Is It Good Now That Everyone Can Fly?

My first commercial flight I think was from KUL (now SZB) – MKZ and then onto JHB. That was in 1974. Yes, they used to fly to Melaka (Batu Berendam) too those days. Going on a plane used to be a big thing that some people would even go to the tailor to make a suit just for the purpose of going on a flight to somewhere, even a short haul one. And I remember Malaysia Airlines System (now Malaysia Airlines) used to give away blue sling bags with the old red WAU logo – ones you could fit in a nightstop kit plus some clothes. I used to use them as my schoolbag and my classmates would look at the bag with awe. Those days too you could take away the in-flight meal. I don’t remember what they used to serve back then but I know it was something delicious. Even back in the 1980s people would still dress up to get on a flight, and I wore a three-piece suit when I went off to England after the SPM exams.

Then came Richard Branson and Virgin Airlines. And it was so much cheaper to cross the Atlantic. Soon, the dress code was done away with and everyone could fly. And with the advent of Air Asia, everyone truly could fly…albeit virtually everyone.

Air Asia at a point of time did not have seat numbering and you could sit anywhere you liked. But with security issues becoming more serious, and to ensure passengers queued in a more orderly manner, they introduced the seat-numbering system, and with that, introduced hot seats where they could charge passengers for those seats for a fairly bit more.

Wifey and I were on an Air Asia flight very recently, flying back to KL. When the announcement came on air that the plane that was to take us back to KL had just landed, the passengers rushed to queue. For the life of me I have no frigging idea why. The plane was still going to take-off whenever it was ready, and each passenger is assigned a seat. So, why the rush? I guess since everyone could fly, it also means that every idiot with enough money to book a seat could get on board too! Or, is it just a Malaysian thing to rush?

Once we were seated, these passengers seated across the aisle were like first timers on a plane. When the purser announced that it was a no-smoking flight and that the use of mobile phones is prohibited, the man got his phone out and made a call. Then, both of them (they were husband and wife, apparently travelling in a family group) got up to change seats once the safety demonstration was completed. First, the husband got up and found an empty seat in the forward section. The wife looked worried being left behind, rushed to the rear section to find an empty seat nearer to her kinsfolk. As the aircraft taxied to the runway, she rushed to her husband to pass him his bottle of mineral water. The husband never wore his seat belt because as the engine was powered up for takeoff, I saw him got up half way to signal something to his wife, or to one of his relatives behind us.

Once the aircraft was in the air, and even before the seat-belt sign was switched off, one of them rushed to the washroom forward.

Then when we were already at cruising altitude, another man got up from his seat, and sat in the seat where the couple originally sat. He put up all the arm rests, and lie down to sleep. But sleep he did not. A little later, he got up and opened the overhead compartment to get his carry-on luggage, took out a book, got back to the seat and started reading.

Then, there was the sound of a bird chirping. Apparently, three rows in front of me, a guy was playing with his PSP. I’m sure he could have used an earphone, or turned down the volume, but he did neither. Dinner was soon served, and once that was over, everyone of us was in the mood to catch a nap as we were still two hours away from our destination.

Soon, the man who was reading the book got up again and went for his carry-on luggage. This time he took out this little bristle so he could brush his teeth while reading the frigging book. The act of brushing and flossing was coupled with the hissing sound of him trying to suck out food fragments from between his teeth or inside his cavities.

I fell asleep, but not for long, when one of the kinsfolk of the couple mentioned started to talk and joked in the most annoying and coarse voice that reverberated inside the cabin. This went on for almost another minute more when a very annoyed Wifey, whose sleep was disturbed, did the loudest


Then the cabin fell quiet again.

And that chirping sound came on again. Bloody annoying, but I was already too tired by then to pay any attention.

Somehow, one can never be in a deep sleep as one could when not everyone could fly. The guy who brushed his teeth while reading his book got up again, kicked my foot in the process, went for his carry-on luggage again and got something else out. I shut my eyes again.

Did I get to sleep? No! Soon, I heard the sound of someone shuffling on his seat. Apparently, the guy, whose ass was on seat ‘C’, was leaning against the window next to seat ‘A’ and was pulling a piece of cloth from his ear! He looked at the already yellow tip of the cloth, and stuffed it into his shirt’s pocket. And he took out the bristle from the same pocket and brushed his teeth again. I thought only Mr Bean would be capable of something like that.

Soon, it was time for us to land. In preparation, the purser told all passengers to put their seat upright, tray tables secured, and to turn off all electronic equipment. Then, the cabin lights were dimmed for landing.

Then, that chirping came on again. I saw a faint glow emitted from the seat three rows in front of me. I suppose while everyone could fly, not everyone understood either English or Malay, even though they are Malaysians.

