Communication is so interesting! And when you throw in communication across language barriers, it becomes even more interesting. Or should I say mis-communication?

So the flight from Dubai to Uganda was the coldest flight I have ever been on. I am not exaggerating when I say that everyone on the plane was breaking out their coats, hats, sweaters, extra layers, etc., just to keep warm. Mostly these folks were Africans and Indians used to hot weather. Many among the passengers, myself included, who actually thought we were bound for a hot weather country, like, for instance, Uganda, weren’t prepared for meat-locker conditions, and didn’t have the extra layers to pile on from our carry-on bags. So we desperately wrapped ourselves up in the thin  blankets provided by the airline, but it was even too cold for that! I was knocking frost off my glasses, and I’m pretty sure someone at one point hurled a snowball into our cabin from Business Class (okay, now I am exaggerating – but not by much).

The steward staff didn’t even seem to notice all this, and carried on as if it was the most natural thing to see Africans and Indians shivering, wearing three shirts, and tearing pages out of the airline magazines to stuff into their clothes for extra insulation. I thought their “carry on as usual” demeanor was very strange. I mean, one man across the aisle from me had a ski cap pulled all the way down over his ears – I don’t even  know where he got a ski cap, but he was hunkered down for a blizzard. I’d have thought they might have noticed this…

So, when the stewardess came by with refreshments, I asked her if the airline was trying to save money by lowering the thermostat, or maybe they had forgotten to pay their utility bill, or maybe the current fuel prices were just too high to include heat in the cabins? She looked at me kind of funny, then smiled when she realized I was kidding around (I was kidding around – I mean, I clenched my chattering teeth in a jittery rictus sort of smile, so she had to know I was just kidding). She said she really didn’t know why it was so cold, but she would check the thermostat, and she gestured vaguely toward the back of the plane.

Well, the temperature never really improved much, so toward the end of the trip, when she was bringing another beverage, I asked her about it again. And this is what she said very pleasantly in her cute French-accented English:

“Yes, sir, I have already informed the person. You know the one.”

Then she smiled, handed me my soft-drink and pushed her cart down the aisle to the next row. I sat there, thinking, “Say what?”

I still have no idea what she could have meant or who “the person” could be since all we had ever discussed was a thermostat, or why I should “know the one.” Do they have a person whose only job is to man the thermostat in the  back of these big jets, sort of like a modern day tail-gunner, and am I supposed to know this? I have no idea. Weird!

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