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Money is tight

What can You afford?

Short Stories by George Donald

Trolley Dolly

The flight had been late departing Prague, overlong due to a headlong wind and consequently now overdue arriving at Glasgow Airport.
Standing in the small galley, Janice turned her head back and forth as she wearily rubbed the back of her neck and longed for a hot bath, a cuddle from her sons and a hug from her husband, though not necessarily in that order, she inwardly grinned. The curtain was pulled viciously back and Paula squeezed into the narrow space, her face red with fury.
"That prat in 47 is at it again!" she snapped. "Tried to touch my leg when I bent down to recover his cushion. Likely threw it down deliberately," she spat, tossing her blonde hair angrily, "knowing I'd have to bend down to get it for him."
Janice sighed in sympathy. Seat 47 was, according to the passenger manifest, occupied by a Mister Hugh Sweeney and he had been nothing but trouble since the flight had departed Prague with its cargo of business executives, most of whom were making full use of the on-board drinks trolley that was part of the courtesy package provided by the contractor. "Never mind, pet," she tried to soothe Paula, "just another thirty minutes of these cretins then we're down and rid of them."
"Can't bloody come quick enough for me," the blonde haired stewardess muttered in reply. The passenger buzzer activated. "Oh hell," she shook her head, "I don't know if I can cope with this boozy crowd any more, today."
The curtain parted to admit Sanjita, her normally placid features replaced by a fierce scowl. "Number 47 again," she muttered, "looking for more drink. The ignorant sod."
Janice quickly glanced at Paula, who raised both her hands and her eyebrows in flat refusal.
"Okay, okay," she resigned herself to defeat. "I'll go again, this time."
Sanjita flashed her a grateful thanks and stood aside. Janice took a deep breath, forced herself to smile and pushed through the curtain.

She thought during her flight time that she'd encountered every type of passenger. From the timidly nervous, grateful for the slightest assistance to the spoiled and demanding; the quiet and retiring pensioner to the raucous drunken yob; the frightened child to the leering would-be Casanova. Janice believed she'd dealt with them all.
"It's all about how you handle them," the steward instructor at the flight school had taught her. "Be their friend, companion, confidante; whatever it takes. But always remember. The passenger is the customer. What they want, assuming it's not to hi-jack or endanger the aircraft, they get. Always keep your cool, no matter the provocation. Lose your temper and you've lost the argument."
She'd faithfully followed that doctrine for almost nine years. But even with all those years of air stewarding under her belt, passenger 47, or "Call me Mister Sweeney, darling" as he'd introduced himself was, she privately admitted, a real challenge. From the moment he boarded the aircraft she knew he'd be trouble. His loud voice, that almost matched his louder tie, could immediately be heard above the din of his fellow passengers. At the outset, even prior to the plane taking off, he had complained. First it was a demand for drink, sneeringly reminding Paula that his company was paying for it and insisting she serve him a treble. Then it was his podgy finger firmly pressed to the service buzzer, loudly calling for continuous replacements from the "drinks cart tart." This comment had provoked a nervous titter from his colleagues, either too embarrassed or afraid to voice their dissent at their manager's conduct.
Not for the first time did Janice consider having the First Officer have a word with Sweeney, but the recent directive from head office had caused her to refrain. The memo reminding staff of the number of needless complaints from passengers was now a major issue with the shareholders and in these competitive times, the Board urged the steward's that if the incident did not present a danger to the aircraft, they were to deal with their own rowdy passengers.

