Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hello Kitty: Senior Edition



It’s been ages since I travelled (9 months) and my fear of plans seems to have doubled in that time period. After fighting tooth and nail to get 2 weeks off from work, leave certificate, travel permit, travel card and finally the exit visa, I made my way to the airport to board the plane to Oman. The airport was packed to the brim, and as I stood in line I looked with horror at the hundreds of people checking in with me. Suddenly I was approached by a young man with an envelope, who explained to me that he was the PR of one of the ministries, and that the minister’s mother was an elderly lady who needed a travel companion. Would I mind helping them out? I have had several elderly women latched to me in the past while travelling and generally don’t mind them, although I prefer to be left alone most of the time. However I agreed, and in no time my luggage and myself was checked in and I was marched over to the VIP lounge where my companion joined me. She was terribly obese and had bad knees, but man that woman could talk! She talked nonstop from the moment we met until we reached Oman, even when I fell asleep on the plane in the middle of the story about how one of her daughters got married to a guy who was tall and who had once opened the door for her brother while wearing only his underwear and a bed sheet, and that her in-laws had asked her husband not to go to Port Sudan and to stay in Algadarif for that year and he didn’t want to but eventually stayed, and then his mother died and then his father died and then he died and then his brother and his other brother and his third brother, and that the time she went to see her son in England she met a Sudanese pilot on the plane who introduced her to another guy who helped her through the transits and delivered her to her son, and her son was so grateful to him he insisted on driving him home in another city and left the house at 5 pm and came home 3 in the morning. It was an interesting flight, but my plans for starting on my assignment or watching a movie or two were blast to pieces the minute that PR guy set eyes on me in KRT airport. Oh well.
Part of her problem was not being able to walk up or down stairs or for any distance father than 10 meters, the poor lady, so we had to ascend and descend from the plane on this lift thingy. I’d heard of them but never actually saw one before. It was sort of like a metal box with a lift attached to the side that then sticks to the side of the plane and has a separate door on the other side of the one everyone else uses. Our transit was in Dubai and it was quite short, and of course the plane landed and was flung to the farthest end of the airport, so that the trip back to terminal 3 was around a 15 minutes drive. The plane was overbooked and 80% of passengers were children, however they were generally well behaved and only a couple of them cried or made a fuss. However, I was the only female over the age of 25 who was not holding a baby or two or three. This exclusion is starting to become more frequent and more annoying, but oh well. So anyway, we landed in Dubai and were escorted to the lift/container thing, accompanied by 3 other ladies, one of which was not elderly at all and joked about all sorts of things on the way to the terminal. The other lady was a little mashalakha old thing, and was carrying a plastic bag and a little baby all dressed up in a scarf, hat and mittens, and was sleeping. This baby, apparently, belonged to the woman who had sat next to her on the plane, and who had 2 or 3 other children to hold and so she had offered to carry the youngest member. She had no idea who the woman was and had simply followed us into the container and sat down as the other woman tried to wake up and extract one of her daughters from under the plane chairs.
7aboba 3asha (but not the lady on the plane)
We were all buckled up and a young Indian/Pakistani guy sat down to escort us to the terminal. The lady who had nothing wrong with her asked where the driver was, which terminal we were going to, and other general questions, and then noted that we were actually driving in the middle of the planes and that we might get knocked over by one of the wings. The mashalakha lady held the baby uninterestedly, trying to look out the window to see where we were going. Apparently, she though this bus was taking us straight to downtown Dubai and she didn’t know where the house was.
‘Albus da mashi wein? Biwadeni albalad jowa tawali?’
‘La ya 7ajja masheen alma6ar.’
‘Tayeb.’
It was quite a long drive, and the lady was nervous. So nervous in fact, that the baby was hanging by an arm and leg most of the trip.
‘Masheen wein e7na? Lisa? Ana ma ma3ai jawazi wala ayi 7aja.’
‘Ya 7aja masheen alma6ar, inti 7ajatik ma3a mino?’
‘Ma3a om alwalad da, ana ma ba3arifa bas masakta leha walada da.’
‘Tayeb 7anlageha hinak.’
‘Ana ma ba3arif albeit almasha leho, e7na mashen albalad jowa 6awali?’
‘La ya 7aja masheen alma6aaar, ma masheen albalad jowa. 7anamshi alma6ar wu ba3den biji zol yisogik min hinak. Masha le mino inti?’
‘Masha le waladi. Howa fi Dubai.’
‘Aye bas waladik da 7aylageki filma6ar hina. Arfa3i alwalad da 7ayaga3 minik!’
‘Tayeb.’
The ride continues and we are occasionally jostled around the container. We can see hundreds of gates through the windows overhead passing us by, but we keep on going. The joking lady chats with the Pakistani guy, my companion sits majestically in her wheelchair giving the mashalakha lady next to her an occasional side glance. At one point we catch the baby almost in mid-air and ask the lady to please hold him properly.
‘Ma kafa? Mashena kateer khalas. Masheen wein e7na?’
‘Masheen alma6ar ya 7aja.’
‘Khalas kafa mashena kateer. Khalas wagif al3arabia di. Hey, ya hey, khalas kalim alsawag yiwagif al3arabiya.’ This last statement was directed to the Pakistani guy.
‘Ok mama fi ma’lom no problem.’
‘Khalas wagif al3arabiya nazilona hina.’
My companion looks at her neighbour then gives me a look that clearly says: is this fool for real?!
We try to explain that we are still in the airport and we will be dropped off at the passport station where she will meet the baby’s mother, hand over the baby, receive her passport, cruise through passport control then find her son on the other side. The look of terror on her face tells us she’s not even listening.
‘Hey wagif al3arabia di! Wagif hina! Khalas kafa!’
My companion gives me another look that clearly says: aji yakhwani?! At which point I cannot hide my laughter anymore, as I remember a little girl crying over her red Hello Kitty bag, almost as distressed as this elderly lady who thinks she is trapped in this floating container and is getting kidnapped or something.
‘Ya ha! Ya hoy nazilni hina!’ As if she would know where to go if we really did let her off. Anyway, we eventually stopped, I was handed the baby so that she could be let down to the ground, we met the mother at the gate and handed both items back to her, translated to the workers that they were going to Dubai and not in transit since the mother, and of course the old lady, didn’t speak a word of English. My companion and I were then rushed all the way from terminal 3 to terminal 1, with a short bathroom stop, and made it just in time. Unfortunately (or not) we were seated apart this time, so I didn’t hear anymore stories about who said what and why they said it and when, until we arrived in Oman, picked up our luggage and handed the lady over to her anxiously awaiting daughter and her husband (the same one who had answered the door many years ago wrapped in a bed sheet). I made several discoveries on that trip. That having an elderly lady in a wheelchair is an extremely effective way to jump the line and not have to wait a thousand years for my turn. And that stewards and stewardesses eat business class food after the passengers get off (I actually saw one guy drinking orange juice straight out of the carton). And that, judging by the number of babies and children I saw on this trip, the population is in fact getting younger, not older as claimed. And that planes will always suck and take-offs and air bumps are something that I will never get used to.