It was close to midnight as the aircraft screeched onto the runway at Dubai airport. First transit point, United Arab Emirates. Her second home! After the many years spent here she was totally thrilled to land on familiar ground.
Earlier, whilst inflight an elderly gentleman sitting next to her had requested for help with immigration and other formalities as they were both headed to India on the same connecting flight.
As she settled into the lounge and gulped a glass of fresh orange juice her fingers were twitching to get onto the phone. She had so many friends that she wanted to call. She excused herself from the gentleman, “I’ll be a bit busy on the phone for a while.” She wished he would have at least sat at another table… “Phew! I agreed to help but some people – they just pile on,” she thought to herself as she dialed on. The gentleman graciously brought some snacks over while she was busy chatting away. The phone calls never stopped. She called some and many got the news of her transit halt and called her. It was like a forest fire…. conversations were alive, rich and full of crackles of laughter. “Oh! How I miss my friends”, she told him as he obediently sat in silence. She quickly walked over to replenish a fresh portion of finger food and even while picking from the lavish selection, her mind was ticking. Ticking on who to call next? She quickly dialed the number 0097156…Just then the UAE telecommunications decided to be the party pooper… “You have insufficient credit to make this call, please add credit in order to…. Oh no! Umm what to do… “I’ll ask a friend to transfer me some credit,” she said out loud. That’s when the gentleman reached out and gave her his phone. “Here use this; I have quite a bit on this one.” Sigh of relief, “Are you sure?! Gee! Thanks so much”, she excitedly reached out for his phone. All the numbers were etched in her mind, like permanent water marks. She wished this time would never end as she smiled and giggled, shared and laughed out loud. She was totally one with herself, connecting with old friends, her true friends. “After a certain age it’s so difficult to make real friendships,” she recalled a spinster aunt say.
It was well past 2 a.m. when she hung up. “Cool, I think I’ve spoken to all of them!” “I really appreciate this Sir. Thank you once again”, she said as she returned the phone. “No thank you’s required”, he said, with his eyes brimming over. “What happened, are you ok?” she asked startled with concern. “Yes”, he said. “It brought back memories as I watched you talk to your friends. How your smile light up your eyes, your laughter is infectious and your conversations insatiable; they’re truly lucky to have you.” "I too had so many friends back in those days. Now most of them have moved on…” he sarcastically chuckled on. “You can’t call up there you see,” he sullenly stated, pointing to the heavens.
They talked into the night thereafter about friends and friendships, of times gone by and yet to come. Of people and places and different faces. It was captivating and enthralling as he shared his stories of places he’d been to, people he’d met and things he’d seen….so much so that the onward flight announcement seemed like an outright disturbance.
As she collected their things off the table she couldn’t take her eyes off him. Handbags, mobiles and strollers’ in tow they headed out to the gate. In that moment as she walked alongside this frail man, she looked up at him. This time she saw someone else. She saw a friend.
Notes from my desk: ‘Age no bar’ is the mantra for friendships. It’s never too early or too late to make friends. Or with whom and where.
Old is gold and forever shall be. New gems though are rare to find. Stop…right now…and notice them. Allow them to touch your life. Choose to touch theirs.
Today I chose to make a new friend.