Small talk is not my cup of tea. And who talks to strangers anymore anyway? They may slip things into your drink or sneak drugs into your handbag. At least that’s what they do…in movies.

So I was not amused when this stranger who sat next to me on my flight from Doha, Qatar, to Malaysia extended his hand in greeting.

“My name is  Y”

(Stretches hand for a handshake.)

I hate shaking hands with strange people. Blame it on those e-mail forwards.

“Hello, I am C.”

“So, first time to Malaysia?”

“Yeah, first time.”


“You are going to study or..?”

“No. You? Business.”

“Oh! What kind of business?”

*Fumbling for my headphones*

“I work with company X, so am going for some training as well as to meet with my colleagues in Malaysia.”

“I have just come from London. I have been there for three months.”

“Oh I see.”  Who asked you?

At this point, my no. 1 fear is that this conversation might go on for another 7 hours. And fourty minutes.

But clearly this guy had forgotten his manners at home or he was just being a clown.

“So, how old are you?”


“How old are you?”

“Why are you asking?!”


“No I didn’t say eighteen. I said why are you asking?”

“Ah, no, no reason maam.”

“You don’t ask a lady her age!”



Conversation over. Thank God!

I put on my headphones albeit amused. How now?? How do you randomly ask someone their age?

I alternate between sleeping and listening to music and watching movies on the screen in front of me. Only those movies were abnormally long. I kept forwarding.

Until sometime at dawn, when the turbulence began.

Define turbulence. A flow regime characterized by chaotic and stochastic property changes. This includes low momentum diffusion, high momentum convection, and rapid variation of pressure and velocity…..bla bla bla . If I was more attentive when Mwonge our High school Physics teacher was rumbling on those dreadful Tuesday afternoons, I’d have a clue what that means. But I know what turbulence means because damn it I know it feels!

Turbulence causes the plane to tremble. It feels like you are in a car driving along a bumpy road. A very bumpy road. So it trembles and from time to time skews at some angle. Then you look at the screen in front of you showing the direction the plane is taking, and it shows you are currently flying over some god forsaken sea. At this point you can hear the voice of the recorded message they play before every flight, replaying in your head “Please take time to locate the emergency exit closest to you….” So you get scared. And you pray. And you hope your relatives actually prayed for you when they said they would and your friends meant it from the bottom of their heart when they said “Have a safe flight”.

Flying is scary. But some (read the cabin crew), have learnt not to show it.

When I noticed Mr. London traveller was visibly scared, I got more scared.

“You said you DO fly often?” (Hehe. NOW I want small talk.)

He told me yes he does fly often but that you never really get used to the turbulence.

I just kept praying :  Lord, those children, I need to see them grow. Outside it was raining and cloudy as hell.

“Cabin crew, please take your seats!” came the announcement.

I clenched my fists and closed my window so I could not see us falling off the sky and plunging into some sea “due to bad weather.” On and on the plane rocked for the longest 10 minutes of my life. Then it finally stabilized.

There is a God in heaven.

I said a prayer when we finally landed in the heat of Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday morning. We had been on flight for almost 13 hours. My Kenyan colleague and I took a cab from the airport and reached the hotel at around 11:00AM Malaysian time.

Guess what, we will have to wait because the guests in the respective rooms that had been booked for us have not checked out. Here the check out time is noon!

There must be another way. Please find another way.

What I needed most in this world, at that moment, was a shower and some sleep, after all that turbulence.

***To be continued***

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