"We recommend all passengers use the restroom before boarding."
The last time someone had suggested this to me, I was out of nappies sufficiently recently not to be trusted on car journeys lasting more than 15 minutes. I wondered what this said about Japan Airline's opinion of its passengers.
Then I went to the bathroom. Because I don't have good memories regarding those car journeys either.
In actual fact, the announcement had followed an explanation regarding the expected turbulence during the first part of the flight. Such air bumps meant that passengers would have to stay seated past the point they could normally expect sweet relief from the giant bottle of coke they'd mistakenly bought the wrong side of security. Thinking of which, I stopped by one of the terminal shops to pick up a drink for my own journey.
The bottles of coke all said 'good luck' on their label. I began to wonder if the universe was telling me something.
… possibly that I was about to sit beside a passenger whose hand luggage consisted of 36 Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs. Had the gentleman in question been flying to the USA, he would never have made it past security. It is a well known fact that American children die instantly at the sight of these candy delights, and such dangerous goods are banned from entering the country of open-carry.
The eggs were stacked in their three-tier tray under my neighbour's seat. As I stepped past him to take my own seat, I smiled and commented that this was possibly the most surprising hand luggage I'd ever seen anyone bring.
He stared silently back at me.
It was then I began to suspect he was going to kill us all. Remember the shoe bomber? His memory will be entirely eclipsed by the guy who wired up his own detonation device from three dozen separate plastic parts embedded in milk chocolate goodness.
Of course, the individual I had now silently labelled a threat to mankind may simply not have spoken English. He was a non-Asian on a flight between Japan and Vietnam and ordered his onboard drinks in English but ...
… no, he was quite clearly a terrorist.
The more I considered it (and I had a while on that delayed six hour flight), the weirder it looked. After all, who brings Italian chocolate from Japan to Vietnam? Given its intended recipients, why would you ever buy so much? The man was either a hardened criminal or the father of six sets of deprived American sextuplets who had been smuggled into Asia so they could finally experience the combined delight of a gift that was both a tooth-rotting snack and a toy with dangerously small parts. Both explanations would admittedly explain why he was at a loss for words.
This left the question about whether I should in all seriousness point out my suspicions. After all, it's all fun, games and blog posts until we all die horribly and the blog post doesn't even get published. What was the crossing line between 'hilariously weird' and 'pray to your gods'? In the end I decided to act if I saw:
- The eggs suddenly connected together with wires
- The eggs being taken to the toilet.
Because seriously, the last one is abnormal AND unhygienic.
The upshot was I kept half an eye on them eggs for most of the flight. My neighbour didn't use the bathroom: in retrospect, he probably sized me up as an academic and thought he'd be down six eggs before he got back.
When we touched down safely in Hanoi, I concluded that it was probably my vigilance that had saved the day. I gave my flight companion a curt nod as I left: he knows what he did.