The plane lifted off the runway and into the air. The person next to me turned and quietly whispered in my ear, “I know I’m supposed to keep this a secret, but I absolutely must tell someone.”
I had noticed when I took my seat next to her that she was excited and twitchy. People often get nervous when flying. A veteran of long flights, I had mastered the art of the cold smile and crisp eye contact, the actions that say ‘hello, please don’t speak to me or attempt to speak to me’. But something about the woman made me take an interest in her. This was not the usual air fright nerves.
I made eye contact with her and smiled saying "Oh yes," as a way to open the conversation. Looking the wrong side of fifty and rather plump she took a gulp of her complimentary orange juice, spilling a few drops on her top in the process. She did not even notice as the drops absorbed into her blouse.
Putting her drink down, she leaned into me and gripped my arm. She spoke softly into my ear, “I have just won the lottery!” She immediately sprang back and put her hand to her mouth to cover her huge smile.
I looked at her with raised eyebrows in disbelief. “No really, I am not kidding,” she retorted to my look of amazement. Her eyes scanned left and right to make sure no one could hear her and again she leaned in to whisper, “I’ve got the winning ticket in my bag. One hundred and three million euros! I can’t stop smiling,”
“That is wonderful news,” I responded in an excited tone. I had never met a millionaire before. “What are you doing here? Should you not be celebrating or buying a Rolls Royce or something?”
“I know,” she gushed, “but I only found out a minute ago. See the winning numbers are on the back page of this,” she said thrusting the complimentary newspaper the airline had given everyone. “I haven’t had a chance to call my hubby or tell another living sole except you. Perhaps I should order champagne for everyone and get one of the stewardesses to make a big announcement?” she beamed.
She tore open the complimentary pack of nuts and began gulping them down, her smile ever present. She turned in her seat looking for the air stewardess to catch their attention. Turning to me she exclaimed between gulps, ”I know... I’ll get... the captain... to make the announcement!”
Then it happened. Dropping the packet of nuts she clasped her throat and began to gag. In her excited state, some of her food had gone down the wrong channel and she was choking. Her body convulsed and her face turned bright red. The veins at the side of her temple bulged. Her eyes swept from side to side. One of her hands clasped my arm and the other waved frantically in the air. She gargled and gasped. trying to breath. The agitated actions and noise had been noticed by the other passengers who began calling the air stewardess for help and coming out of their seats to assist.
A young man in a seat nearby announced that he was a medical doctor and quickly dragged her to the floor and began to administer mouth to mouth resuscitation and pound her chest. “Check her handbag to see if she has an inhaler,” he called out.
Before the stewardess or other passengers could react, I reached down and opened the large red handbag. The first thing I saw was the winning lottery ticket. The passenger had obviously taken out the ticket to check her numbers against the winning numbers given in the newspaper and she had then thrust the ticket back into her bag. It was too easy for me to slip the ticket into the palm of my hand and then search for an inhaler.
“Get me some oxygen” the doctor yelled to the air stewardess, “and tell the pilot to turn the plane around, I am losing her.”
She was not the only one who needed oxygen. I had just won the lottery.