I finally boarded a plane but it wasn’t easy. I sat on the small rubber seats, sipped my 7 UP and struggled to eat the muffin they bestowed upon me. But getting there took me quite a while.
My flight to Dammam, SV 1102, got delayed by ten hours, as I mentioned before. However, turns out it was actually cancelled the whole time and if there was a weather concern, the weather wasn’t the one to express it. When they told me I’d be boarding at 2:15 they were not serious or truthful. I did not board at 2:15 even though I waited nearly four hours to do so – in addition to the 6 hours of being told my flight status will be updated “soon”.
As it turns out, actually getting on a plane has nothing to do with the checking in, waiting, drinking coffee, and watching other people get in line for boarding – it has everything to do with people communicating well. The officials of Saudia Airlines failed to do so. They made me very unhappy and unsatisfied. I don’t recommend them to anyone.
Here is what happened. The other passengers, a group of some 26 labour workers were taken to Hotel Casablanca. I was supposed to go as well but because Saudia Airlines doesn’t know how to take responsibility of the passengers, especially young women who are travelling alone, I was left back at the airport. I could have gone to the hotel in the afternoon and caught up on my sleep. I would not have spent hours being stressed out and irritated. In fact, if they had told me on time, I would actually have went back to safety and comfort of my own home.
Before any peace that was due, it was difficult for me to control my emotions. Really very difficult. Eventually, thanks to a helpful Saudi couple and their baby I managed to find my way to the persons responsible for taking me to the hotel – and while this happened, one very unhelpful official was convinced my flight will be available for boarding “soon”. He caused further confusion.
I waited while a group of three young Pakistani men guffawed at the seat nearby, an old woman and her young daughter sat on my left and spoke about what I’ll never know, and my sole purpose in life, at that moment, became hiding my upset tears from the general swarm of passengers all about me. I remember these two little groups especially because their laughter and their talk, so audible, was painful to hear because I missed my own family.
I still don’t understand why I felt so vulnerable that Saudi winter morning. Was it the complete unexpected turn of situation? Was it my hormones? Was it my already lonely mind acting out? I wanted to see my family and it felt like everything was coming in the way of that happening.
I am a sensitive person. I love the strength my religion and the people in my life give me but I also know that some times we just have really bad days. When I look back now I think of how I should have just relaxed instead of freaking out. In some ways I blame my excitement about travelling alone for the first time. That really can mess up a person if it goes all wrong. I knew what was happening was not my fault yet I couldn’t shake off all the anxiety I was feeling. I was sleep deprived, tired after an event the previous day and not yet recovered from the stress of writing final exams. I think right now, as I write this, I’m looking for excuses to justify how pathetic I must sound. Travel writing is not always happy, is it?
Back to me sitting at a bench surrounded by seemingly happier travelers – eventually a nice gentleman, a rare gem in the community of airport officials, came rushing to me with my papers, passport and called me “Sister”. He would now be a savior who excused all his work and took me to the hotel where I would rest and wait until my flight 12 hours later.
The way to the hotel brought me relief. He didn’t speak much English which was fine with me as long as he could deliver the information I needed. And he did. I was seeing streets I’d never been to before, and I was back in the heated and intricate midst of Jeddah which I thought I would not be a part of for the next three weeks or so. It was a strange feeling to get slowly pulled back into the city I’d meant to leave, bags packed and itinerary planned.
At the hotel I spent a while updating my family and bestfriend. I slept for around 5 hours and then woke up and prepared myself for the long night. I did not dream, my alarm did not ring but the comfort of the hotel bed wrapped me up in a cloud of rest.
When I woke up, my backpack lay waiting for me, a turkey croissant was drying up in a paper bag and my journal peeking out from within. After penning down my worries and anxieties, asking God to help me feel better and make my journey easy, I ate a delicious dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. I tried out their desserts but didn’t experiment too much because there is a mood for everything. Back in my hotel, I read, wrote some more and then got ready for my commute back to the airport.
It was a bus that was going to take me and the male other passengers. When I did get to hop on the bus I chose two seats, one by the window and the one next to it. One for me and one for my bag. That way I made sure nobody would be sitting next to me. A pretty awesome move that the creepy men did not like because they wanted to sit next to me. They assumed I didn’t understand their words and they talked about getting the bags moved and commented on how selfish I was.
To be honest, I was not comfortable during the whole ride. I don’t like men who stare, men who smell, men who sing, and men who act loud and stupid around women. It is wrong and unacceptable. It is indecent. But it is the Indian thing to do. Indian men keep proving that over and over.
At the airport I joined the queue at the Counter 10 and waited for my boarding passes to be exchanged for a new one. I’d rather not get into the details of how boring and annoying it was but I would like to stress on the fact that getting it done was the biggest relief of my day. When my boarding pass finally updated the young official looked as ecstatic as me.
I bought cola flavored jelly candy and some milk chocolate to keep me company. There is a lot that happened next but that story is for some other time.