The plane continued to dive on finals, and at the last moment, the engines were throttled back, and the aircraft flared, bringing it into the nose-up position. Everything fell silent while we waited for the undercarriages to touchdown onto the runway.

Then, the undercarriages touched down. Simultaneously, a woman’ exclaimed, breaking the deafening silence:


I remember how hard I tried to control myself from bursting out laughing. Wifey was already in tears controlling herself from laughing out loud.

The plane soon slowed down and taxied to the parking apron.

And the idiotic chirping never stopped…

The Sister I Thought I Never Had

I’ve been wanting to write this…since more than a year now.

Coming from a family of four (originally it was five until my elder sister, second in the family, passed away), one would think that we siblings talk to and confide in each other. Well, no. The only sibling I am in contact with is my brother, who is more or less in the same boat with me as far as family matters are concerned.

There were several moments in life when the only other sibling I would talk to is my deceased sister, whose grave is located behind my current office building. Therefore, she is close by in a weird way. If I needed to let things off my chest, or even cry for no reason, I would go to her grave because she would be the only sister whom I could talk to and not get any negative response in return.

I have another sister – long before Wifey and I got married. I only saw her commenting on Wifey’s blog three years ago, and as my relationship with Wifey grew, so did my relationship with her. And when I finally got to meet her at the airport last year a week before our wedding, it was like meeting a sister whom I have not met for a long, long time. She’s fun, she’s crazy, and quite a character – and I’d say the same about her husband. And in the short two weeks that she was back here last year, all I know is that I absolutely love these two crazy characters…fluorescent lime green phone skins, equally fluorescent luggage.

And I miss this sister of mine. I would love to be able to fly them back here at least twice in a year, but I don’t know how possible that would be.

I just want her (and her husband) to know how much Wifey and I miss them. It is always fun to be crazy.

Take good care of yourself, sis.

My sister-in-law, Nazra, with Milo on her head

April Showers

For some, April showers have been horrible, almost as horrible as the hot weather spell itself. The last thunderstorm brought down several trees in my area, crashing onto an office building, a house or two, on a small lorry and at least a car.

For me, it has been an eventful April so far; from going to an offshore platform to do a safety audit to several other things – both bitter and sweet, one that probably involves my being anathematized by the family three years ago. And the good news is, Wifey and I, together with Renek, Dalie, Rina and Aznan will be on our annual pilgrimage to Sipadan next week.

One of the items is Wifey’s cancer-stricken aunt’s physical condition has taken a sudden turn. Two years ago we visited her when she was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the same illness that robbed my family of our maternal grandmother. It is an illness that has a 45 percent 5-year survival rate; in laymen term, that means only 45 diagnosed patients out of 100 would survive up to 5 years – if diagnosis was done early. In this case as with the case of my late grandmother, it wasn’t that early. The last I met her was some months back at the engagement ceremony of one of Wifey’s cousins. She asked me how I was, and I asked her the same. She looked fine; frail but fine. Somehow she has a relapse and seeing her yesterday reminded me of how painful it was to see my grandmother 12 years ago – and how painful it was to see her go only six months after losing my maternal grandfather.

And last night, we had a Coming Out Of The Closet cum Birthday party for Komar. He finally decided to introduce his girlfriend to the gang, and we would like him (as well as her) to know that we think she’s cool to have as a friend. As long as she can stand our antiques, and hopefully she could.


Of course it would be the ultimate delight to see them end up as actual partners in this weird and long journey called life.

And it was a joy to see my eldest daughter again after a week or so, this time to help out with her university admission form, documents needed to complement the form, and so on. The last time I did this, I had to do it on my own. In a way, it saddened me a bit as she is now a young adult, all grown up, and no longer that baby I use to hold close to me at night – I remembered how I used to sing to her as she closed her eyes and her little fingers clutched my finger and not letting go. I remember the first steps she took, the first word she uttered, her favourite calendar, her rubber ducky that was her first toy, when she gave up her milk bottle, her first walk to the kindergarten, her Taekwondo tournament, her first scuba dive. I am going to miss her.

Then I sent her to my parents’ house being the nearest place to the university that she had applied to. As I approached the house, the gate opened automatically and my father’s car, was on its way out when it slowed, and then stopped. Wifey, my daughter and I alighted from our car. I stood there for a second or two before I saw the window on the side where my mother’s seated being wound down. I felt a slight joy and the thought of a sign of thaw in the three-year winter between my parents and I crossed my mind. I stuck my head through the window and smiled at my mother, held her hand and tried to kiss it, but she just froze, and all I could say was,


She just went,


That was an ephemeral joy lasting but for a few seconds. The window was being wound down so my father could leave verbal instructions to my daughter. To not embarrass anyone including myself in the presence of the driver, I just feebly mentioned that I was there to send my daughter, to which I received no response whatsoever.

