The Mother-in-Law

Tea with Strangers. Open-air Chinese tea ceremonies with strangers around the world.

In the 1990s, I had to fly to Stavropol [a city in Russia] with one of my colleagues. The smaller airport was still operating back in those days with Yak airliners serving as commuters. We went to the airport, there were many people waiting for the same flight. And I met one of my friends who said that his mother-in-law is flying to Stavropol, too. He asked me to help her out with the luggage.

So, we the took her suitcase and went to the airplane. It was a very hot summer day, and there were about 60 people gathered around the Yak. And once the door was opened, the crowd immediately rushed to the plane, trying to get inside. Me and my colleague, both scientists, stood there and watched them all, waiting until we could enter the Yak, too. Then I heard my friend’s mother-in-law saying, “Why are you standing here? All seats are going to be occupied!” She grabbed the suitcase I was supposed to help her carry, and holding it as a battering ram in front her, she hit the crowd and got into the plane.

When we finally made our way inside, we saw her sitting there and keeping one free seat next to her, and another one in the front row. The plane was overcrowded and there was literally no place to even stand, but nobody dared to occupy those two seats. And she goes, “Hey boys, come, sit here!”

There were so many people in that Yak that when the flight engineer came he couldn’t proceed to the cabin. “Let me pass,” he said to the people, but no one risked to get out of the plane. And so they lifted him up and passed him from hands to hands above their heads until he reached the cabin.

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