The scene: 8:00pm in a Boeing 777 airplane, headed from Dulles to San Francisco before my final connection home.
The background: I'd had an appetizer of fire-roasted olives for lunch, followed by basil pesto pizza with feta and artichokes: delicious beyond compare but salt supreme. Saharan desert-parched throat. Blood sugar getting low from lack of dinner.
The main characters: Airline stewardess #1 (AS1), Airline stewardess #2 (AS2), me.
Roll the curtains.
AS1: "Would you like something to drink?"
"Okay, maybe you'd like something later."
I reel in slow-motion panic as she blithely pushes her little oasis-cart to the next thirsty traveler. My throat is filled with cotton. I gesture wildly, but to no avail. She is now pouring the man in front of me an icy cold beverage, deaf to my frantic pleas.
I try, unsuccessfully, to flag down another stewardess, but never wanting to cause a scene, I eventually give up.
Two hours later: I can barely speak I'm so thirsty. My blood sugar is dangerously low as I've staunchly refused to pay $12 for a turkey sandwich and the seatbelt light has been illuminated for the last two hours, preventing me from snatching my emergency rations from the overhead compartment.
At last, I see another stewardess making her way down the narrow aisle, pushing the clanky-wheeled cart, filled with cases of liquid refreshment. After an eternity she finally reaches me. I'm ready. I'm waiting. No confusion this time. Clear enunciation will make it past my chapped lips if only I can get that crisp cold refreshing delight only a real Coke can provide, with that emergency boost to my flagging blood sugar.
AS2: "Would you like something to drink?"
"Coca-Cola" I yell out, not taking any chances with the abbreviated name.
"A cup of water?"
Before I can protest she's already poured it.
Roll the curtains.