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   Chapter 10 Hikers’ Hut

Attention Span and Other Stories By PaulineWiles Characters: 5107

Updated: 2018-01-11 12:02

I travel a lot for business.

Far from being tedious, I find the plane is an excellent hunting ground. For men, I mean.

After all, you can learn so much about someone during the cramped, dull conditions of a longhaul flight. I look for wedding rings, of course. That's a rule I don't break, unlike some. But even so, now they've done away with the smoking section (thank goodness), it would be so helpful if the airlines could seat people by relationship status. Seating for singles would make my life so much easier. In fact, I must pop that one in the suggestion box.

For example, if a man looks promising but tilts his seat back as soon as the seatbelt sign goes out, it's likely he's inconsiderate. If his nose is in his laptop for the whole flight, there's a danger he's a workaholic.

When he takes his shoes off, do his feet stink? Does he guzzle too much wine? Does he snore during his nap? Does he tackle the meal with disdain, or enthusiasm? If he leaves most of it, he could be the fussy type. Or if he does eat it, and the result is scattered debris, he might well be messy to live with. Or does he take time to fit it all back on the tray, like a Tetris puzzle? That could be a warning of OCD tendencies. Either that, or he's a software engineer. Does he look sexy and rumpled with a day's beard growth… or just rumpled?

Yes: an overnight flight is such an intimate environment, you can deduce as much about an IFB – that's Inflight Boyfriend – while crossing the Atlantic, as you would in a month's worth of dates. My peripheral vision is as sharp as an owl's.

Call me picky, but I'll only consider a guy if he waits for me to make the first move. Just because I'm up here and wearing lipstick doesn't mean I'm easy. And even when I start flirting, any inappropriate questions – like have I joined the Mile High Club, or where precisely I'm staying, for example – and I shut them down cold.

If I'm really lucky, something untoward happens, which is priceless information for how he'd respond in a crisis. For example, en route to Dubai, I was chatting happily with a witty graphic designer when the kid next to him threw up. Charisma turned instantly to sulks and I knew it was time to move on.

And I'll never forget the gorgeous hunk – Houston, I like to call him, as that's where we were heading – whom I fancied the moment he shrugged off his jacket to reveal perfectly toned arms and a tattoo of a kingfisher, my favourite bird. Unfortunately we hit turbulence mid-Atlantic and Houston screamed like a girl. So tha

t was the end of that.

Then there was John. The signs were so auspicious: a business class seat and he was reading the Financial Times. He drank in moderation, and reacted well when an elderly passenger stumbled and stepped on his foot. We went out for three months and it was looking rosy, until he accepted a job in Shanghai without consulting me. Still, it'll be nice to know someone in China.

But I digress.

This chap in 12C, he looks promising. A serious-looking novel, nothing too gory. The vegetarian meal implies he's either health-conscious or an animal lover, both fine with me.

My onboard smile is never far away. 'Looks like you have business in New York, ' I say. A reasonable guess from his suit trousers, blue shirt, and loosened tie. That, and the fact the plane is heading for JFK.

'Yes.' He smiles, a little wearily. 'Again.'

'I love the Big Apple, ' I say. 'It energises me.'

He closes his book. 'Perhaps I'm missing its finer points.'


By the time we're on final approach I have his phone number, which he assures me will work as well in Manhattan as in Maidenhead. I don't like to give out my contact information, much better this way.

'I'll give you a ring tonight, ' I say, calculating I'll have time for a nap beforehand. 'Now sorry, I have a few things I need to do before we land.'

'Of course.' He dutifully stows his belongings: another good sign, not a rebel.

I don't see him again until just before he disembarks, when he gives me a cheery wink. 'Looking forward to it, ' he says, laptop bag slung over one shoulder as he trudges with the others up the jetty.

My friend Patty, also stationed at the main door to bid farewell to our passengers, overhears. 'I don't believe you.' She rolls her eyes. 'You're going to get into trouble one of these days.'

'There's no policy against it, ' I reply. I'm not stupid, I checked the crew handbook. 'Anyway, you can't talk about being overfamiliar.' Patty transferred to us from American Airlines and became a laughing stock when she failed to recognise Earl Spencer in first class one day. 'You blundered in and asked Princess Diana's brother if you could call him Chuck.'


On the crew bus to our hotel, Patty says, 'I assume you have plans for tonight?'

'Yep, ' I say cheerfully. 'With 12C.'

'Good luck, ' she says, yawning. 'Hope he's the one.'

I smile. I hope so too, but it doesn't matter much if he's not. I also have business cards from 18A, 9F, and 25D.

After all, there are plenty more fish in the sky.

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