The plane tilted slightly as it begun its approach to the Glasgow flight path. Janice staggered slightly against the movement and continued down the aisle, the smile fixed to her pretty face. "Yes sir, what can I do for you?" she asked Sweeney, amazing herself at her own polite self-control and knowing what she really wanted to tell the ignorant bugger.
He stared at her with rheumy eyes, his fleshy face red and bloated, the stale smell of alcohol from his breath almost bowling her over. Blinking slowly, as though realising who she was, he began to smile and offered her the empty clear plastic cup. "Whisky, treble," he slurred at her.
With infinite patience, she leaned towards him, lowering her voice as her training took over. "Maybe, Mister Sweeney, you might wish to reconsider sir. You have consumed quite a lot of whisky during the flight. Can I get you a tea or coffee perhaps? After all," she smiled as pleasantly as her nausea allowed, "I'm sure you want to be sober for whoever might be meeting you at the Glasgow Terminal, eh?"
She knew as soon as she said it that it was a mistake to suggest he was drunk. He scowled and sat forward in his seat. For one, brief horrifying instance she thought he was going to grab at her.
"How dare you," he blustered, "I'm not drunk, you silly tart! I can hold my drink, so bloody get me another and sharpish!" With that, as though the effort had exhausted him, he sat heavily back into the seat, petulantly tossing the plastic cup onto the floor in the aisle.
The young, blonde haired woman sitting beside him glanced nervously at Janice, then looked sharply away, not daring to get involved in her bosses quarrel with the stewardess. The passengers seated nearby listened intently to the argument, some privately sympathising with the young, dark haired woman while others had an alcohol induced disinterest in the proceedings outcome. None uttered a word in support of Janice or any condemnation of Sweeney's bad manners.
Janice swallowed hard and mustering as much of her dignity as she could, bent to recover the plastic cup. The plane tilted and she fell hard against Sweeney's outstretched leg. To the onlooker it might have seemed that Sweeney was assisting the pretty stewardess to her feet, but Janice knew better. In that brief few seconds, she felt his hand grab at her breast as he tried to furtively grope at her. Startled, her face flushed, she used both hands to push against the side of the seat and sprung to her feet.
Sweeney leered at her with raised eyebrows, his smug expression conveying the knowledge that should she attempt any complaint, he would merely insist he was but trying to help her when the plane banked over. With irate fury, she hurried down the aisle towards the galley.

The intercom beeped and the pilots voice broke into her thoughts, informing the cabin crew and passengers that the aircraft would shortly be experiencing turbulence and instructing everyone to strap themselves into their seats. Paula and Sanjita, sitting in their fold down seats, pensively watched Janice approach the rear of the aircraft and instinctively knew something was amiss.
"Number 47?" asked Sanjita.
Janice was too upset to even acknowledge the question and merely nodded her head, her face now pale and her lips grimly set together. Quickly, she strapped into the adjoining seat.

Following a short buffeting in the approach to the airport, the plane landed heavily and provoked an unexpected cheer from the passenger's. Janice allowed her colleagues to disembark the passengers, preferring to remain in the privacy of the galley and contain her anger, rather than confront the flaccid faced Sweeney.
The three stewardesses slowly made their way towards the front exit. "You should report him," suggested Paula, as they crossed the wide expanse of the Terminal concourse, pulling their company overnight cases behind them.
"Tell the airport police," added an outraged Sanjita. "The slimy bugger shouldn't be getting away with it."
"At least log the incident," urged Paula.
"What's the point?" Janice countered.
She knew her friends were simply being supportive, but was equally aware that nobody had witnessed Sweeney's action and if she decided to press the matter, it would be his word against hers and while it might evoke some outraged sympathy, she had little doubt that the airline would choose to believe Sweeney.
"Look, give me a phone tonight," said Sanjita as she hurried towards the staff car park.
"Let me know what you decide," shouted Paula, her eyes searching the crowd for her husband and daughter and waving excitedly on seeing them.

Janice watched her friend being hugged and smiled. Her arrival at the small townhouse after her own journey home to Paisley would be greeted with much the same excitement by Jimmy and her twin boys. She turned towards the exit, intent on catching a taxi and that's when she saw him. Hugh Sweeney was standing, or rather swaying Janice corrected herself, with both fists clutching the handrail of the luggage trolley. Beside him stood a visibly scowling woman, her horse-like face framed by an unfashionably short permed hairstyle, the gaudy floral dress she wore billowing out and revealing her large, almost obese figure. Incredulously it seemed to Janice that the woman, his wife she guessed, stood almost a full six inches taller than Sweeney. She saw the woman impatiently waving to two young girls.
The two young teenagers, unquestionably the woman's daughters if their size was any indication, were both wearing bored expressions and shovelling crisps and chocolate into their mouths with equal gusto from a large paper bag they each held in their shovel like hands.
It was then the outrageous, almost crazy idea struck Janice.

She timed her approach through the crowd to coincide with the arrival of the daughters. Sweeney was bent over adjusting his luggage on the trolley when Janice arrived. As he stood up she stepped between him and his wife and then, to his complete surprise, took his flabby cheeked face between her hands while forcing herself to smile and ignore his nauseating breath, before kissing him passionately on his thick lips.
The woman's eyes widened and her mouth fell open as Janice stood back. Completely ignoring his wife, she stared lovingly at the shocked Sweeney.
"Thanks for a wonderful night in Prague, Hughie darling," she cooed at him, "and don't forget, sweetheartÂ…. I'll see you tomorrow night at our usual hotel."
With that she grabbed the handle of her case and without a backward glance, strolled quickly away and towards the exit, hearing the outraged shriek from behind her as Sweeney's wife screamed at him.

Chalk one up for the Trolley Dolly's she inwardly smiled, nodding gratefully to the driver who held open the door of her taxi.