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Bond of Friendship
The Lufthansa flight from Amsterdam just touched down the runaway at JF Kennedy airport, New York. Many of the passengers are anxious to transfer to Eastern Airline flight to Los Angeles. The computer screens along the hallways however show that the Eastern Airline flight, which was the airline's last flight to LA departed on time, that was 3:35pm, some 25 minutes earlier. The next flight to Los Angeles is United Airways and it is to be its last to LA for the day. It departs 5:45pm. For the reason of Mardi Gras, all scheduled flights to LA had been fully booked.
The Eastern Airlines had about forty-five transfer passengers from Lufthansa booked to board their 3:35pm flight. Lufthansa had a total of 3 hours forced delay partly on account of bad weather and for late departure.
Through networking and mutual interconnectivity convention, Eastern Airline officials secured seven seats on the United Airlines flight departing at 5:45pm. The Eastern Airline customer service manager makes it clear that only seven passengers will get the transfer boarding passes to United Airlines. Others will be accommodated free for the night and will take the first Eastern Airlines flight to LA the next morning. Ten passengers accepted the overnight in-transit accommodation offer. The remaining thirty-five passengers elected to vie for the available seven seats in the United Airlines flight.
The thirty-five passengers form two lines facing the two Eastern Airlines customer service officials sitting behind the service counter.
"Madam, I have paid for a hotel suite in LA Marriot and I am going for the Mardi Gras. You can see I don't have to miss it all."
That does not move the official. She says, "Sorry, next." referring to the next passenger in line.
"I have a very important business meeting to attend in LA tomorrow."
"You may have to telephone them to reschedule." The official quips in, and looking beyond him says "Next."
"I have a job interview to attend tomorrow," says a young man.
To everyone on the line, that sounds convincing and compelling. But the official cues, "Next." all the same.
With her widest smile, which sometimes makes her look docile and baby-like, Benita is face to face with the official. No compelling reason comes to her mind, yet she wants to get one of the boarding passes. Then she picks up confidence and mutters;
"I can stay back, if you say so, but I chose this day to travel from Germany to attend my boyfriend's birthday dinner tonight."
No response. It looks obvious even to those who lost earlier, that she has made a fool of herself. She decides to resign to her fate. But no. The customer service lady asks for her passport and reservation paper. Benita gives the documents to her. After a quick glance at them, she stoops and pools out a boarding pass.
"Take this and go over to the other counter," she instructs. "You will travel."
"What did she tell her?" some passengers inquire in low tones from the passenger directly behind her. It becomes a mini-miracle for Benita. She is elated.
Her boarding pass is the second of the seven; the other official had given out one boarding pass already. With five to go, the competition gains greater keenness.
After processing her papers and the boarding pass, Benita walks up to the lounge and takes a seat by the glass window overlooking the tarmac.
"You have a minute?" inquires a total stranger, tall debonair and well dressed in an Italian hand knitted suit with a silk tie to match. He looks corporate.
"Yes, you are welcome." Benita responds with a smile still sizing him up. "Sit down." She points at the chair next to her.
"My name is Romario Puzzo. I am an American citizen."
"I am Benita. I am a Brazilian." They shake hands.
"Well I heard your reason for the boarding pass, and I was impressed with the casual way you put it."
"Yes?" Benita looks askance at Romario.
"Is it really your boyfriend's birthday?" Romario quizzes.
"Of course, today is my boyfriend's birthday. I gave the airline official a document with my boyfriend's birthday on it." Benita adds.
"Waoh. You must be in love with your boyfriend."
"Yes. I am, and you; are you married?" Benita asks.
"I am married but we are separated," Romario sounds like he is out-of-place. He draws negative.
"Well you have to make it up with her." Benita encourages.
"By the way," Benita tries to change the topic "what was your own story to deserve a boarding pass?"
"Well, I showed her a Court summons for 9:00am tomorrow at LA. That did it."
They laugh understandably. No corporation wants to be dragged to court. "How long have you been with your boyfriend?" Romario questions.
"Seventeen weeks and three days." Benita answers. Romario looks jolted and peers at Benita, "And you?" Benita cuts in, "How long have you been married?"
"Well, we were married for five years before our problems started. We have been separated for two years now." He says absent-mindedly as he is visibly unhappy. He appears to be recollecting some details that would rather stay confidential.
"Do you live in Los Angeles?" Benita asks to pull him back from his wandering thoughts.
"Yes. I live in Inglewood." Romario returns from his reverie with a smile. "And you?"
"I live in Westwood." Benita announces with a tint of pride. Benita's address sends Romario on another mission of evaluation. In a country where the zip code is a major determinant of social status, the address matching appears offbeat. The American citizen of Italian origin is expected to live in a more expensive reserved neighborhood than a US resident of Brazilian origin. Westwood is a serene, secure, and sophisticated neighborhood while Inglewood is notorious as the abode of gangsters, lesbians, gay and social miscreants. The neighborhood is blighted, dotted with abandoned, weather-beaten and turndown houses mainly of the low-income bungalow units. The streets are unsafe especially in the evenings and nights as there are several winos, drunks, punks, hippies, and beggars loitering and harassing people all the time.
As if recovering from the discordant zip code information, Romario inquires.
"How long have you been in the US?"
"Eight years." Benita's crisp response is like a textbook answer.
"And when will you go back to your country?" Romario's follow-up question is consistent with the standard American questionnaire for aliens. Benita has gone through this catechism umpteen times. Her answers have become clichés and recently Benita had decided to approach such questions a little differently. So here is an opportunity to test her new approach.
"I plan to go back to my country forty days after the last Italian in USA has gone back to Italy."
"What?" Romario appears stung by a bee and confused. In order to veil his ire, he smiles, and adds;
"What is special about forty days and Italians in USA?"
"Well, you are of Italian descent and Christians attach great historical importance to 'forty days'." Benita replies with a smile and continues, "With the exception of the Red Indians, other US citizens have their origins in other countries of the world."
"That is a historical fact." Romario accepts.
"The question 'when will you go back to your country' coming from an immigrant is inappropriate or misplaced." Benita emphasizes.
"But the US, like every nation has to control its own immigration and demography." Romario asserts.
"You are right. However, th
Excerpted from POWER TO ANGELS by Lasbrey Nze. Copyright © 2013 by Lasbrey Nze. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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