Would you like a peanut, Mr Tapner?

Air travel is hard enough at the best of times. It can play tricks with the mind, and on the eyes. Just ask UBS WarburgÆs star corporate financier, Rory Tapner.

It was supposed to be just another trip to Hong Kong. Heaven knows, Rory Tapner has made enough of them, given his role lead-advising PCCW in probably the year’s most significant deal. So when the joint global head of corporate finance boarded his BA flight from London to Hong Kong, all he was thinking of doing was putting his nose straight into a report.

However, it happened to be his birthday and he saw a birthday card on his seat. This was from his wife, wishing him a happy birthday, and promising that BA had a surprise for him.

Nothing happened for a while, and Tapner expected to see a cake emerge, or perhaps a complimentary bottle of Dom Perignon.

Then the lady next to him – wearing Yoko Ono-style glasses – asked him if he’d like a peanut. He accepted and began reading his report again.

She then asked him if he’d like another peanut. Obviously partial to peanuts he took another.

Then an odd thing happened. The lady doling out the peanuts took off her glasses. She then smiled and ripped off a wig. And who should it be, but Tapner’s wife – giving him the birthday surprise of his life.

“It was a total secret,” says Tapner. “My wife and secretary arranged it all with BA.”

UBS Warburg staff in Hong Kong could not believe that a man with Tapner’s eye for detail could sit next to his wife for several hours without recognizing her.

However, both of them got the last laugh when she turned up at a company cocktail party in her disguise, and walked around the room. No one recognized her there either.

So if you’re sitting on a flight and a woman offers you a peanut, you know what to do.