Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Take me back…for Heaven’s sake!!!

I am writing this sitting in the departure lounge of an Arab country national airport. The country in question has not made it yet to the exclusive club of “progressive economies” and/or “neo-con democracies” that litter the Arab region but it is desperately trying. Meanwhile it lingers under the great socialist economic policies of the “pre-Marx” era. (for those of you who are not History aficionados that’s about 1807 … AD of course)

I have been here for 5 days now and frankly I feel that my political respiratory system has lost its ability to absorb and synthesize oxygen. I’ve always wondered on the ability of Arab regimes to affect the biology of their citizens to inhibit their bodies’ ability to take in oxygen or any gas for that matter … however, they do wonders on shoving the portraits and statues of the “el presidente supremo” down everybody’s throats and the people have done an even better job at “digesting” while keeping their mouths shut. If any one from the committee determining the new seven wonders of the world is reading this please take the aforementioned as a hint.

My journey started with the taxi driving me to the airport at 7:10 AM. The driver refused to put the meter on.
I said what’s wrong with your meter?
Nothing he replied, but the ride to the airport is set at 10 dinars.
I said, is that so?
Oh he replied, that’s the general “Truth”. It is well known all over the country that the ride to the airport is 10 dinars.
Even if the hotel is in the airport area? I replied.
Yes he said. This is still part of the truth.

I hate it when the truth bug infects a whole region.

I told him, listen my friend, you either put your meter on or I am going to give you the “Fatfat” treatment (1). He said no thanks I already had tea for breakfast but since you are Lebanese I will put my meter on. The ride ended up costing 1.7 dinars. I compromised and gave him five. After all, the guy refused the “Fatfat” treatment!!! It pays to award honor.

I arrive at the check-in counter and immediately head to the shortest line. There were three people ahead of me. I stand in line and look over to the counter. The check-in guy was arguing with a passenger and an old lady. I didn’t make much of it and decided to just wait it out. After about six or seven minutes, the line was not making any progress while all the others on each side of the check-in counter were advancing.
I decided it was time to take action.

I go over and ask the clerk what was the problem and why are we being held this long in line. He said that the passenger had some overweight and is refusing to pay the extras and he was bargaining with him to lower the penalty.
Oh lovely, just what I need at 7:30 AM a bazaar of some sort with no end in sight while I wait in line.

I told the clerk, listen man, I have only one baggage it should come only to 13 kg or so, please give my allowable seven more kilos to this guy and let’s get on with it. He said ok no problem but his suitcase weighed in at 63 Kgs!!! so he is still 36 Kgs overweight counting in your seven kilos contribution.

I thought what in God’s name has this guy packed? Is that a suitcase or a Mini-Van he is trying to get on-board?

As he took his suitcase off the check-in scale, I heard crackle sounds coming from his packed mallet. I thought my God this guy has packed his pots and pans and …. Oven!!!
I mean someone should tell him that the logistics of worldwide food delivery have been resolved more than fifty years ago and wherever he was going he will be able to find something to eat. There is no need to pack the kitchen.

I obtain my boarding pass and go through customs. On the security check there was the x-ray machine and the metal detector and passengers were putting their carry-on in the x-ray machine and walking through the metal detector as in every airport I have seen so far. However, the odd thing is that there was this security clerk with a handheld metal detector checking ALL passengers coming out of the metal detector: even if the metal detector did not beep you were still being “hand grabbed” by this fellow to check for that hidden “tactical neutron bomb” made from polyethylene plastic unrecognizable to metal detectors!!!

I put my laptop through the x-ray machine and walk into the metal detector. No beep. But “Fabio” there wants to hand check me. So he starts “feeling me up” from top to bottom. Arriving to my waist area, his grabs are becoming more forceful, he then puts his hands to the back and starts feeling up my ass without even asking me for dinner first!!!
I look at him, he’s unfazed.
I thought to myself let it go man, this is the closest you will get to homosexual love, just think of it as an experience!!! I walked on thinking it’s good all my clothes are still on.

This was not the end of it though. As I am walking out of the security area another bozo in a suit comes along and asks me:
Do you have any currency?For a minute there I thought he was begging for some cash. I thought should I tell him that I don’t, since I have been pan handling in your country for the last 5 days but could not even get enough for breakfast but decided against it.
He said again, “you cannot take out national currency from the country”. Usually, these retro socialist economic misfits of countries don’t like it if you take hard currency out but their own national currency? I was intrigued.
I pull whatever of their cash I had in my pocket and it amounted to about 35 US dollars. He said again: “next time you should exchange them before leaving”.
Hmmm, I thought my $35 worth of their cash is going to rock their financial stability? Damn, I never thought I was this much powerful financially.

As I entered the gate departure lounge I bumped into the MEA (2) crew. I looked over and saw the captain of the plane, we exchanged looks and I immediately said:
“Dakheel Ijrek, Khidneh 3a Beirut” (I am begging you take me to Beirut, already!)
He quipped right back: “Mista3jleen aktar minnak” (I am in a more hurry than you are!)

(1): Fatfat was the interim interior minister during the July war. He is the modern version of “Richard Coeur de Lion” when it comes to defending your country by making tea for invaders.
(2): Middle East Airlines, the Lebanese national carrier company.


Anonymous said...

WAW, I would have said Oman, but the currency their is Riyal. So it should be, (or it is definitely) Kuwait, I guess Bahrain is a bit more civilized, (3ala zimmat el qa2il who happens to be Bahraini)

BTW, I don't think that you actually saw what is in the 63 kg suitcase, but you were absolutely right. You know i worked for MEA for 6 years, and you can't imagine what comes out of those baggages. I cannot forget a guy who was travelling to Brazil with over 70 kg (the extra charge was around 32 USD for each kg of the extra 40; you do the calculations will ya!).The bag was full of different kinds of ZWAN.

Eve said...

i guess mish ra7 tinsa7na nrou7 in the future. fabio looks very committed to his job :p

AM said...

So you didn't get a nose kiss! Oh no!!!
You really missed that one!
You should ask Coco to explain you this one ;)

Anonymous said...

"W shou akhadak 3al beshoura?"
7amdella 3a salemtak Sayf el Ba7r, nshalla hal meshwar w hal experience mesh men3edin. LOL, this is a funny episode. I was reading the story and picturing Sharjah airport (as opposed to Dubai's) with beat-up cartons transformed into suitcases.. I was frankly waiting for the cows to start rolling on the luggage belt LOL Yalla, at least it wasn't hard to spot our suitcases then, eh AM? LOL

The "nose kiss" was definitely the funniest scene I have ever witnessed in my life by far! If this wasn't love, I don't know what is LOL W now I know that "Abouss Khashmek" I a true statement.

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