Flying the Friendly Skies

Prior to boarding my flight yesterday, I saw an elderly lady in a wheelchair near the ticket gate. I think I took notice of her, because she looked like a character straight out of a storybook. She was quite small, and she was wearing a long floral skirt, a floral blouse that didn’t match the skirt, a bulky sweater, and some sort of a head wrap. She was wearing fluffy pink and white slippers, and she had a big black handbag tucked under her arm. She had light brown skin and appeared, at least to my eyes, like a Romanian gypsy.

She was boarded first, and when I got on the plane, I saw that she was seated directly across the aisle from me. She had an empty seat beside her and a young man was occupying the window seat. I was in the aisle seat and both seats next to me remained empty. When the flight attendant walked down the aisle, the woman gestured to her. I could tell from the interchange that the woman either spoke no English, or very little. The flight attendant patiently listened, and finally figured out that the woman was cold, and wanted the overhead vent to be shut off.

About 15 minutes after take-off, the young man seated by the window, leaned forward and tried to get my attention. It was dark, with just a bit of ambient light, but I could see that he looked concerned.

“Excuse me….She’s trying to talk to me, or ask me something, but I don’t know what she’s saying.”

I looked at the woman seated between us, and I saw that she was holding an object that looked like a pen, but much thicker. The woman looked at me, held up the object for me to see, and then she mumbled something. I didn’t feel panicked, but I didn’t understand what she was showing me, and I certainly didn’t understand what she was saying. I unbuckled my seatbelt, stood up, and hit the flight attendant call button.

The flight attendant arrived immediately, and I quickly filled her in on the situation. I was able to be quick about it, because I had no clue what was going on. The old woman waved the object around, and the the flight attendant replied, “Oh, no…you can’t smoke that on the plane.”

I peered around her and said, “I don’t think it’s a vape pen. Is it an EpiPen?” I had never seen one before, so it was just a guess.

“Oh…I thought she was asking if she could vape.” We smiled at each other. “But I think she’s trying to say that she wants the light on.” When she flicked on the light, we could see what appeared to be a needle housed in a plastic tubular case.

Once again, the flight attendant turned to me and said, “I think she’s diabetic, and it looks like she’s checking the dosage. In the moment that it took me to agree, we watched the old woman unbuckle her seatbelt and lift up her blouse to expose her belly. She grabbed a roll of skin and then stuck herself with the needle.

I looked over at the young man and he still looked shocked.

It was an awkward situation, but the flight attendant was so kind and supportive. I don’t know her name, but I want to give her a huge shout out! After the flight attendant walked away, I could see that the woman was struggling to put her seatbelt back on. I reached across the aisle and clicked it into place for her, and her smile of appreciation warmed my heart!

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