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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back to the U.S.A.

In one of my last posts, I said I would be taking some time off and would be going back to the States for the first time since my relocation here in Abu Dhabi. Well I did and I am back and am here to tell you about it.

My flight from Abu Dhabi didn't leave until 2A.M. local time and I had the entire day to spend packing and getting documents ready for the trip. I finished early and was sitting around the apartment-bored-when the beer godesses started calling me. I figured "what would be the harm" and popped my first Amstel Tall Boy. Well one led to another and when I was ready to get to the airport at around 11:30 P.M., I was feeling no pain. 

One of the worries was how to get to the airport. I live closer to the airport than the city so cabs are either feast or famine out here. I dragged my suitcases don the elevator and into the parking lot next to the road where I hoped a cab would pass by in the next 15 minutes. Chances are that I could have been there for an hour or more, but as luck would have it, one of the old white and gold Abu Dhabi cabs stopped by within a few minutes. 

So I loaded my bags into the trunk and settled into the cheap plastic-covered back seat of the ancient Toyota. It didn't smell TOO bad and I was so happy to get to the airport ahead of schedule, I gave the Pakistani driver a HUGE tip. 

Out come the bags and into the "quaint" Abu Dhabi Terminal 1. A porter approaches me and I agree to let him handle my luggage, but there seems to be confusion at the check-in counters and he holds me back until some words were exchanged in some language I didn't understand with an Official and soon I was at the front of some line. He got a huge gratuity, too.

Check-in went without a hitch and I bid farewell to my courageous porter. Then the quest was to get to the bar for a cold frosty as the others were wearing off rapidly. In Abu Dhabi Terminal 1 there is only one place to do this---The Piano Bar. It is hard to find with only a small sign at the top of a semi-spiral staicase leading down 12 feet or so, you would walk right past it if you didn't know where to look. At the bottom of the stairs, the room opens up and there is perhaps 8 barstools in a 20X20 room that could have been a boiler room in a more restrictive time. I don't recall seeing a piano but the bar overlooks a downstairs promenade with duty-free shops on either side. Quite entertaining. I am amused easily.

So, happy to find a seat at the small bar, I bought a Heineken and relaxed knowing I had plenty of time to get through security and to my flight. After about halfway through my beer, a guy sat next to me and we began to chat. I found out he was a Kuwaiti and he found out I was an American and when my beer was getting low, he offered to buy me another. I told him that was unnecessary but he insisted as he said felt indebted to the people who helped reclaim his country from the brutal invasion they suffered from Saddam's Iraqi Army in the First War. I told him that althought I was in the U.S. Navy at one time, I had no participation in that conflict. He said he didn't care and that he and his fellow citizens will always remember the sacrifices of the Americans and other coalition forces in behalf of his country. I was touched at how grateful and sincere he was. I don't care how cynical one is, it was a proud moment for me.

Then it was off to the plane with no drama at the security checkpoints (which I always dread). I boarded and was instantly comfortable in a biz class seat and champaign in my hand before takeoff.  After liftoff, I had a good Arabic Style meal and a few glasses of wine and fell promptly asleep. I woke up over the North Atlantic to a beautiful sunrise and had to take a "biology break". I went to the lav and when I went inside to do my business I noticed that in this particular aircraft, there was a window in the small lav, right over the  toilet. What got me was that as like all windows in the passenger section, it had a pull-down shade and it was closed. So I opened it to get some sunlight in an effort improve my mood and to help my aim. 

My point of this story is that I went to the lav in that plane at least three more times (It was a 14 hr flight) and every time I went in there the window shade was drawn down and every time I went in there I pulled it back up. Now who are these people that are so paranoid that they think that someone on the ground or someone up there in the RVSM altitudes would see their genitals at 40.000FT ? People are strange. And why are they embarassed peeing with an A340-500 window shade open in the lav at FL400?

More to come about my time in the States!

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