Sunday, 11 November 2012

What a long day (part 4)

Oscar was frozen in his seat, trapped between the window and the ever-increasingly-mysterious Delta Foxtrot. He wasn't sure what had just happened. He wasn't sure if he had perhaps been dreaming or hallucinating. He peered between the seats in front, where he could just about see one of the fallen men. He watched as the man got slowly to his feet, roused his partner and staggered off the bus. As soon as they were off, the doors shut behind them. He tried to look at them as the bus started to move, but they were on the other side and he couldn't see past the other passengers and seats. As his gaze moved from the front towards the back of the bus, as he strained to see, his eyes finally found Delta, sitting beside him, looking surprisingly calm. He stared at her for a moment, then sat back and stared straight ahead, at the back of the headrest in front of him. He felt a little unsafe now. Suddenly he wasn't sitting by a sweet, ditsy young woman who liked to chat; instead he was sitting by an unpredictable ninja, someone who might get up and beat someone up without any warning. He hoped he wasn't her next victim. It looked as though the blue-uniformed men had only been stunned, not seriously injured or killed, but being kicked or hit in the face hadn't looked pain-free.

Oscar kept staring straight ahead for a further 30 minutes, racking his brain for how to deal with a situation like this. Everything he had learnt or experienced to date seemed useless now. He relived snapshots of lectures, seminars and textbooks; conferences, business meetings and journal articles; network breakfasts, working lunches and even charity balls. It was like his life was flashing before his eyes, a life of mundane money-making without a thought for how to survive in the real world. But was this the real world? Had it really happened?

Finally, he snuck a glance in Delta's direction. She had her eyes closed and her earbuds in, her iPod held loosely in her right hand: she looked very peaceful. Had Oscar had an encounter like the one she had just had, he would have been shaken to his core. She had made it look almost routine. Only 'almost routine' because she hadn't seemed immediately prepared or willing. But she'd done it, then come back to her seat, and sat quietly for the rest of the journey. Oscar didn't know whether he should ask her about it, ask if she was OK. He wondered if he should probably steer clear of a woman like that. But he was a little curious. What she had done looked like some kind of martial art. She'd used moves he'd never seen anyone do before, but he wasn't exactly experienced in any kind of combat, so he didn't know if those were standard moves or something different, rare.

After an hour they arrived at Munich airport. The airport here was pretty busy, too. The coach stopped at front the door and the passengers congregated outside to be ushered together to check-in. Once inside the airport, luggage in tow, the group was asked to wait at the customer service desk for instructions of where to check in and for information about their new flight. Oscar overheard a few agitated passengers discussing what time they thought they would get back to the UK, whether the airport would provide lunch and whether they could claim compensation. Oscar's main objective at the moment was to get away from Delta, but she seemed to be following him.

Oscar was a frequent flyer. He had been delayed in airports before. He knew that after a certain length of time, determined by the airline, vouchers for food and drink would have to be provided. He knew that if a flight was delayed overnight, the airline would offer to put passengers up in a hotel. He'd never been redirected to a different airport, though, so he wasn't sure how long they were going to be waiting or what they would get in return. Oscar was normally relatively composed, even when others were obviously frustrated or angry. He rationalised everything and made logical decisions. But, given the circumstances, even he was feeling the panic begin to rise in him again.

Eventually, a member of staff returned and led the group of waiting passengers to a check-in desk.

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