I had completely forgotten about booking online with Caribbean Airlines for my return trip home to Antigua from Trinidad. I arrived early in the morning of Shouter Baptist Day and immediately exclaimed about the crowded airport. I have never seen Piarco so full. At first I thought that people were fleeing the country before they were poached by one of the protagonists in the present political hullaballoo. Then when I didn't notice any sign of panic, merely congestion and confusion, I realised that we were heading into the Easter Vacations, said "Look at my crosses" and thought of buns and bunnies as the scantily, though fashionably, clad ladies headed out for holidays in Miami, New York and Toronto.
"This is the flight for Jamaica?" a gentleman asked as I stood in a serpentine line inching along towards the check-in counter. "I don't know," I told him. "Ah taking a chance that whatever it is they would not turn me away when I reach and say is the wrong line." Fortunately they did not and despite the impatience of the crowd, the counter clerk had a smile for me. When I saw that I was in seat 27D, I asked for an aisle seat closer to the front of the plane. She said the flight was crowded, they had a full house in fact and the only one she had was 25D. Seeing that it was only two rows ahead and still at the back of the plane, I said it was not worth the trouble and took the boarding pass without further demur. The airport security guards barked out instructions to everyone without a "Good morning" or "Sir" but since they had not yet strip-searched everyone, I concluded they were coping reasonably well with the added pressure.
When I boarded, and as I headed closer to my seat until I sat down, I realised that I had made a really serious mistake. The plane's toilets were immediately behind my row and the stench was overwhelming. Lav was in the air, so to speak.
My second mistake was sitting in the aisle seat next to the toilet. I got an elbow on the forehead from a large lady obviously in a state of desperation. It was like an Easter Parade but this was no Rose Bowl. The stench almost bowled me over. I thought the situation would be better when the plane was in the air so I did not demand to be moved. That was my third mistake.
I reached for the CAL in-flight magazine. In my years of BWIA and CAL travel I have found it impressive but not really designed for the customers. Based on my observations as a frequent flier, it is too highbrow for the majority of passengers. Most read the horoscope, look at the pictures, and then put it back. A few take it home to impress people. On an underdog airline, it is the champion of the overdog.
The only thing literally more highbrow than the magazine, is CAL's acting CEO. His physiognomy highlights that particular attribute. He appeared several times in an extended commercial video annoyance but in all made fewer appearances than CAL's former chairman, George Nicholas III.
It was horrible — there I was, caught between a suck up video and a stuck up magazine, my back against the toilet. The only thing I could do was behave as if I was looking at one of those "spot the mistake" cartoons, albeit one with three instead of two columns, and try to find out what all three had in common. It was too easy and I packed it up shortly after.
For the rest of the journey I thought about what would be an appropriate moral for this story. Despite all the reasons that were advanced by many people for the removal of Nicholas, he was, until his resignation last Wednesday, seemingly an untouchable. I see it as a political poker game. Some of us hold an Ace high, some hold a pair, some hold a three of one and bet without fear. But once in a while, in the political jaunt, you get a straight flush and can do what you want (up to a point). Clearly, given my experience and my penchant for plane talk, lav is not in the air only. It seems to be everywhere.