Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer


We’ve lived overseas most of our married life. One of our agreements is that when I am needed back home, I go. I am so blessed, my parents are both still alive, and as they age, they need a little more support and time. I’ve been back to the US four times this year, although one of the trips (WoooHoooo!) was for our son’s wedding.

My husband and I have developed a ritual; we go out for dinner before he drops me at the airport. It’s a nice, gentle way to part, gives us time to remind each other of business sorts of things (please remember to comb the cat while I am gone, please contact the insurance company and tell them . . . – you know, married couple stuff.)

So after a nice dinner at the Ribeye at Crown Plaza, he takes me to the dreaded airport and I get in the long snaking line. Most of the line is young Americans with huge backpacks. Behind me is a group of locals, one of whom lights up a cigarette – and he is standing right under the NO SMOKING sign! I HATE smoke. But when he saw the look on my face, he asked me if it was OK if he smoked. I pointed at the sign and said “Mamnua!” (forbidden!) and immediately . . . he apologized, and put the cigarette out. Wow.

When I finally got to the front of the line and handed my passport to the beleagered desk attendant, a great big Egyptian man bypassed the line and walked up with two porters, and ten huge suitcases encased in plastic. Somehow, I guess he didn’t see me, because he shoved a handful of passports at the desk clerk who was working on my ticket.

“Bas degiga, ahi” (only a moment, my brother) I punctuated my statement with the hand motion that means have a little patience. He gave me the look we call “the dog can talk!” (For some reason, maybe because so few xpats do, they are astounded when we speak a little Arabic.) And to MY astonishment, he stepped back and waited while my ticket was processed. The desk clerk was just grinnning; I guess he gets a lot of important people pushing his way to the front of the line.

As he passed me my ticket, he also passed me an invitation to the Lounge upstairs, which is wireless, and has nice, big clean bathrooms. “How kind!” I laughed, “thank you so much!” and was off to pass the next couple hours in relative comfort.

When it came time to board, I had a very nice seat, and I was hoping to have two seats to myself so I could curl up and sleep during the night flight. But no, just as I was really beginning to hope, a big gentleman came in and started putting things away just above me and put his book in the adjoining seat. “Oh well,” I thought. And I heard my name called on the intercom, asking me to find a flight attendant.

I assumed they were going to ask me to change with some family who arrived at the last minute, so that they could all sit together. My seat was close to a bulkhead, and that is always a chance you take. There was no flight attendant nearby, so I headed to the front of the plane, where I saw the desk attendant who had checked me in, grinning. “Madam, we would like to upgrade you tonight,” he said, handing me a new ticket and an ongoing ticket so I wouldn’t have to stand in line at my layover. I was SO grateful. The business class seats go almost full flat, and I can sleep like a baby.

I go back to gather my goods and the big man says “What? You’re getting an upgrade?” and he FOLLOWS ME up to the front, and complains! “Why her? Why does SHE get an upgrade? I’M a BUSINESSMAN!”

I busied myself settling in, but I couldn’t help laughing. The flight attendant soothed him and explained that there were no more seats available, and very reluctantly he returned to sardine class.

The seat behind me stayed empty the entire trip.

September 7, 2006 - Posted by | Kuwait, Travel, Women's Issues

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