Sunday, January 15, 2012

Man in an expensive coat

“Will you please pass my empty Pepsi can and sandwich pack to her”, I asked my husband so that he could give them to be put into the collection bag the air hostess held in the aisle. He was uncomfortably parked between a sleepy me in the window seat and a very sophisticated man in the aisle seat. It was 3:00pm.

He picked up my empty sandwich box and passed it over to the air-hostess. As she took the contents, a few residual drops of Pepsi fell out of the can on the man in the aisle seat.

Hubby took out his handkerchief and apologised profusely. The man didn't turn around. Hubby tried to dab it with his hanky, the man refused the help (still not making any eye contact). The air-hostess handed the man some tissues. He began cleaning the spillage (which I am sure was not more than 5 or 7 drops max). We tried to apologise once again but he didn’t turn around and never spoke to us in the whole journey. He looked extremely disgusted with us.

We felt bad for having spoilt his coat with our drops of Pepsi. But after sometime I got thinking. (In the meanwhile I checked the brand; it was a Pringles’ and most probably a merino jacket)

What was this man so uptight about? Was it a very expensive coat (around $400 - $500 I guess) that had sustained irreparable damages? Or was it the fact that it came from us who looked dishevelled and not so proper as we had been travelling for 300 kms since 4:00am? I know we were at fault but did it really merit such behaviour from a fellow passenger? We didn't expect him to turn around and smile or say, “Oh it is ok. It happens” and felt awful about the way he ignored our apologies.

What was it that made him sulk for the next two hours, harbour negativity within and make such a herculean effort to avoid eye contact with two people crammed so close to him? 

I am home now. Safely tucked in my razai. Surrounded by all things precious to me which I am sure will get damaged at some point or the other, sooner or later. I still cannot understand why was he so terribly annoyed? And why am I thinking about it so much?

Episodes like these always remind me of ‘The Eternal Lightness of Being’ by Milan Kundera. A book I never understood when I read it but over the years it has slowly shaped the way I think.

I will let that man out of my head now but I do thank him. For, he has reminded me that next time someone steps on my prized Sambalpuri saree, I must make an attempt to address the person first and the tear later.


  1. Maybe, the man was just controlling his anger .. muttering that 'nowadays any Tom, Dick and Harry is flying .. it has lost its status..' something like that! :-))

  2. That's quite a hard way to learn the worth of an expensive saree!

    Look at things positively: you wouldn't probably have chewed over the incident and made it a topic of this post had the man reciprocated to your apology. Again, you wouldn't probably have fondly remembered one of your favourite reads and related the incident to it had the man said with a smile, "Hey it's fine!"

    I think you're feeling bad about the incident because you didn't get the positive reinforcement of recognition - a subtle feeling of satisfaction we get when forgiven; the one which unburdens the heart of guilt, no matter how trifle it might be.

    Don't take the man's behaviour to your heart and shed tears over it. I'm sure you'll forget about the incident whilst being with people who matter to you.

  3. @aativas, exactly what I thought he must be muttering to himself. Now that I have slept over it, I say 'big deal' he didn't want to interact with us. The point to remember is how I want to behave whenever anyone causes me some damage.

    @Destiny's Child, Yes now that I am with my people I am not so worried about it. You are right about the dynamics of forgiveness. Jaane do :)


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