And the pain that I felt three years ago just seared again across my heart. It seems that there is no sign of anything thawing. I walked back to my car and waited for my daughter to come back to the car so I could hug her before saying goodbye.

But at least I got to see how she is. It is no joy at all, but at least it has answered a question.

After my daughter had walked through the gate, I got back into the car and drove home. I held Wifey’s hand hoping to console myself.

I am so glad I have Wifey by my side.

And I hope, April showers will bring May flowers.

A Step Farther

A tenth of a score is the number of years
that your mother is now almost free of tears
the day that her love and mine were sown
was the day I took you as my own

Two years it has been that time has flown
not once have I ever rested a single bone
one was for us to know each other
the other I became your stepfather

Taking you to the clinic at night’s not a bother
your life is what I try make smoother
to my kids sometimes I wish to do the same
even though you always have for me a name

For you I cook, bear the heat of the flame
hoping the taste you would not find as lame
being loved by you was not what I sought
missing my children is the feeling constantly fought

I am sometimes filled with fraught
I know that your father I am not
I know that I can never be perfect
all I hope for is some show of respect

For I always try to take a step farther
but it is never always easy being a stepfather…

Spread Your Wings And Fly

The kids and us trying to fit into the frame

I’m lying here in bed wondering if I will be deployed offshore tomorrow. My flight’s been booked but my deployment depends on whether the client’s driller can renew their offshore safety passport in time. At the same time I find myself humming an old song by Bob Carlisle called ‘Butterfly Kisses’.

My daughters Farhanah and Fazira were five and two respectively when I first heard that song. Their mother and I had just gone through separation and subsequent divorce, and I was missing my daughters terribly. And listening to this song made it worse because I did not want to miss seeing my children grow up and then leave me when they have a world of their own. And every school holiday I would get them to stay with me, and we would have a ritual whenever I tuck them in bed. Farhanah would start first by saying:

“Ayah, kiss!”

I’d give her a kiss. Then she’d go:


And we’d do the “Eskimo” kiss, which is rubbing my nose on hers. Then she’d ask for the final act of the ritual:


And we’d bat our eyelash several times onto each other’s cheek. After that we’d give each other a big hug. Only after that I would turn to little Fazira who would be waiting for her kiss, Eskimo kiss and Butterfly kiss eagerly wearing a big grin on her face.

I have no idea when did we stop this ritual…but whenever I get to, I would kiss their forehead and hug them for as long as I could.

All the precious time
Like the wind, the years go by.
Precious butterfly.
Spread your wings and fly.

Fazira will turn 15 this year, and Farhanah will turn 18. Maybe by next month, if everything goes well, the latter will commence her tertiary studies; and if everything goes well, she’ll start working in 6 years time. Maybe, a year or two later, she’d have her own world and will have her own life. I will no longer have her, or be able to hug her as freely as I would now. Perhaps, Fazira would follow suit just three years later.

And to think it was almost two decades ago that I would lie down next to each of them, pat them to sleep, and feel their hand grip my little finger gently but firmly. They are all grown up, and one day they will leave me.

I just hope before that happens, I would get to do those kisses with them again. I just want them to know and remember how much I love them, and that I will always love them as I have been doing since the day they were born.

And I can never not feel like crying when I think of them, and listen to Bob Carlisle’s song…

In all that I’ve done wrong I know I must
have done something right to deserve a hug
every morning and butterfly kisses at night

This Is April 1st, 2010

Yes, March 2010 ended as at midnight last night, and it is April Fools’ Day. So, for all you fools out there, enjoy.

April may have gotten its name from the Roman word “Aprilis” – “to open”, maybe to describe that it is the open of the planting season as it should be spring now (apparently it is not in some places that should have spring season by now). April, apparently, is also when people have weird holidays such as One Cent Day (April 1st), National PB & J Day (April 2nd), No Housework Day (April 7th), Winston Churchill and Name Yourself Day (April 9th), National Pecan Day (April 14th), and National Shrimp Scampi Day (April 29th).

For me, April is the month that I will be traveling to Mabul and Sipadan. Last year it was from the 17th through the 21st, this year it will be from the 16th through the 20th. And this will be the first trip to Sipadan for Wifey, who has been doing her last 24 dives in Tioman (following 5 dives in Perhentian). And we hope to do around 12 dives at least so that it would be worth the trip. Last year I only managed 8 because we were such a huge group.

15 days to go!