Saturday, March 03, 2007

Returning home

I hadn’t slept well all week, and Friday night was no exception. Bed at 10, and my mind won’t slow down. Why didn’t I say X; what could I do about the lasers; I have this question about the church—and endless round of tireless mental wanderings—what I’d do differently if I had charge of border security; how to get around airport security; why had I been juggling pine cones in the middle of the Carrefour; wait a minute—I must have been dreaming in there somewhere. Repeat until I feel like the alarm must be about to go off—and lo and behold, the clock says I’ve only got 15 minutes before it will.

I set off alarms in Geneva, Brussels, and O’Hare. Pen, watch, belt. I really didn’t need that—they’d closed the boarding door for the flight to Madison by the time I got there. (They graciously let me on anyway.)

In Brussels a young white man waited at the gate with a small black baby. He looked American, and given the tiny rate at which white men marry black women I figured this was an adoption. Later on he was a little behind me in the second line and mentioned to the fellow beside him that he’d just gotten in from Monrovia. I turned and asked him how Roberts Field was.

After a bit of joking he said it was terrible. He’d had to “dash” the inspectors not to search his luggage (that’s a kind of extortion, for those used to Western airports). And yes, it was an adoption: actually 3 at once. (The nine-month old had been pretty fussy on the flight from Monrovia, but the others were more or less content, and all fairly sick.) Turns out they’d stayed with a Baptist missionary at Sinkor (name completely eludes me, though—names do that). He’d not stopped sweating once while he was there (yep), and told of having to drive off all the baggage carriers when they arrive, and trying to select two (and keep an eye on them) when they left.

There was a nine-month-old, a two year old girl, and a three year old boy who was being introduced to the marvels of a portable DVD player in the airport. The new mother told him to just watch the movie and stop fiddling with the controls. I was seriously sleepy, or I’d have mentioned that he wasn’t used to “just sitting and watching,” and that that was probably a good thing.

I gather he was a little street-wise already. The new parents had been told to bring lots of dollar bills, so they packed a hundred in singles. That made a pretty big wad, and when the lad saw them poking out of the pocket of the suitcase he urgently pushed them back in out of sight. So says the new proud papa.

I was in the second-to-last row in the 767 out of Brussels. We loaded early, and were set to go. And set. And set. Eventually we were told that there was a “discreet situation” at the door and they were waiting for a doctor’s opinion. We left late.

8 Below looks like a good movie (I never try to listen on an airplane anymore). Greenland didn’t look very green—what I could see of it. My seatmate on the flight to Madison works for a family knife-making firm, specializing in industrial knives. Apparently most such knife makers are out of business, because the US only makes rolled steel anymore. I hadn’t thought about it, but industry uses a lot of knives—from paper slicers to blades used in emusifier vats.

As for American Airlines in Brussels—remember how you bought goods in the old socialist paradises? You’d stand in one line to pick out the items, stand in another to pay for them, and then stand in another to pick them up. At the American Airlines gate in Brussels you had to stand in one line to verify your baggage tags and identity, another line to get your correct boarding pass (the one issued in Geneva was no good), and another line to board the plane.

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