Monthly Archives: October 2010

Escape from Amman

It’s 1:07am right now. I’ve been at the Amman airport for six hours and the next flight I MAY can catch is in another 9:37 hours. It was an amazing ten days in the Middle East but now the pendulum has swung.

I never thought I’d be sitting in an employee cafeteria in an airport in Jordan, chilling with the baggage handlers and watching handball in Arabic, but here I am.  A young man has already offered me some of whatever he was eating.  I said No Thank You but I’m curious what it was.  I really am hungry.

I have a diet 7-up and paprika flavored Mr. Chips with me at my table.  I’m already starting to go a bit dizzy from sleep deprivation but I can’t think about that.  I have a long night ahead of me.  I just hope this place stays open all night.  They have departures all night so I may be in luck.  No way I’m spending another fucking $100 on a hotel after everything else I spent on this trip.  I can handle this.  It’ll build character.

At around 11:15pm I knew I wasn’t going to get on the Delta flight straight to New York.  No non-revenue passengers did.  They had seats open, but elected to take cargo rather than people and so the plane was too heavy for both.

All the Delta employees and pass riders had options.  They immediately listed for their partner Air France’s flight to Paris leaving at 1:45am.  Since I don’t work for Delta they weren’t able to help me.  They said the next flight would be in two days, maybe.

I didn’t have anything to do so I just hung out with this retired Delta wife and a family of five from North Carolina.  Their kids were about 8, 12, and 17 I imagine.  The father patiently explained that they may be at this for a couple of days before they got out of Amman.  Since I didn’t have anything to do, they were my entertainment and I told them so.  I was the comic relief in their nonrev misadventure.  I made jokes and told them that if they just filmed this whole ordeal and sent it to Amazing Race, they’d get on for sure.  They loved me.

For two hours I followed them around, living vicariously through them since I couldn’t get on that flight even if I wanted to, even if I bought a last second full fare ticket.  I asked the family how they were going to split the family up if they only had 3 seats available.  They hadn’t come up with an answer and I said they’d better do it now, in case it comes to that and they force an answer immediately.

The mom and the 17-year-old would go first, then who knows.  The retired lady didn’t seem bothered by any of it.  She didn’t care what happened and knew it wasn’t in her control.  None of us had any control.

If I had internet then I could come up with various plans and even buy a ticket if need be, but internet was not to be found.  That made us completely useless in all of this.  That was the most frustrating part.  It’s stressful enough when you have to scramble for exit strategies and you have a computer at your disposal, it’s quite another not having that, or a list of flights, or a departure board.  I’m trying not to think about it and neither was my retired friend, who was spending a week visiting the Holy Land.  She must have found peace.  I must’ve too.

At the last second the Air France people ran over and took away all my friends.  I should be happy because now they aren’t competition for the Royal Jordanian flight to New York tomorrow morning, but I liked their company.  We felt like we were in it together.  We were just starting to get to know each other and laugh at our predicament when they were whisked away and taken to Paris.

I never really considered Royal Jordanian as a heavy hitter in my airline’s global alliance.  We tolerated them but never took them seriously.  I mean what does Royal Jordanian really bring to the table? Today however, I don’t give a shit about any other airline in the world. It’s all about Royal Jordanian and I’ll sing their praises for all time if I get on that flight tomorrow.

I had nothing left to do in Terminal 2 except for say Bon Voyage and watch Turkish Airlines check-in so I came over to this local cafe nestled between the two terminals.  He said there was internet here but he lied.  I don’t even have a signal.  At least in the other terminal I had a signal that didn’t do anything.  I have a Vicadin and I’m debating on taking it.  I’d like to have an outlet so I can charge my computer.  At the very least I can watch movies or write in my journal some more.  I’m at 54% right now.

This airport is in the middle of nowhere.  It’s all barren land and bedouins for half an hour in any direction.

The employees hanging out in the airport employee cafeteria (all male) briefly put the tv on what I’m assuming is the closest they get to porn in Jordan.  A guy was laying in bed with a naked girl but the sheets were pulled up so you couldn’t see anything.  The men staring at the tv were giggling like school girls and kept looking over at me.  One raised his eyebrows and nodded up to the tv, making sure I saw what was on.  I nodded back and pretended to be into it. I raised my eyebrows and smiled like a pervert.

From there they moved on to American wrestling.  It’s in English but with Arabic subtitles.  I wonder if they can understand what they’re saying or if they’re just watching the action.  I’m getting a great peak at what happens with Muslim Jordanian men at 2am at a desolate airport in the middle of a desert.

