Wednesday, May 13, 2009
In a few hours, I will be on a China Airlines flight to China and Taiwan. I don’t expect to see Joe Biden on it with me. I am looking forward to traveling with the five other journalists I’ll be spending nineteen hours with in the air bound for Taipei, our first stop.
We’ll be visiting China’s Golden Triangle, which I like the sound of. Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei. My Manhattan triangle consists of the Upper West Side, the Theater District and Gramercy Park which, while highly desirable, doesn’t have quite the same siren call to it.
Flying is always an adventure. Nineteen hours presents limitless possibilities, but my most bizarre time in the sky took only moments during a one hour and fifteen minute flight to ingrain itself forever in my memory.
I was on a shuttle flight from New York’s La Guardia Airport to D.C.’s Washington National Airport (renamed the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in 1998). I was en route to meet privately with an ex-President of Lebanon whose foes wanted him ex-living and were not beyond following him to Washington to do it. Not long before, they’d bombed the life’s breath from a Lebanese president-elect on their own blood-drenched soil, so meeting places and meeting times were planned, and then changed, with wary, painstaking care.
Everything surrounding my suddenly-green-lighted flight to D.C. was clandestine; my “orders,” to draw no attention to myself. My head was buried in the morning’s New York Times while a flight attendant was pushing a beverage wagon forward through the aisle from the rear of the plane. As she got to me, a bottle of red wine tipped and poured into my lap. Whatever its provenance, it was full-bodied and anything but dry. Flustered, she grabbed two napkins and started frantically wiping the wine-soaked fabric clinging to my inner thighs and crotch. Some heads went up. A second attendant tore over to us, grabbed a bottle of soda water from the wagon and emptied it into my crotch. As I watched. A napkin in each hand, she began to pound on my lap. The first woman joined in. Now four hands were flailing in my lap. I was no longer inconspicuous.
Everyone noticed, but no one understood. By the time we landed, all was forgotten. The only thing identifiable about me was the dried crescent-shaped stain on my light tan slacks—and the ill-concealed glint in my eyes. I had a story.