A 15 Minute Perspective on Michael Jackson’s Passing

26 06 2009

“Did you see him man?” the South African Airways steward said to me.  I reply, “who ?”  On a plane between Johannesburg and Miami in January 1999 and the steward was absolutely pumped about whoever I should have seen.  “Michael Jackson man, the Michael Jackson!”  I said,” no you’re just messing around.”  Now the steward is out to prove his point to me.  He returns shortly with a flight manifest with something like 4 or 5 entries for “M. Jackson”.   I’m completely skeptical as that could be a Manny Jackson or Morgan Jackson or anything, but the Michael Jackson?  Come on!  So the steward continues on about an announcement when we stopped in Cape Town asking if there was a doctor on board.  I tell him yes I remember that  and he proceeds to tell me that was because Michael Jackson had fallen while getting onboard.  By the skeptical look on my face the steward could tell I wasn’t sold, so he said “you will see, you will see.”

So we settle in for the long flight and there are plenty of empty seats, so to give my pregnant wife and our daughter plenty of room to spread out and I move to an empty row and start to doze.  Half way in and out of consciousness, I peak out and see a guy coming down the aisle, stopping and chatting with people as he makes his progress towards the back of the plane.  The lights were low, so it was hard to tell exactly what was going on.

This slow progress goes on for awhile, but as on any boring long flight anything out of the ordinary catches my attention and this was out of the ordinary.  Coming out of one of my little cat naps, there before me with a kind smile on his face was the Michael Jackson.  Of course I popped up to shake his hand, but the fall when he was getting on board had swollen his hand so he offered his left hand.  Now being a sharing individual, I couldn’t imagine not introducing him to my wife and then 7 year old daughter.  We went back the few rows and had a really pleasant chat for about 15 minutes before he continued his progress towards the back of the plane.

That 15 minutes revealed something to me about the famous.  They are real live people with interests, emotions and interests.  Having just spent a year in Pretoria, three years after Apartheid had been abolished, I had gained some interesting perspectives on life and people.  That 15 minutes of discussing life in South Africa with Michael Jackson gave me a whole different perspective as I heard the “breaking news” on the radio yesterday.    Today there are Michael Jackson videos non-stop on the television, but nothing can replace my 15 minute perspective.

Just a note about authenticity, being still a little skeptical, I was pleasantly surprised when the “breaking news” from the airport in Florida announced that Michael Jackson had just arrived on a South African Airways and retold the story of him hurting himself on boarding in Cape Town.  So apologies to that steward who had a very smug look and added a “see, didn’t I tell you man?” to my exit.

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