There are now 14 men watching RAW and a couple more watching from the open window outside.  They are into this shit.  All eyes are glued to the screen.  Everyone is chain-smoking and laughing uncontrollably at the most exciting moments.  I’ve never enjoyed watching wrestling more than this moment.  This is unreal.  I feel so far removed from everything I know and I love it.

4:10am.  I’m halfway through the movie Highway.  I don’t want the sun to come up but I realize it’s a necessary step in getting to my 10:45am flight.  I have to pee but I don’t want to pack up all my stuff and drag it to the bathroom.  I left the cafe and am now in Terminal 1 arrivals.  No one is here, not a soul in the entire terminal.

I’m charging my computer at the World News cafe but sitting in the black seats that aren’t comfortable at all.  I could easily fall asleep and think that maybe I should.  I also think that maybe I should take the bus to the Tulip hotel to try to catch an internet signal.  I need to tell my mom not to pick me up at the airport in Dallas tomorrow.  I’ll be boarding a flight (hopefully) right when I should’ve been landing in New York.  This weekend is kinda fucked now but I’m not really that upset about it.  I’m completely alone in an empty terminal in an empty airport 30km away from Amman Jordan.  This may very well go down as one of the strangest nights of my life and I’m totally appreciating that fact.

5:10am.  People are starting to filter in.  The sky is still dark.  My movie is over and the battery is 94% charged.  I’m listening to the playlist I made specifically for the next time I’m in bed with someone and I need music on in the background.  My shirt smells and I need to change it.  I also still need to pee but still don’t want to pack up everything and move on.  I’m not sure what it’ll take for me to break down.  My breath smells pretty bad I think.  I don’t know how I’m going to talk to agents and explain my situation, especially if they don’t know that much English.  It’s going to be a fucking nightmare.  Even if I was awake and alert it’d be a nightmare.  Even if they spoke English as a first language it’d be a nightmare.  I don’t see how this will all play out with me getting a ticket and a seat on a Royal Jordanian flight to New York City.  It’s insane to think that it’s even an option for me.

Who does that?  One minute I’m on Delta but now I can just jump on a completely different airline and still get home, at no additional cost, just like that?  I don’t care.  I’m really trying to stay emotionally distant from all of it.  I hope I can glide through these hours like a dream and somehow end up in America, not really sure how or why it all happened.  It really is the only way it can happen at this point.  I’m so tired and disoriented, I might as well be tripping on acid.  I’m just going to go limp and let nature do its thing and put me where I need to be.

The alternative is to miss this flight and then miss the next one to London at noon.  If that happens I’m getting a hotel room and sleeping forever.  I’ll regroup and check things out online.  The only thing I feel I need to do is tell my mom not to bother going to Dallas at all but I think she’s already there.  I feel bad about that and I feel bad that I may not be able to tell her to forget about me and go on to Rochester, Texas where my family is having a reunion.  I mean how long will she wait before she goes?

My Bliss Playlist is now the soundtrack to my plight, and that’s a good thing.  I’m coming up with a great idea for a screenplay.  It’ll take place between 1am and 6am in a deserted Middle Eastern airport.  The story is only part about getting out of the Middle East.  It’s mainly about what’s going on through the guy’s head and the memories he entertains as the night drags on and on and on.  What those memories are going to be in the movie are still unclear, but I love having this airport as a backdrop.  I’ll also need to find a way to convey the levels of crazy the guy goes through as the ordeal continues.

People, real people, are starting to come in and order coffee.  They’re trying to wake up.  They’ve been asleep and are starting their day.  I’m not there.  I’m fighting to stay awake.  Joy Division, Surfer Blood, Raveonettes, MGMT, and Vampire Weekend are keeping it interesting.  I still don’t see any signs of the sky lightening.  Killing time alone in the airport or with the employees at the Twin Peaks-esque cafe was tolerable and inspiring but now normal people are going to be around and all over the place.  These last few hours and going to be fucking torture.

I should take my Vicadin but I already feel like I’m heavily fucked on opiates.  I have two Advil gel caps and one Vicadin in my right pant pocket and an Ambien in my left pant pocket.  I’ve gotten past the time for the painkiller.  The sleep deprivation will certainly cause a headache sooner or later, so I probably should go ahead and take the gel caps.  Once I have a seat on a plane, any plane, and we push back and take flight, I’ll take the Ambien.  I hope to God the flight is a long one and takes me most of the way to Texas.

I feel like a kid.  I feel like a wide-eyed twenty year old on his own in a foreign country for the first time.  It’s not really a great feeling when I catch a reflection and see that I’m not that kid anymore.

