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The Guy Can Land His Bird

The thing I so hate most about traveling by air to a local destination is that one invariably spends so much more time getting to and waiting at the airport than flying out to one’s destination. Oh by the way, I am writing this with my phone in my hotel room in Bacolod...

And because one never quite knows what will greet one on the road to the airport and because being late for a flight is never quite as simple as missing a bus, I had to get up at four in the morning for my 8:45 PAL flight out of Manila. And of course, once I had checked in at the Centennial II, my first priority was to find an empty bench on which I could half-sleep the time away till take-off.

I was in relative peace until a fellow passenger talking into a cell phone made himself right at home at the opposite end of the bench that I was on. I did not mind his conversation with whoever it was at the other end; I had my earphones plugged into both ears and was tuned in to a news broadcast to which I half-listened while I half-slept.

What I did mind was the constant rocking of the bench as soon as he sat down. Irritated, I turned my head to the side and half-opened one eye to investigate the intruder. He was oblivious of me sizing him up as he continued to talk into the cell phone, all the while tapping on his lap with his free palm or pumping his foot up and down. What a fidgety feller!

Some people are like that: they just cannot keep still! So, I got up to pee and then found myself another empty bench. I was undisturbed till my flight was called over the public address system.

The flight to Bacolod was... well... short... I found it remarkable that the flight attendants on board were almost unbelievably pleasant. I say this because I have flown on PAL flights before when attendants were curt and impersonal, almost haughty.

One never would have guessed they were getting ready to go on strike at the end of the month as disputes with management remain unresolved. I was actually tempted to ask one of them if they would still be around to serve me biscuits and greaseless peanuts when I fly back to Manila tomorrow afternoon.

It is a funny old business, these labor disputes. My own personal management philosophy is that if an employee is unhappy, then that employee should leave. After all, it is an employee’s right to find his or her own happiness.

On the other hand, if too many employees – not just the noisy self-righteous and self-serving minority – are unhappy, then maybe it is management who should go. Those who are in management also have the right not to be the source of people’s unhappiness, particularly if they do not realize that they are being unjust to the majority of employees. But I will leave PAL to deal with its labor problems...

There were, inevitably, bound to be anecdotes even in a mundane 55-minute flight. The steward who was handing out Tiger biscuits and greaseless peanuts was a fresh-faced boy who did not even look like he had graduated from high school. He handed me two biscuit and two peanut packs before wordlessly moving onto the next row of seats.

There were just me and a gentleman by the window in my row of three seats, the one between us unoccupied. I had not had breakfast yet and my wits were a tad slow. I initially thought PAL was being generous for this morning flight; until I noticed the woman across the aisle from me distributing the biscuits and peanuts between her palms to those in her row.

Ang shunga naman kasi ng ‘utoy, hindi nagsasalitâ... With a sheepish grin – I was really feeling foolish – I reluctantly handed one pack each of biscuits and peanuts to the gentleman by the window. Tsk! I should have eaten at the airport!

Before long, the captain was calling members of the crew to their stations in preparation for landing. Captain Gabriel Piamonte… Now, that was one gentleman who could land his bird!

Those among you who have read my story Landings will remember how I described the way the pilot of our flight to Tagbilaran last summer landed his bird: ibinalibang sa kalye!

This morning, Piamonte brought the A320 down so gently the plane practically caressed the runway with its tires. That was how I remembered PAL pilots would bring their birds down before those forgettable flights to and from Tagbilaran.

I was so happy I almost forgot the brown envelope I had temporarily stashed into the pouch at the back of the seat in front of me. St. Sealtiel, my Guardian Angel, nudged my arm to pick the envelope up just as the queue of passengers started to move forward along the aisle.

Nasa loob kasi 'yung ticket ko for the return flight... Ah-ah... Malayô-layô ring lakarin pabalik... May langoy pa...

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