Incidents of travel in Serbia

Boarding a flight the other day there was a man all casual standing next to me—shorts, t-shirt.  Not that odd given that it was Greece, and he was clearly coming from some chill time. But this rather pushy German man rapped him on the shoulder and asked rather aggressively, “are you travelling in business class?” effectively saying that he was, and that the man should make way.  The young, informally dressed man said to the middle-aged man in a suit, “I can be if you want,” and then smiled, stepped aside, and winked at me, letting the pushy chap go by.  Places in the queue changed by all of one.

We all boarded, and the middle-aged man was sitting in the first row, right in front of me.  When boarding was complete, two very, very attractive women boarded.  Tall, well-dressed, and with fabulous posture—totally erect carriage.  And the airline staff fawned over them.  They had an awful lot of carry-on luggage.  Easily 3 bags each.  One of the bags got seat-belted into the seat next to the angry man.  He started to complain.  The women didn’t look at him or address him.  Instead, the bursar said to the man, “that’s one of their seats,” and then secured the bag.

Then she opened the overhead luggage compartment above his head, and said, “is this your bag?” and then took it down and handed it to him.  She placed one of the women’s bags in its place.  This process continued with my bag and that of the bags of the other near passengers.  We all moved our bags under the seats in front of us, but angry man had his bag moved back.

The two women just chatted and laughed.  I fell asleep, but as you can imagine as a submissive man, I was happy to have given up my bag space for one of theirs.  See, we can find such joy in such small spaces!

When we landed, the passengers at the back of the plane were up before we had even stopped, and were barrelling down the corridor.  I got up too, and made a physical barrier with my body, but they were pushing and shoving against me.  It was a bit surreal.  I said to the one who was literally leaning into me, “where are you going so fast?” The door of the plane wasn’t even open yet.  I then got the bags of the women down and handed them to them.

That earned a smile that fell on me like warm rain.  A slave’s heart comes alive.

Destination Belgrade

I had never been here before.  But as I exited, I saw taxi kiosks (where they sell tickets) and being reminded of Mexico City and many other such places, where it is not always wise to just hail taxis, bought a ticket with a fixed price.

I went to the taxi stand only to find that none of the taxi drivers were willing to honour the price on the ticket.  “You have to wait.  Or you pay more.”  I was on a phone call anyway, and reception was very dependent on where I was standing.  So, I waited.  And then 15 minutes later I tried again, only to be met with the same corrupt disdain.  But then one of the two women from the plane emerged by my side.

“Where are you going?” she asked in perfect English.  I gave her the name of my hotel.  “You will come with me,” she purred.  I’ll admit, I was not wearing a skirt, but I was wearing very slim and short trousers, a blouse, and some rather fetching jewellery.  Not like a man on the prowl I guess.

But I wondered that a woman of such elegance and beauty would take a perfect stranger into her car.  The lesson in this is that how we live our lives says more about us than any status symbol or any gift of birth.

She proved to be a charming and wonderful person who filled my head with the names of fabulous restaurants, things to do, shops, exchanged numbers and emails, and an admonition to call her if I got in trouble or needed anything.  I won’t say who she was.  A public figure. It turns out we have loved and lived in some of the same places.

I think of just how nourishing a stranger can be, all because of being thoughtful.  Imagine if you apply that thinking to everyone you meet.  I’m going to try.

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