all in a morning’s travel

December 15, 2011

It is a well-known fact that flying out of, and into, our city is no small task: it is an ordeal, to say the least. This morning, however, was surreal even considering that fact. By the time we boarded the airplane, my friend and I both sighed as we sat down and wondered aloud as to whether we had actually made it this far. Of course, we still had a good 45 minutes to go of waiting for take-off :-)
Our morning had begun with a 5am departure, for which we were all ready in a relatively timely fashion. Ten minutes of smooth sailing, and happy conversing ensued. Then, at one of the security checkpoints along the road, we watched as the soldier questioned our driver, looked at his papers, then ushered a woman behind him into the front seat of our vehicle.
I watched without thinking anything of it: I am accustomed to hitchhikers [and to hitchhiking!] in places I’ve lived before.
But we realized together that here such things do not happen: here the mind jumps to all manner of disastrous consequences. This particular passenger hopped out on another corner shortly thereafter, so all was well.
As one approaches the airport, the first thing that happens is that someone from the vehicle has to get out and walk along the road for several yards before re-entering the car that has been slowly moving ahead. I have no idea what the purpose of this is, but the last time I was out walking; so I was happy for our male passenger to be doing the honor today. Once he was back in the car we approached the first check-point where all get out for frisking and bag-checks, men to one entry and women to the other.
Before continuing with my account, I should mention a detail that factors in rather heavily, for me at least: this is winter. And winter is brutal here. So all the outside checks involved in the morning meant that we were exposed to the elements as well as encumbered by our baggage.
As we went through the lines, we were also trying to help each other. With an infant in our group, one couple had extra bags that we distributed amongst ourselves so we could all manage. For part of the way, we were just pulling the bags along. Later on we came to the baggage carts, which we discovered had a habit of toppling . . . and taking luggage along in the tumble. More on this later.
In one line that was particularly long, we had neared the end when a car came up to us and dropped off a man and woman with their bags. The man proceeded to walk up to our line and “excuse” his way into it. My coworkers and I were amused to hear one in our group speak up. He chuckled a bit as he firmly informed the man that “No-sorry–the line is back there!” The man smiled broadly and repeated “No problem” several times as he continued to nudge his way into the line. My coworker insisted, and moved closely into the line to prevent infiltration. Someone behind us chimed in after another “No problem!” from the line breakers: “Yes, it IS a problem,” was the comment. My coworker agreed that “There WILL be a problem!” We inched forward in our tight little clan till entering the building; I’m not sure what happened to Mr. and Mrs. “No problem!” after that.
Soon thereafter we came to a large crowd of people standing, and waiting. We waited with them a good 15 minutes [in the COLD, remember], until people started getting antsy, murmuring and gesturing. Finally someone decided that the shuttles we were supposed to wait for would not come, and people started to walk ahead. Knowing that the airport was actually an easy walk from here, and feeling somewhat like horses heading for a barn by this point, my party quickly started walking as well. But then 2 buses pulled up, and guards walked over to herd us into them. The climb into the buses with luggage was no easy task, but soon they were both filling quickly. Seeing that some had just walked, my group decided we would much rather do the same, considering the alternative was heaving ourselves into vehicles that looked ready to tip over. But guards quickly jumped in front of us, wildly gesturing that we must board the buses. We saw no good reason for it and said so. Not understanding our words, our intent was clear enough and strongly disapproved. We didn’t push it. Three of us boarded the buses, after about 6 toppled luggage carts and reloads in the attempt. One of these 3 almost escaped the buses, but then watched her bags being grabbed and tossed into a bus; she decided the wisest thing to do at this point was to follow her bags.
But Katie and I, as we tried to reason with a guard, saw another man coming to do the same. We “gave up,” and followed his indication, walking towards a vehicle. At this point the guard began an intense discussion with the other man. Katie and I looked at each other, nodded in agreement, and both made a mad dash for the airport. We didn’t look back. Judging from our successful escape, however, the diversion worked so well we couldn’t have planned it better. We ran all the way to the final checkpoint.
By this point, my fingers were so numb with the hour spent outside that I couldn’t get my passport out of the holder to hand to the guard. Thankfully, this particular gentleman was unusually patient.
Then, unbelievably, we were going through the indoor security point. Incidentally, this is one of the few occasions when it is actually beneficial to be female here. The women have a different entrance than the men, and since more men travel through the airport than women, we made it through our line much faster than our male counterpoints.
I will say that such a beginning to the morning made the rest of the things I generally dislike about travel [check-in, luggage screening, and waiting at the boarding gate] to actually feel rather luxurious this morning. I was reasonably warm and had the happy knowledge that we all had survived a, well, interesting beginning to our day.
And no, I was not carrying my camera with me during the events described, so no illustrative photo :-)

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4 Responses to “all in a morning’s travel”

  1. Carol Waffel said

    Very interesting, thanks for posting. I just love your writing style – it’s like I was there too – funny about Mr. and Mrs. No Problem!

  2. TJ said

    I smiled as I read your blog thinking about similar experiences.

  3. Linda said

    Hello sweet Anna. Thought of you the other day and smiled at the thought of you, loving, adventuring, journeying girl:) Hope your Christmas is full of peace and joy.

  4. So glad to hear you made it out just fine. We take so much for granted here. It is always good to hear of your “adventures”, as it reminds me to be deeply thankful for the freedom and peace I enjoy here.
    Take care, Anna, and blessings of Christmas to you!

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