Friday, February 25, 2005

Flight 381

Out of Iraq, into Kuwait, and onto India proved be an eye-opener. Not a lot of shut-eye. Finally catching the red-eye C-130 flight out of Iraq, feeling the softness of a pillow after finally arriving to the Kuwait, and eating amongst friends at the Crowne Plaza were just some of the fond memories of the last 24 hours. But, the flight to, well, that 4 hour experience proved to be a memory of a whole other kind.

Upon entering the boarding area for our flight, the room was rather empty. Each face I could recall. One in particular made me feel uneasy. I really do not know why. And, then, as he moved to a different seat in the waiting area, I saw him pull out a bottle of what looked like Scotch from his duffle bag. I leaned to Dan to whisper this finding. Without a care, the man took a second chug from the bottle. I wondered how he could still have that bottle after passing through two pre-boarding bag screenings in a country where alcohol is prohibited. I watched him stumble down the aisle to his seat, escorted by two flight attendants. The flight attendant saw my curious eyes and mentioned the man was being deported. Welcome to Flight 381...

Out of nowhere, a mass of people with a median age of 60 wearing carbon-copy dishdashas and headpieces swarmed onto the plane. Within minutes, the calm, empty aisles were a chaotic traffic-jam of people. This "teeth-optional" group was grabbing seats, as they found them...The flight attendants were working overtime to place each person and their array of burlap sacks in their properly assigned seats. Soon, the group had their bags tucked away, sandals off, and bares toes squeezed between seats or resting on arm rests. Everyone was comfortable, and, after being delayed an hour, we were finally airborne.

I had started to busy myself completing some work tasks, when I felt I was being watched. I looked up to see two of the newly-arrived women, both seated diagonally of me and each with one functional eye, mesmerized in my direction. Oh, uh...I returned to working. Meanwhile, the flight attendant was pacing the aisles, randomly squirting a lemon-flavored Pine-Sol bottle toward the floor.

The plane took on a new smell, when the in-flight meal was served. Imagine lemon Pine-Sol mixed with chicken curry. Neither completely overwhelmed the other. Instead, they clashed violently.

Unintentionally, I caught myself watching the woman sitting diagonally of me, as she ate her food and the food of the adjacent woman feverously with her fingers. When she completed her meals, she individually unloaded the sugar, creamer, and salt packets into her mouth. Dan and I questioned if we should give her our meals. She was definitely much hungrier than we. She then grabbed the "hanger-made-necklace" from under her top and proceeded to use one its metal ends as a toothpick. Within seconds, she had spit out a corn-sized chunk into the center aisle, which landed on an unwoven headpiece lying in the aisle belonging to the man sitting in front of her. Suddenly, the man immediately across the aisle from me threw his trash onto the ground, at the same time the man sitting next to him used his "hanger-made-necklace" to clean and spit out multiple chunks of food from his teeth. The man with the unwoven headpiece was affixing the garment back on top of head...corn chunk somewhere inside one of its creases.

Food no longer seemed appetizing.

The landing was smooth; the exit a mess. Practically as soon as the wheels hit the ground, people were rearing to go. Overhead compartment doors were opened, as attendants firmly stated in three different languages that everyone was to remain seated. It seemed to work temporarily, but soon everyone was sardined in the aisles.

Much to my surprise, passport and custom lines went smoothly. Our baggage arrived intact. Our hotel driver was still there, despite the delay...sign in hand: Daniel Vaughn. Let's rock and roll...

We were submerged by three men immediately as we made it across the parking lot, each trying to grab one of our bags. I read about this...oh gosh, say "no," the book recommended. My 'No' fell on deaf ears. After Dan and I safeguarded and loaded our bags, each of the men tugged on Dan asking for money. The hotel driver shut the car doors. Off we went. Ah, at 5:30am, feeling my head on a pillow could not come fast enough. After whizzing down curvy unmarked roads, we made it to our hotel. The trip has just begun. So many more adventures to experience.

Good 6:30am!


At 5:09 AM, Blogger Marisa said...

Oh my goodness, sounds like a long night you had. That is hilarious they were spraying the isles! Wonder if our flight to Delhi will be as eventful - chances are the crowd wont be much different :) We really enjoyed spending time with you two. I hope classes go well, and allow for some free time to explore too.

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry for you when I was reading your entry. I can completely empathize with you about certain smells on airplanes. On one of my many trips between the US and Australia, I was seated next to man who I am certain had not applied deoderant or taken a shower for at least a month prior. It was bad when I sat down, but I thought I would pass out when he raised his arm (closest to me) to turn on the air vent above us. All that air just blew his stench into my face. I think my eyes rolled back into my head. He was siting in the middle seat and I was on the aisle. When he fell asleep he leaned on either me or the poor woman in the window seat. I was desperate (14 hours is a long time) so I reached into my carry-on and got out my spray deoderant and sprayed it all over him while he was sleeping. The woman in the window seat leaned forward and thanked me with a whisper and a pained expression. I am so glad he didn't wake up in mid- spray. It is funny now, but was torturous then. There should be a law about personal hygenie in places that are so confined, and where air is re-circulated! Love you, Kaci

At 2:07 AM, Blogger J W M said...

This plane ride will just be a preview for your land adventures in country.

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