Strangers on the Plane

“Welcome aboard, princess!”

This middle-aged flight steward with a receding hairline greeted me with such enthusiasm and warmth that I must admit, remembering this moment still makes me smile to this day. I was only ten years old at the time, a chubby-cheeked girl who loves wearing colourful headbands and everything pink but I guess this lovely man made an impression. It was a twenty-hour flight but to the astonishment of my parents, I was never cranky. Every time the steward passed by, he would stop and check on me for I told him it was my first time on a plane. He was bursting with energy much like a busy bee that can talk a lot and laugh like no one else was there, generating buzz wherever he happened to be hovering.

About an hour before our arrival, he kneeled at the aisle to give me a memento – a map that traced our flight from Philippines to Canada. He even suggested that I use it for show and tell so my classmates would get jealous of how far I travelled. I tried to thank him but I knew, even at a young age, I’d never be able to repay his sincere kindness and perhaps, it is best to simply pay it forward. I wish I had known his name but wherever you are kind stranger, I hope with all my heart that your life is filled with happiness and whatever you wish it to be. Although I’ve moved houses a couple of times, I believe the crumpled piece of paper comfortably resides in one of my drawers and it holds more value than any other souvenir.

“Hi, can you pay for my food?”

He had a startled look on his face.

“What I meant to say was if you could use your card to pay for it and then I’ll pay you with cash. My brother and I, we don’t have a credit card.”

“Oh yes, of course.”

He handed it to the flight steward. I can vividly remember the sumptuous gourmet pizza that I ordered because it was just that good. Being a fifteen year old, I had no idea airlines no longer accepts cash when purchasing goods during the flight. That was a good thing though. I realised I did learn a lot from a year of studying overseas without my parents and I had the privilege of meeting Tom, my seatmate on the plane.

The flight to Vancouver gave me time to reflect on the year I spent as a Year 9 student in a Canadian public school. Tom and I had a lively discussion about the Western and Eastern culture, the youth and life in general. Soon I discovered that Tom was in Montreal for a brief business meeting and he has two daughters, one is a veterinarian and the other one is a university student. He and his family hosted exchange students throughout their life and he thought it was brave of me to be so willing to travel to the other side of the world.

“It was nice meeting you. See you, Julia.”

“Same here. See you, Tom.”

Brief encounters with lovely strangers never fail to amuse me. I went to Canadaland two times, one as a visitor and one as a student. Oddly enough, two of the most fascinating, unforgettable experiences happened during the flight.

Have you met a kind stranger on a plane?

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