The Story Behind Seat 42K: please meet Baruch
In an unguarded moment, I told a colleague, who also blogs for KLM, that I write about special passengers. I do this because I cherish those memories. And, even though these stories are pretty personal, I want to share them with you so that even more people will feel the beating heart of passenger “1A” or “42K”.
Lagos – Amsterdam
Boarding at Lagos Airport is as hectic as always – most of the hand baggage is too large, too heavy and awkwardly packed. It’s evening, but still hot, and the (malaria) mosquitoes are buzzing irritatingly around our heads at door 12. A queue begins to build up around the galley; a lot of passengers have questions and requests, because they haven’t been seated together. And we, the cabin crew, have been awake for a very long time; there wasn’t time for a power nap before the flight was called.
Suddenly, there is Baruch
This two-and-a-half-year-old Nigerian boy is travelling with his mother. She is heavily laden and visibly tired. Baruch steps cheerfully into our Airbus. The rucksack on his back is impressively large, as is the smile on his face. Only someone without a care in the world can produce a grin this broad. The boy lingers as he walks onboard, as if he’s realised that I’m enjoying watching him. Our eyes meet and he holds my gaze, intensely. His mother pushes him inside and presents her boarding pass, clearly dying to sit down.
After the meals have been served, the lights go out and most of the passengers go to sleep. This is when the cabin crew has time to eat, read the newspaper, or have a chat. But then Baruch comes into the galley. He says nothing, but looks around. As soon as he catches my eye, that amazing smile spreads across his face again. We don’t speak each other’s languages, but it doesn’t matter. His mother is asleep. She must have thought, ‘What can go wrong? My child can’t possibly get lost, we’re on a plane.’
The Baruch grin
I don’t want to wake up his mother, so I keep an eye on the boy. He wanders around a bit, looks into our trolleys, rummages in empty spaces and looks at us enquiringly whenever he wants to touch something, or pick it up. He is gentle, sweet, funny and, above all, considering his age, careful.
In a moment of silliness I open an empty trolley cupboard and let Baruch walk in. Unsuspectingly he goes in and I push the door to behind him, convinced he will want to come out immediately and will bang on the door. But nothing happens. It’s a few minutes before he pokes his hand out and emerges with that enormous Baruch grin on his face. He clearly enjoyed being invisible.
When it’s time for us to start preparing the breakfasts, I take Baruch back to his mother. I gently wake her from a deep sleep. She is amazed that there are just 90 minutes before landing. We have a quick chat. They are booked on a connecting flight to Paris where her husband is working and where the family is going to live for a time. I would like to talk with her for longer, to ask her questions and tell her about the fun I had in the galley with her son. But duty calls.
I feel very lucky to have met the Baruch Grin. It is engraved on my heart and memory. I will certainly be able to pick him out from other passengers in future, because that kind of unforced love and pleasure is universally unforgettable.
Baruch has a long way to go to reach his own destination, but I know he will get there!
Do you want to know why my job as a cabin attendant rocks? Find out here.