A summer trip to Europe was the plan. We check for tickets with Cathay, Air France, Emirates – no deals to be had. July is the height of summer after all. But Aeroflot lured us with a $300 discount, and not to mention a stopover at Moscow’s glamorous Sheremetyevo Airport.
The Russian flag-carrier initially conjured images of watery borscht and raspy passengers. After all, it was one of the last commercial carriers to ban in-flight smoking. Entering the airline, the seats and layout are surprisingly stylish on this Boeing 777.
As the flight takes off, my travel partner and I pop our sleeping pills, planning to land in Moscow after some well-needed shut-eye. Unfortunately for me, the pills aren’t as effective as I had hoped. A few hours later – mid-journey – I’m reluctantly awake. And ravenous.
I trudge to the back of the aircraft in search of munchies. I’m expecting some finger foods, a bag of nuts or soggy Cup Noodles, which are typically found on many Asian and American airlines departing China.
Instead, I see a large bottle of spring water and a bar of dark chocolate – a welcomed nibble given that I already missed the first meal served on the flight. As I stand peeling off the bar’s gold foil, I notice a group of neatly stacked documents written in Cyrillic.
What’s the history of these foreign alphabets I wonder, instinctively wishing I had access to Wikipedia. However, I’m more curious about the content of the papers. Was it my connecting flight information? Some sort of landing permit? A list of passengers who ordered diabetic meals? I flip through the papers with mounting inquisitiveness.
I suddenly hear high-heeled footsteps behind. “Eyyy!!” a voice shrieks.
It doesn’t sound pleasant. I’ve been caught. I’ve been caught red-handed snooping through a pile of Cold War-era Soviet briefing memos. My heart is pounding. I can feel the iron bars of a Moscow prison pressing against my face.
“Eyy!” the voice says again.
I turn around to face a slim, brunette flight attendant.
“That’s MY chocolate!” she says.
“I’m so sorry,” I quickly reply. “I didn’t know this was your chocolate. I just found it here.”
Now I’m definitely wide-awake.
“Yes, that’s my chocolate,” she says. “And you’re eating it.”
I wasn’t just eating it, I thought. I was delighting in it. Rich. Dark. Luxurious. With a hint of mandarin orange.
“I’m sorry, you can have the rest of it,” I say. I hand it back in an attempt to make amends.
“No, you’ve eaten it,” she says.
“I’m sorry. How about this? When we land in Moscow, I’ll buy you a new chocolate bar?” I suggest, as if she’s a disappointed child.
“That’s impossible. Because these chocolates can only be bought in my home city, which is very far from Moscow,” she mutters.
“This is a terrible mistake,” I say. “Here, please take the bar, and I will give you some chocolate money.”
“No. No. No! I don’t want the chocolate or your chocolate money.” Head hung low, she walks away.
I feel as awkward as Larry David in a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode.
I excuse myself, dipping into the lavatory for a moment of freedom. I let out a heavy and much-needed sigh. Minutes later, I open the washroom door, but cannot manage to exit.
It’s blocked by another flight attendant – blonde, heavy-set, arms-crossed. I quickly catch a glimpse of her nametag – Olga.
In a commanding voice she says to me: “YOU stole her chocolates! Give it back.”
“I’m sorry,” I counter.
Olga doesn’t miss a beat. She says, “You apologize to HER. Not to me!”
I turn towards the brunette flight attendant, “I’m sooo sorry again.”
Olga shouts, “Louder. Tell her you really mean it.”
The brunette stewardess is now overwhelmed with embarrassment. Her facial expression reveals some sympathy. “Really,” she says, “You enjoy the chocolate please. A gift from my home city.”
But Olga is fuming. She is not happy with the turn of events. I manage to make my way past her and hustle to my seat.
A half-hour later, the trolleys are out. Hot food is being served. “Great, now you come,” I silently complain. I catch sight of a blonde flight attendant responsible for my aisle. Crap. It’s Olga! She approaches. Grumps at the sight of me, and hastily throws down a tray. No option for the chicken, I guess.
I gently lift the lid to discover my lunch – yep, burned. Lucky for me, I already had dessert.
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