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For the few remaining days in Italy I went shopping, but not much, I just enjoyed looking at the beautiful display windows, the layouts, the color coordination, the mostly impeccable taste, but with garish exceptions. I bought all the obligatory presents for all the members of my immediate family and for the staff, but for me, I bought a small statue, that to this day, stands in the dining room. It was fun and the only thing that was a bit worrying was the threatened strike by the airport personnel.
The day of my return arrived. It was a Sunday so I thought I would go for a quick look at the Vatican, maybe even see the Pope from afar, then off to the airport for my flight back to Cairo. That was exactly what I did. A very quick glimpse of the outside of the cathedral, and one peek of the inside, but it was too crowded for me to see much, then the Pope looked out of a tiny window, a tiny figure that blessed all the crowds in the square. It was enough. I then took myself off to the airport, well satisfied, but promised myself to go back and do it thoroughly sometime in the future.
My flight back to Cairo was an evening flight, and once on board I started to relax, as now I was going home to my beautiful beloved Egypt. My family would be collecting me from the airport so there was no hassle from then on. I was seated next to an American couple and we got talking and I found out that the husband is a dentist and that they were going to a dentists convention in Alexandria.
The flight staff were headed by a gentleman who was rather high complexioned and was wearing a white sharkskin jacket that looked really good on him. He was very attentive to all. Behind us was a young Egyptian woman with her two daughters of around six and eight. It was a normal group of people like you would see on any flight. Everything was going well, then they started to serve dinner. I distinctly remember that it was some sort of meat with mushroom sauce. With the beginning of dinner we experienced some turbulence. It didn’t bother us much. We continued with our meal, when suddenly the captain came on to announce that we are heading into some turbulence and please be seated NOW! This really got our attention. They never shout at you on planes, everything is always so low key and polite even if the engine is on fire. We were seated, but we buckled up. Then I noticed the sharkskin guy pulling the curtain between the classes shut, I was traveling coach, then holding on for dear life to the frame. His high color was receding and I started getting really worried, when suddenly the whole aircraft started dropping in a free fall. The oxygen masks dropped, the dinner trays flew in the air and indiscriminately sprayed all within reach with mushroom sauce. I glanced at the sharkskin guy and he was as white as his jacket. I thought, is it time to pray now I wonder? And my regret was that I would lose the statue! The woman behind me was screaming to her daughters that it was going to be alright, it’s OK, it’s OK! But it took a good 5 to 7 seconds before we hit what felt like the earth, but was really the air again, the plane faltered for an agonizingly long second before the engines caught and it started to fly again.
We had hit an air pocket and had dropped 7 thousand feet!
The staff then opened the bar and drinks started to flow. Before they could reach us, the dentist sitting on my row bent over, took out a flask from his hip pocket, tipped a good portion in a glass that I found in my lap, another good portion in the flask’s cup, gave it to his wife, then all three of us silently cheered one another and drank. The mother of the two girls went into complete hysterics once everything was back to normal and had to be carried into first class. The rest of the trip is rather vague, as the drinks really flowed. I even think the pilot had trouble landing the plane because all the passengers were so high! But he did finally land in Cairo, and I was one of the most enthusiastic people clapping in acknowledgement of the captain’s skill.
The end