7:19am.  I’m now through security and waiting to talk to an agent.  This is where I was about 11 hours ago.  They said in thirty minutes New York will be open and I can try to check in.  I’m not that optimistic.  It doesn’t seem like anything good will come of this.  I think I’m destined to live in this airport for the rest of my life.

Terminal 1 looks identical to Terminal 2.  The layout is exactly the same and has all the same shops in precisely the same locations.  I had to triple check to make sure I didn’t go in a big circle and end up where I started.  Amman has a tendency to do that to a person.

I noticed one slight difference between the terminals though, One has a pharmacy.  That’s the only difference.  Now that I’m on the other side of the xray machines, I can see that the similarities still hold up, except that instead of 16 seats for nonrevs, over here they have 32.

I have no idea what’s beyond the big wall behind me.  I know Immigration is back there and then as escalator.  After that I have no clue.  I imagine the day when I can ascend that escalator.  I bet it will be like ascending to heaven.  I have no idea what’s on the other side but I’m sure it’s good.  I’m positive I want to be on that side.  I bet there’s food at least.

I was passing out in the lobby when the sun was starting to come out.  I kept nodding off in an embarrassing way.  I think I’ve caught my fourth wind because now I’m wide awake.  I’ve been in this airport for over twelve hours now.

9:46am  It’s just getting silly how tired and disoriented I am.  I feel like I’m in a college psych experiment.  When I got into line to check in the guy said “Good Morning” to me.  I thought he was very mistaken since it wasn’t even close to morning but upon reflection, it was 9:15am.  I have a seat so it looks like I’m on my way.  You can find me in 22F!!

I think this flight will get in at around 5pm so I guess it’s possible for me to make it all the way to Rochester by tonight.  Of course if I had internet I’d know exactly what time the flights leave JFK and LGA and when it lands in Dallas.  I could make a plan of attack.  I’d love to think that I have a shot at catching the JFK flight to Dallas but I have no idea when that leaves.  I’d also like to know when the last flight to Abilene is tonight.  There are so many productive things I could be doing right now but I can’t do any of them.

It’s going to be a major rush trying to ascertain all this information in the moments right when I land.  Maybe while I’m waiting for my luggage to come around I can list for a Dallas flight.  And an Abilene flight.  And get in touch with my mom.   I’m just glad to be one step closer.  I really don’t know how I’d react if I didn’t get on.  At first I’m sure I’d be okay because I’d just get a cheap hotel room and sleep for twelve hours but after I was rested and coherent again, I’d realize that I was still stuck in fucking Amman with no real way home.  No matter.  I’ll sleep for twelve hours in 22J.

Yeah, not so much!  I think my exhaustion ran full circle because I only slept for a couple of hours on the plane.  I even took my sleeping pill and couldn’t sleep properly.  Sitting in between two infants didn’t help.  A third one was behind me.  They didn’t cry much but I was constantly grabbed and kicked and it smelled like formula and dirty diapers.  The bulkhead and no leg room was in front of me.  It was a pretty miserable flight all around.  The entertainment system was sub par, it was just a single movie that everyone had to watch.  There was nothing royal about Royal Jordanian but they got me out of Amman and into New York, that’s all I can ask for.

I was too late for the Dallas flight so I had to cab it over to LGA and then jump on a Super 80 to Dallas.  I’m in DFW now.  I was going to rent a car and drive to Rochester but the knackeredness is all over me now.  There is no way in hell I should be trusted driving at night for over three hours on lonely highways.  I was even too tired to flirt with the very cute school teacher seated next to me on the flight here.  I didn’t even pretend to try, though I would’ve any other time.

It’s now 10pm and I’m listed for the first flight to Abilene, Texas which departs at 9:30am.  My uncle should be able to pick me up en route to Rochester and take me the rest of the way  so I can see all my loved ones.  It’s perfect, as long as I can find somewhere to crash in this massive airport.

If I can fall asleep at midnight and sleep until 8:30am, that’ll be perfect.  I can get to Abilene fully rested, but in a huge need of a shower.  I haven’t showered since the Dead Sea and now that I think about it, I don’t think I even showered then.  After we did our second dip into the Sea we went swimming, but I don’t think I’ve put soap to my body since three days ago.  I reek.

It wasn’t a big deal when I was in Jordan or on the plane because everyone else smelled the same but now I’m in America and people will notice.  I don’t even have any clean clothes to put on.  I didn’t think this through very well.

I found a quiet room reserved for flight crew though. I have a recliner to crash out in for a few hours.  At least I’m in the right country now.  When I wake up I’ll start piecing together the last twenty-four hours, deciding what really happened and what was just a mad hallucination.