Here’s a personal true story. I told it somewhere else tonight, so I figured I’d tell it here.
Several years ago, before I transitioned, I took one of my annual vacations in the Philippines. The PI is close by, it’s cheap to stay there, books and other things I want to buy are in English, and I can pick up a lot of US imports that are not sold in Taiwan. It was a normal trip of going to the airport, going through security, passport and customs, etc. It was completely uneventful as I reached the lounge at the boarding gate.
Whenever I travel, I always book a diabetic meal with the travel agent. I’m not a diabetic, but the food is always better, with very little fat. The starch is always rice, noodles or potatoes. There’s steamed vegetables or a salad, and it’s plain cooked protein, always either chicken or fish, chicken or fish. Dessert usually comes as a plain bun or a bowl of fresh fruit. The bonus about having a special meal is that you always get served first.
Passengers were called to the gate in turn, and I boarded the plane when my section was called. It turned out my row was in front of the bulkhead wall, no seatbacks in front of me. As I got to my row, there was a man already there. I could tell immediately from his white robes, white hat, facial hair and darker skin that he was a muslim, and probably from Mindanao in the south, the semi-autonomous muslim area of the Philippines. I never talk to other passengers on planes, and this was a 75 minute flight, so I said nothing and neither did he. I never heard him speak, and I assumed there was a good chance he didn’t even speak English.
About twenty minutes into the flight, the cabin crew began rolling out the cart to serve meals. As mentioned, special meals get served first. I unfolded the tray table from the armrest, and the flight attendant put it down in front of me. I opened the hand wipe towel and used it, then the package containing the cutlery and the napkin.
Then it was time to address the meal. I turned out the edges of the foil cover, lifted it off, and looked at the food. And I look for several seconds. Then I put the lid down on it again.
Barely audible to anyone, I said to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding.” I lifted the cover and looked again, shaking my head.
“What?” The muslim man next to me spoke up. It turned out he spoke English. I was almost too embarrased to answer him.
I’ve ever been on roughly forty to fifty flights in my life, and as I said, I always ordered diabetic meals. And the ONE time I’m sitting next to a muslim, I get served pork. What are the odds?
I lifted the lid. He saw it, I explained my story, and he laughed. It wasn’t his meal and I wasn’t giving it to him, so he wasn’t bothered by it. But for the next fifteen minutes, I’m sitting there chewing away, and feeling guilty with every bite.
Never before and never again have I been served pork as my in-flight meal. The only time I got one, this happens. It’s the story of my life.
My own flight story, albeit nothing to do with meals (and I know I’ve told this before, so apologies if it seems familiar): Flying from the UK to the States. Shortly after takeoff, the individual sitting next to me — who’d introduced themselves as in the Air Force when we boarded — turned to me and asked if I’d been saved. My reply was “The turtle moves!” and pulled out my in-flight reading, a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods. The look on his face was priceless, and, even better, he shut up.