky bridge, he could see that they were not the only ones being evicted from their planes. There were other passengers from different planes coming out into the main hall of terminal 7. They looked just as lost. From here, all the passengers were divided into smaller groups. The flight crews handed over their duties to the airport officials. The whole terminal was abuzz with activity but no one was talking too much, or too loudly. The airport officials were now in charge of everyone in the room. They were assisted by the local police officers. This was the first time anyone had seen so many police officers in an airport. The situation seemed more alarming than what they had thought.
Edward was ushered into a transit lounge with all the different Business Class passengers from various planes. He quickly settled into the nearest chair he could find, as the whole room was filling up fairly quickly. He then tried to activate his mobile phone, but nothing was working. When he looked around the transit lounge, he realized that everyone’s mobile phone was not working as well. There was no line at all. For the first time, the same message appeared on everyone’s phone: “No Service”. It was fast becoming a very strange day. He glanced at his watch and was relieved to find that it was still working. It was almost 12:45pm in New York. That would put Hong Kong’s time at about 2am. No one would be awake at that hour in Hong Kong, not his family anyways.
The airport officials have started serving some light refreshments to everyone in the lounge, but no additional information had been shared with the passengers. Every 20 minutes or so, Edward tried his mobile again. However, the same message kept appearing. Then out of the muted gloom, a familiar soft voice called out his name. It lifted his spirits somewhat. Edward looked up to find himself looking at someone he has not seen for over twenty years, and yet he has not stopped thinking about her in all this time. JFK at that point in time would have been the last place on earth Edward had expected to see Josephine again. But there she was, standing before him like a blissful apparition.
THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK: "LIFE IS A JOURNEY - A SYMPHONY OF SHORT STORIES".
THE BOOK IS BEING PUBLISHED AS WE SPEAK, BOTH IN HARD COPY AND E-FORMAT.
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