When I saw him in the airport an hour earlier, I knew he would be on my flight. I knew he would have all that junk with him and refuse to check it. I knew he would yell at me for not enough overheard luggage room.
I just knew.
I got onboard and did my pre-flight safety checks. The image of him with all that stuff haunted me. Please don’t be on my flight, I prayed.
The flight was overbooked. All the overhead bins were completely full. We were just getting ready to shut the airplane door, when the gate agent said, “There’s one more passenger.” It was him. Naturally.
“Is there room for my carry-ons?” he asked, his raspy voice neither confrontational nor pleasant. “I need to stow these things.”
I couldn’t tell which way this conversation was going to go. In a decade of flying, I’d had literally thousands of such encounters.
“Sir, the bins are full,” I replied in my best no-nonsense flight attendant tone, “We will have to check those bags.”
That is when it happened.
He let out a yelp, a strange sound I couldn’t quite place, then he dropped to the floor and wept. I felt 135 sets of eyeballs focus on me and Mr. Luggage.
“Sir, get up,” I demanded, “I can’t help you if you’re on the floor.”
He calmly stood up and reached into his back pocket. I knew he was reaching for a gun, a gun that he’d somehow managed to sneak past security, and that he was going to shoot me for merely doing my job. A gunshot would obviously mean a flight delay, and if I did not die, I would be fired for causing the delay.
I braced myself to be shot.
“This is a photo of Lily, my new daughter I am adopting in China,” he said, holding out a glossy 5x7, “I’m going to get her.” Big tears slid down his face.
We made room for his bags.
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