Arriving in the Hot Place
It was a ten hour flight, in two legs, broken in the Middle East. When we touched down there, nearly everyone got off. I waited for the new people to get on, but only two or three of them did. When the plane took off again it had about fifteen passengers. On an Airbus A321.
About halfway through the second leg, I thought sod it, I'm having a drink. I wasn't going to, as the Hot Place is also dry. But there was a drawer full of wine, and nobody else to drink it, so I had one. The stewardess was happy to have something to do. 'All alcohol must be consumed on board', she said. 'Right you are,' I said. 'Can I have another?'.
We 'deplaned' in no time, obviously, down the steps into a hot moist night and onto a bus. Three fat men sprawled across the only seats, under a sign which said 'Seating reserved for women and children'. I decided not to make a point. It was a short and badly lit journey to the terminal, past big white UN planes that loomed suddenly out of the darkness.
I'm far from the world's worst flyer, but there's always something to worry about. Will they remember my vegetarian meal? (They did on the first leg, but not on the second, but they kindly picked the sausage off the pizza for me). Will my luggage arrive? (Yes, it did -- it was strangely comforting to see my bright pink case emerge, I'd imagined it being flung around an empty hold, scattering pants and instant noodles all over the place). Will there be anyone there to meet me?
Er, no. There wasn't. Now *that's* never happened before, and I didn't particularly want my first experience of it to be after midnight in a near deserted entrance way populated by a few rangy taxi drivers and a few mangy cats. And a man asleep on a bench.
Thanks to a roaming mobile and good paperwork, I could call the duty driver. His English wasn't up to much but I got the impression that he was 'coming'. Thanks to half a bottle of red wine, I didn't get scared. I just sat down away from the sleeping man, ignored the taxi drivers, got out my Moleskine and pencil and started writing this.