What a Long Strange Trip

We are off on vacation but to get there we have a number of stops. And first up is Saudi Arabia by plane. We sit at the back and the seats are worn, brown leather, cracked, and I can’t get the buckle out from the slit up by my left shoulder.

“Forget it,” I think to myself as the plane takes off. “We will be OK.”


When we arrive, it is into a jungle and the plane has to squeeze a low path, trees with dark green palms on either side, and the wings are almost touching. It is amazing that the pilot can navigate it without crashing or getting stuck.

Then the path narrows until it pinches us further onto a narrow footpath, a metal chain link fence to prevent the trees from spilling into the path. The plane has retractable wings that flip up to help it move forward. As the plane makes its way I am sure it will tear the wings off even though the wings are vertical. The path gets narrower still until I have to suck my stomach in, and then the wings flip back like cat’s ears so we can make it through.

At the airport, we get out and decide to walk around.


Next to the runway, the land is very flat, desert-like in the distance, hot. And around, it feels like the salt flats of Turkey, bright hazy sun, a blue path carved between white glistening water. Very bright, piercing, so that we need to shield our eyes. We walk between the reflective pools awhile. And in the distance to our left and beyond the desert is the city, tall buildings, minarets.

“There’s the mausoleum,” I point out to Lizzie. It is dark brown, and sandy with curved arches that shelter the entrance. “We should go visit.”

Then we head back to the airport to take our next leg.

This time the plane we get on is very plush.

I put my baggage on the top shelf but an Asian steward tells me, “It can’t go there, there are some boxes for the aircraft,” and she places my bag in the cabin behind us. Lizzie puts her own bag up in the place that had been denied me.

“That’s OK because it is very small,” the steward says. Lizzie’s bag is green, the size of a purse.

“Is that all you brought?” I ask her.

“There is another, checked,” she replies.

We buckle in and the seats are white leather. There are only a few of us and I realize we are in a private plane. We sit facing each other like one of those fancy planes in the movies.

“It’s an unusual seating arrangement,” I think out loud, as the plane takes off.

Next stop, Turkey for real.


We get out at the airport and this time I need to go to the bathroom.

I find my way to some blue doors that have the sign for gents and ladies, yellow outlines, placed together, communal style. And once in, I open one of the two stall doors.

The bowl is low to the ground, it was used before and is almost full, but only water thankfully. And the lock has two prongs you can slide from the stall door, but even so, there is little privacy. As I start to close the door a man in a navy suit opens it, before I can squat.

“I’m using this!”

I push the prongs to latch the door, but then two men force it open again, just as I am squatting over the bowl. I am flushing to see if the water goes down, and in the bowl are two rashers of bacon, and something else, less discernible. but while it flushes, but the water rises to the lip of the bowl instead.

That didn’t work. But I’ll do my business anyway and I squat fully down.

‘Go away!” I tell the two men but they don’t move.

“Are you going like that?” one of them asks.

“Yes, it is like a French toilet.” But I can only pee.

“Is that it?” the bigger one in the suit says.

“Yes, I can’t do it while you are watching me.”

The two men follow me out into a dimly lit corridor, and for a moment I think I am in the middle of the country, a place that begins with an ‘A’. Anatolia? Or Ankara?

“Leave me,” I tell them, but they keep following.

Then I hit out at the bigger one, a short, quick punch to his jaw. It is more like a slap.

“I could have you arrested,” he replies.

“No! I could have YOU arrested,” I reply and I hurry out of the building and into the sun before the situation escalates.

“Quickly!” a man with a peaked black cap on the station platform says, “Ricky and the others are already in the taxi.”


I get aboard the wagon just as it is leaving, and sit in the back. And the wagon is covered. It has open windows and everyone sits in rows, dark wooden, slatted seats, myself with strangers from a different company who are partying it up in the front.

I lean out the back to see if I can see Ricky, but the next cabin over is just a flatbed. I would have to walk across it to get to the other cabins and I cannot see the others anywhere. And it would be precarious to try to walk the distance, across loose boards, two-by-fours, while the wagon is moving.

Perhaps they are all the way in the back.

It is just like someone from Acme Software Productions to get lost.

‘How do you know I’m from Acme?” I say to the woman next to me.

But I have Acme’s red logo on my bag. I have it with me, even though I am on holiday.

“Well, it’s just like working for Apple,” I explain to her, “and having the Apple logo on your laptop. Or Microsoft, same thing.”

I am thinking of my Lenovo with its distinctive logo.

Then I look out the back once more to see if I can get to the other carriage. Coming down the flatbed is the ticket conductor.

He holds his ticket book and I can ask him.

“Is Ricky G back there with the others?” I ask him as he steps up to our carriage. “They were supposed to be in a taxi.”

But he looks uncertain.

“Well, this is not a taxi,” he replies sarcastically.

Photo by Tom Kelly via Flickr

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