YOU SPEAK ENGLISH!
Here’s a link to the last post I wrote about my big adventure in Mississippi. I was saying how I was completely lost in thought as I sat waiting to fly to Jackson.
When it was time to board, I gathered my belongings and made my way to the smallest plane I had ever seen. I later found out that these planes are called ‘puddle jumpers’. To me, it looked like a plaything, like an airplane from a movie set that will somehow be made to look bigger on the screen. I wondered how a plane like that could actually fly, I tried not to engage in all the dark thoughts swirling in my head. I took my book out to read, or to be honest… I took my book out to make the other passengers comfortable.
You see, my book, is actually a prop. I have found that holding Jane Eyre or Mansfield Park up and looking like I was totally absorbed in a Victorian tale of arranged marriages puts your average, suspicious American at ease. My headgear becomes less of a threat, because hey! she’s reading ENGLISH. And will you please look at what this Arab woman is reading? It is not a tattered copy of Stories of the Prophets by Hafiz Ibn Kathir – a very questionable choice of literature for a plane ride in the United States. No, I hold Pride and Prejudice up high for all to see. Look, my book says, this young woman obviously has some sort of Western education, be nice to her! And trust me, people are considerably nice-rrrr. I get less hostile looks and fewer people avert their eyes in confusion. I get smiles, nods and the raised-eyebrow-in-pleasant-surprise. All thanks to my girlfriends Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen. (Hey, Remember this?)
Just as I was getting comfortable and smiling smugly at the empty seat next to me, an old man hobbled onto the plane. Hobbled, isn’t even the right word: he leaned heavily on a cane and the flight attendant slowly pushed him forward. He had a patch on one eye and seven wispy white hairs that stuck out randomly on his head.
“Where would you like to sit, Sir?” she asked him.
“WHAT?” He stopped. Turned to look at her. “SPEAK UP, I CAN’T HEAR YOU.”
The flight attendant laughed. All 30 passengers on the tiny plane were now watching the action unfold. She spoke louder this time, “Where would you like to sit? We have 4 empty seats. You can have these two in the front, all to yourself!”
“I want to sit next to that young lady.” He leaned on his cane and pointed a shaky finger right at me.
I moved my stuff over and flashed the old man a tight-lipped look-I’m-really-social-just-not-today smile. He gushed back and pointed at my book, “SO! YOU SPEAK ENGLISH!”