July 19, 2007

Mementos From the Friendly Skies

Back in the day, airline bags were given free to first class passengers. With convenient adjustable straps, these vinyl, zippered carriers sported the airline s logo and were considered by many as status symbols of the jetsetters.

As a child, I did not really pay attention to that. So I did not even think of asking my dad why he had one hidden in his bedroom closet amidst the jumble of clothes and knick-knacks. All I knew was that the bag called to me, enticing me to discover the treats that await, like a can of mixed nuts or a bag of imported candies.

When family members would come home from trips abroad, among the pasalubong they handed out to us kids were special airline pens, stationery, playing cards, and airline wings pins. We enjoyed peeling off the cellophane wrap and sniffing in the scent of a fresh deck of cards. But what really gave us a kick was pinning on our airline wings to our shirts. Having those pins on us made us feel important and gave us the impetus to dream bigger, loftier dreams. The boys wanted to become pilots and the girls, stewardesses.

Through the years, those items and other airline collectibles became scarce. This may be attributed to rising costs in advertising in a fiercer, more competitive industry; or it may be due to practices many guilty balikbayans hope would not point to them as culprits.

Dare I disclose these? Was I not guilty myself? I was, after all, a beneficiary of toothbrushes, toothpastes, colognes, postcards, pillows, blankets, etc. These paraphernalias were readily available to the passengers for the taking with just a quick trip to the "lavatory" (sa CR). However, a line was drawn somewhere. Obviously, the stewardesses never expected that it was their last time to see some of the cutlery and glass tumblers they handed out to in-flight diners on the Amsterdam to New York route.

Like Houdini or the modern-day illusionist , Cris Angel (Mind Freak) , my frequent flying family's slight-of-hand tricks collected along with their miles a handsome hoard of airline silverware. Several pieces were added to the set everytime they flew home until there was enough for service for twelve. The elders beamed with pride as we used these classy utensils for our everyday suppers. Perhaps there were some among us who even imagined they were still up at thirty thousand feet, while proudly showing off their sophisticated table manners as they cut pork adobo with their shiny, Singapore Airlines knife and fork.

But one evening, we were about to have supper when the maids scurried to remove the source of pride and joy from the dinnertable. It turned out that we were expecting company, our aunt s high-profile airline executive. The shiny silvers were quickly replaced by everyday spoon and forks. We thought the coast was clear until halfway through the meal someone inadvertently used the big spoon with the conspicuous airline image to serve the stew. Everyone had a hard time covering up the tip of the handle and steering away the dish from the clueless guest of honor. All we could do afterwards was suppress our giggles and hope we don t choke ourselves.

Years passed and Mr. Airline Executive became part of the family. We knew that through all the dinners and parties he attented at home, he subsequently found out about the family s secret. We never heard of him mentioning this to his wife, unless my aunt just kept it to herself. To this day, he remains a quiet, retired gentleman with nary a remark about our mementos from the friendly skies.

More Random Recall Machine: All-Time Wonder Guy Popeye!

Also Read: Remembering Philippine Airlines in the 70's

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