This post is written as a special tribute for our friend Nellie who unfortunately has been in in a coma for two months now. A gifted storyteller, she worked as a flight attendant and crossed many borders, collecting numerous tales in the process. This is my very favorite.
Yikes! A big-eyed furry creature abruptly leapt from the closet shelf right onto the unsuspecting maid’s shoulders!
Have you ever seen a bush baby? Most of us haven’t. These small, attractive tree-dwelling primates are native to Africa and almost exclusively seen at night. Perhaps that is part of the attraction.
Nellie, a senior flight attendant for a major international carrier, was on a long-haul journey to the Asian Far East. The first stopover was Bangkok, a huge city of 5 million and home to many unusual bazaars and night markets.
While exploring one of these many markets that evening, one of her coworkers came across a cute little critter in a corner stall. She simply had to have it. Like the irresistible mogwai “Gizmo” in the movie Gremlins, this little bush baby, also far from home, found its way into her heart and into her bag as a pet.
Ready to continue the next leg of their eastward journey, the crew reboarded the big jet for another overnight flight. Unbeknownst to the passengers nor crew, an uncounted stowaway was also aboard in the form of a new fuzzy friend. Safely tucked away in a carry-on bag, the little bush baby slept. Until night fell, that is.
Then the story got interesting.
A nocturnal creeper
As the northbound passengers finished their dinner and bedded down for the night, the misplaced primate suddenly found itself in its own element – darkness. Nocturnal by nature, the bush baby escaped to explore its new surroundings. Meanwhile, the adoring air hostess went to sneak a peak at her newly acquired pet in order to show her fellow colleagues.
Oops! It was missing! A gremlin is loose on the plane! After explaining her predicament to a visibly upset Nellie, she and her crew began carefully searching the airplane cabin. Crawling around and under seats, they searched with mobile phone lights so as not to alarm the travelers. A few sleeping passengers stirred and quizzically looked around, but in the dark nighttime skies quickly fell back asleep.
Thankfully, the little lost bush baby soon was found, to the relief of its new mother who endured a scolding from her boss. The rest of the night flight passed without incident, and everyone soon found themselves aground in their next major city.
Now the story gets really interesting.
The state of shock
For safety reasons, long-haul flight crews are given layovers before working another long trip. You can understand why this makes sense, as they need to be alert and ready to not only serve passengers but also deal with any emergencies that may arise. Nellie’s crew was no exception, as they received two days of layover before their next flight. And an emergency was about to arise!
After some much-needed rest, the flight attendants set out from their airport hotel to explore the unique culture and history of the new city. Unfortunately, one of them left behind a little cultural souvenir from her previous stopover, and this one was alive!
Placing the creature in a hotel closet, she left to go shopping. And, like in hotels most everywhere, a housekeeper entered to clean. While going through the room, she opened a closet door, and a startled bush baby jumped out onto her shoulders. An even more surprised (more like shocked) maid screamed in horror at this unexpected twist!
When Nellie’s crew returned, an impromptu mini-caucus was taking place in the lobby. The hotel manager, desk staff and housekeepers were in an uproar over the strange creature found in the room. Upon seeing her new pet, Nellie’s friend ran over and swooped it up in her arms, caressing and protecting it like a kitten.
Stern-faced stares confronted her, demanding to see official importation documents, quarantine records and whatever else might be required to bring an exotic animal into a new country. Not understanding the language, she continued stroking her pet, wanting nothing more than to take it back to her room and, eventually, her home.
This would not do.
No document, no pet!
Without any official documentation, they were forced into taking the animal to a pet shelter where it could be provided for. A stiff financial penalty was likely due as well. They climbed aboard a taxi with the misplaced animal. As darkness fell, one of the stewardesses hatched a plan. They were passing beside a large park when she told the driver to stop for a moment. Snatching the bush baby away from its owner, she jumped out and literally headed for the bushes.
“No! No!” screamed its new owner. Her other colleague whispered for her to be quiet and avoid any further trouble. Having stashed away the bush baby, the stewardess hopped back in the taxi and told him to drive.
“No! No!’ again screamed the owner, wanting one more chance to kiss it goodbye. Goodbye? Good grief! Nellie, the senior officer on the crew, took charge, telling her to sit still and be thankful she wasn’t already in jail!
Thankfully, this border crossing adventure ended well, at least for the flight crew. I’m not sure about the hotel maid or bush baby.
And let this be a lesson – the next time you plan to cross a border, be sure you don’t have any unsuspecting hitchhikers or illegal souvenirs along for the ride!