I've written and rewritten and rewritten this stupid thing so many times now and just can't get it right, and every time I rewrite it, it just gets worse and worse, and now it doesn't even make any sense at all. So I give you the remaining disjointed shreds that don't suck.
Chapter 1: The Italians go on Strike
My eyes flickered up from my scrutiny of the book propped between the meal tray and the seat-back in front of me. They took in the scene displayed on the video monitor, then returned to their prior study. It was a familiar feeling; a feeling of familiarity. Like after any long journey -- a walk or drive through lands unknown – which returns then to its point of origin. First one passes through wondrous but unfamiliar vistas, then vaguely more familiar territory, and finally through the streets and neighbourhoods that one well knows. There is the grocery where one buys Friday dinners, and over there the bus stop where one has waited through many a downpour. It is the feeling of the familiar; the feeling of the known; the feeling that one is finally – although perhaps not quite yet -- home.
It was certainly shades of this that flew through my mind as I considered what I had just glimpsed on the monitor. I was over the gulf, Dhahran had just passed by the starboard windows a few minutes earlier. I had flown this route many times and knew it almost off by heart. This part of the world was my own neighbourhood. I tried to concentrate anew on the book in front of me, but quickly gave it up. A sigh. Trying to read would be a useless endeavour for the remainder of the flight. I noted the page and folded the book up, returning it to the suitcase in the compartment above me. I peered out the window once more, but the night was too dark; all that was visible was the moonlight shimmering off the inky waters of the Persian Gulf several miles below.
A quick warning of static in my ear and I swore under my breath, reaching for the volume controls. Too late – the music was replaced by a deafening blast of Arabic before I could turn it down.
That had not, of course, been the plan. Thirteen hours earlier, I had descended from an Alitalia plane at Milan, clutching an onward ticket to Dubai on the same. Something had seemed slightly off, however. On alighting I had been greeted by neither the regular airport staff nor the customary buses, but instead by the flight crew, rather annoyed, standing in the rain and waving in the general direction of the doors to Terminal building.
Entering the building imparted the reason: Alitalia was on strike. Indeed the whole airport was on strike. Electronic notice boards were largely devoid of information, except for the occasional one warning of a kernel panic. Line-ups were everywhere, with the seeming objective being to wait for the privilege of standing in another line-up. There were hardly any staff anywhere, and the few airlines that were operating had resorted to the practice of sending their employees running through the terminal building, calling out the company name in the hope of attracting their clients’ attention. In short, it was chaos.
In a moment of sarcasm, I reflected that Italy on strike was not all that noticeably different from Italy not on strike.
That still left, unfortunately, the question of the onward leg. The only reliable information to be had was that there was almost no chance it would fly on time, if at all. At first, I did nothing; just sat on the windowsill with my back to the rain outside and contemplated the chaos. There were patterns in the chaos; swirling, fractal patterns of people and bags. Lines resolving and dissolving; shifting over time like the rain water blasted by jet engines over the tarmac behind me. I began to feel that if I stared at the crowds long enough, the patterns might pop out and become obvious to me; that maybe I might meld with them, become one with the patterns, and weave a tapestry of them that could magically carry me out of that glass-and-concrete tomb, and away to the sands.
And so it occurred to me that 6 hours of aeroplane sleep was clearly nowhere near sufficient.
Thus disillusioned, I regained my feet and waded into the cacophonous storm, following the faraway cry of "Emirates! Emirates! Here here here here here!." And discovered that there was a pot of gold at the end of that verbal rainbow – a makeshift Emirates ticket counter that would gladly take my Alitalia ticket and fly me to Dubai only an hour later on one of the seven remaining seats.
And so it occurred to me that – sleep-deprived or not – I had perhaps after all, successfully woven those fractal threads into a mighty carpet of steel and fire that would thunder me into the air and cast me home.
Chapter 3: A French Fry Enema
Ha! So there.