I learnt something about myself the other day. One often does when travelling, This lesson has had me thinking about it for days on end.
A few days ago, I flew from Singapore to Penang on Jetstar Asia. When flying Jetstar, I always choose to add on the plus bundle, mainly for the baggage allowance and QANTAS Frequent Flyer points, but also as it gives extras such as standard seating selection and a light meal or voucher for food or refreshments. On this flight I had allocated myself a mid forward window seat. I had a chicken sandwich included and I was planning on indulging in a piccolo of wine.
Upon boarding, I found my seat, 10A. There was a young Buddhist Monk, sitting in the aisle seat 10C. A few moment later, a young lady came and sat between us, seat number 10B. The Monk seemed a bit concerned about this and politely asked if between us we could swap seats. Several suggestions were made, but each of them had me sitting that dreaded middle seat. From what I know – and please correct me if I am wrong, I do not claim I know all details of Buddhism – a Monk and a woman are not permitted to touch each other, and it was inevitable, in these close quarters, one may have brushed against the other. Anyway, the monk and I started talking. Small talk at first but then we chatted about where we were both from and why we were heading to Penang., you know the general airline seat neighbour polite chitchat. The small talk morphed into a conversation about Myanmar, a country I had recently visited and a place he had spent some two years studying. I offered him a mint and he reminded me Monks cannot eat after midday.
No one loves that middle seat and there were several empty rows behind us, as the flight attendant passed I asked if I could move to one of the empty seats to which she agreed I could after take off. I turned to the monk and explained, “If I move we will all have more room to spread out”. I also mentioned I had ordered a meal and thought it may be rude to eat in front of him – plus I was looking forward to having a glass of wine with the chicken sandwich and perusing the duty free catalogue… When the seatbelt sign was off, I moved to the row behind and The Monk seemed disappointed. When the flight attendants did the trolley service, my plus-bundle pre-ordered chicken sandwich seemed to have morphed into a muffin, as from what I could see, so were most peoples. I didn’t think much of it, it came with a bottle of water and I ordered a wine from the attendant for SG$10.
Not long after, the flight attendant came up to me saying he had given me the wrong order and apologetically handed me the sandwich before snatching the muffin away. The Monk was watching me, so I offered him my bottle of water. He accepted but still seemed annoyed to me, sad yet thankful.
This monk, living a chaste, a simple, a kind and ethical life, was perhaps enjoying the conversation with me, he was maybe even interested in me, my life, my story. and yet I thought I was doing right thing by moving away to eat and drink away from him not to offend him, but I didn’t afford him my time. Once I moved I was in the same sized seat, still staring at the back of another seat, flicking through the same on board magazine. Suddenly it dawned on me. While I could have been engaging, sharing and learning through conversation in the short space of time we were sat together, I chose from my own selfish craving and personal desire, a chicken sandwich and wine. A part of me regrets what I did. A bigger part of me is thankful for what he taught me, without using words – Enlightenment.
FreakyFlier paid for the flight independently.