Queen Aliyah International
Queen Aliyah International is peculiar, in that you can’t pass through security to check in and get a good seat until two hours before your flight, so I had the chance to kick it in the waiting area with a disgruntled Slovenian who was also annoyed with the 5JD exit tax you pay on top of the 10JD for a Jordanian Visa, on top of the airport being silly, and Royal Jordanian rescheduling its flights every day, as both of our tickets had different times printed on them, for the same flight, during the 1AM hour, and we were now scheduled for an “on-time” departure at 2:40, though I’d been told 2:30 when I reconfirmed my ticket the day before.
5JD to exit, huh? I didn’t even have 5€, just the two dinar coins I’d saved as souvenirs. Fauzi came by as I tried to nap on the concrete floor, and explained that he’d have come around earlier, except it was busy and he’d been in trouble for showing up late. I asked him about the 20JD he had earlier claimed to owe me, explaining that I’d need 5JD to leave the airport. He looked uncomfortable, and then his boss called him away.
Later on, another of Fauzi’s friends dropped by, curious if I remembered him. Yes, I did. Fauzi’s pretty weird, huh? Yes, he is, and I told him about the 20JD, and the spot I was in. He seemed genuinely concerned, and said that he’d talk to Fauzi if he could.
11PM rolled around and I was let through the metal detector. The “airport tax” guy said he could only take cash, so I had to go back to the unsecured area to cash a traveler’s check around the corner. Along the way I hustled past Fauzi, who was standing idly around the corner from where I’d been waiting the past few hours. “Why are you going this way?” He seemed concerned that I was misguided or perhaps, in trouble.
“To cash a check to get the 5JD so I can get out of here,” I snapped, accusingly.
I exchanged one of my 50USD American Express Traveler’s Checks for 5JD, and the remaining $38, which immediately reassured me: here I was, in the middle of the Middle East, struggling against bad mojo, and now, after two months on the road, I had two new tens, an old ten, and three single, comfortable, familiar US dollars. I shifted from moderately pissed off to feeling pretty darned good, which the guy who subsequently stamped my Visa picked up on, himself cheering up at the prospect of a happy foreign visitor. He smiled and noted with pride that he was a Bedouin.
There was still more waiting at the terminals, which smelled of curry, because at our gate there were two flights boarding for India. The smell was different, and welcomed by my nose: my own pants smelled like dust, with just the slightest hint of dirty sewers. This was not offensive to me except that it was an alien sensation that made me feel uncomfortable, like I was wearing Amman on my legs. The idea that an entire developing nation might instead smell of curry, overpowering the essence my pants had acquired, struck my fancy. I wasn’t eager to soak up this new idea, though, because I was bound for Bangkok, and I’m inclined to hope that Thailand has a slightly more comfortably Western flavour.
I figured a cold Coca Cola would be just the thing to refresh my spirits for the remainder of the wait. There was none at the duty-free shop that everyone has to walk through to get between terminals. What a pity. I found, of all things, a Popeye’s, but they only had Pepsi, and my discerning American palette wanted Coke, dammit!
There was a coffee stand which had a menu item for “Coca Cola products .60JD”. I interrupted the guy’s phone call, holding a dollar between my hands.
“Do you accept the almighty American Dollar?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I’d like a Coke, please.”
“I don’t have any.”
Which seemed like a weird thing to expect to find at his coffee stand in the first place. So, I contented myself with the water fountain at the gate, only after spending some time waiting for the gate to open, in conversation with an Indonesian Muslim returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca, who wanted to explain that Terrorism is not Islam, just crazy, wrong, fundamentalists. I was willing to accept this, but when he told me that I might find God if I looked, I explained that I never had found God, and had come to believe that all I’d likely find if I did look was only whatever I expected to find, on some level, which wouldn’t necessarily be God, so I’d just as soon not queer things by looking for something beyond my understanding. This argument I trimmed considerably, as I wasn’t eager to engage in a deep philosophical debate on the nature of God with a Muslim just returning from Mecca, who would have to contend with my foreign philosophy in a foreign language, with the established understanding that people who adhere too strictly to the their understanding of Religion can do so to a fault. I wasn’t eager to to interfere with the hazy goodwill he seemed to be feeling from his spiritual buzz.
At this point, I was ready to wait for the hedonistic paradise of Thailand, where lovely women run around in public, and people wouldn’t ask me if I believed their economic and social progress was being held back by religious conservatism. My kind of place.