Years ago I worked with a man who lost several fingers in a work accident. As a teenager he got his hand caught in an industrial appliance in a pizza kitchen (or pizza factory). The accident caused him such shock and pain that when one of his coworkers grabbed my friend by his other hand to pull him away from the machine, he broke several bones in his coworker’s hand from squeezing her hand so hard as she pulled him away.
The other day I was on a flight from Cusco to Lima, with a stop in Puerto Maldonado. A “dogleg” in industry speak. Two ladies in traditional Peruvian clothing were sitting nearby, an older lady in the row behind me and a woman about my age next to me. I had the aisle seat and she had the middle seat with nobody by the window.
I dozed of a bit while the plane was taxiing for takeoff but when the plane lifted off I opened my eyes to look outside. As I turned my head towards the window, the woman next to me lunged towards me, grabbed my arm in such abject fear as I’ve never seen before in my life. White with fear she grabbed my hand so hard that all I could think of was my old friend breaking the bones in his coworker’s hand.
As my seat mate screamed people all around us started calling for the flight attendants. I tried every distraction I could think of:
“Where are you going?”
“First time flying?”
“You live in Cusco?”
While she was still wrapped around me tighter than Leo and Kate in Titanic I learned she’s from Andahuaylillas and was traveling to Lima to visit her daughter, who’d moved there to work when she was 14. After a while the flight attendants literally pried this poor woman off of me and she eventually calmed down a bit. The flight attendants were very good during this ordeal, which was almost surprising because in Peru many people get hired for customer service type positions by virtue of being young and cute, not by professional ability.
At the stopover in Puerto a young man took the window seat, he was a rather handsome European looking guy, tall, blond hair, early 20s. The flight attendants said to the lady beside me “if you have any problems now you have 2 good looking young men on either side of you to help!”
Of course I feigned surprise and excitement
The woman beside me had relaxed by the time we were descending into Lima and would turn around occasionally to talk in Quechua to the older lady behind us, who was also dressed in traditional Peruvian attire. As we started to descend into Lima the older lady, who looked to be in her 80s, had a bit of a scratchy throat. One of the flights attendants asked if she wanted a cup of water.
She paused for a moment and replied: “Can I have a beer instead?”
Not in “I wanna get waisted kind of way” but rather, “It’s 5 in the afternoon, I’m 80 years old and traveling by myself, and I’d like a beer”.
A bunch of people snickered when the woman asked for a beer instead of water but the flight attendants didn’t care. In Peru jobs as flight attendants are still respected, something to be desired. Flight attendants are typically educated, ambitious, cute young people from so called “good families”. I liked that you could tell for maybe the first time in their lives, those flight attendants wanted to be just like that old traditional lady, strong and confident.
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A special song for my Mamacita Linda.