Annie and I are about to take flight to India. She is on Emirates while I’m taking the cheapest AirIndia flight I could find. I’m already nauseous imagining the cramped cabin and disturbing odors I’m about to endure.
The AirIndia space is very busy. Many Indians travel between Dubai and India. It’s takes only 2 hours to cross the Arabian Sea and land in the 18-million-person city of Mumbai (Bombay). Indians make up a large portion of the labor force in Dubai’s booming economy, and UAE companies include roundtrip air fair once / year for all their employees as part of the HR package.
Mumbai (Bombay) is home of Bollywood, the Indian equivalence to America’s Hollywood. It’s a thriving, creative, artistic scene and they were bombed this last week in a terrorist attack. A series of bombs (3 in total) were coordinated to blast in different locations leaving 26 killed and more than 120 injured.
Annie is on her luxurious Emirates Air experience, probably receive foot massages from international soccer stars and drinking wine over jokes with some billionaire investor. I’m imagining her with all the glamor of the commercials while I am conversely sentenced to the hellish mess of an unorganized and overpopulated AirIndia experience her at the Dubai International Airport (DXB). I await a snaking line that’s snailing it’s way through the first mental detector and bag scanner. Upon passing through security I observe the security crew doing minimal observing, maximal chatting about cartoons in Hindi. I don’t know if they were actually talking about cartoons, but given their gestures and tone, it was either that or one of them is plotting to drop an anvil on his buddy.
The time until departure is shortening and my advancement in this next line is not. I’m feel a slight panic begin to creep in. The first 20 minutes of my wait were passed by guessing who, what and why people are flying today. My imagination colorfully elaborating on the intimate details of their character, sexuality, occupation and so on as I begin to overlap their lives in a very “Crash”-like twist to my plot.
Then, all of a sudden, shit got real. There it was, all alone. Shifting my gaze around, I wondered why. It was an unmarked metal suitcase, unattended, tucked out of plain sight, against a pillar. It’s only a few feet in front of me. I’m halfway through the line. The clock is ticking.
“Who’s suitcase is that?” I ask myself. I look around, someone must be the owner, but where are they? I’m slowly moving away from it, but I can’t leave the line, I’ll miss my flight. Where is the owner? Why is that suitcase alone?
“Who’s suitcase is that?” I ask the man in front of me. He doesn’t know, or care.
I’m inching myself further away, putting my luggage between me and the potential explosion, as if that might impede the dangers of a … (you know) My mind is dizzying- everything is blur but the suitcase that stands alone and could erupt at any moment.
“Who’s suitcase is that?” I ask the woman behind me. blank stare.
OK, 3 bombs, 26 deaths. that’s like 9 people killed in each explosion. I start counting based on proximity to the suitcase. SHIT, I’m 4th closest.
“Who’s suitcase is that?” I ask the man behind her. He shakes his head in uncertainty and doesn’t seem to be even the slightest bit worried either!
If you see something, say something.. RIGHT?!!
Maybe the guy in the line next to me will be more responsive. I act out my concerns. He understands! Oh, he thinks this is funny, then looks at his phone.
My pits sweat out anxiety into stains on my under sleeves. THATS IT! I’m getting this under control/ I swing my bag of valuables over my shoulder, leave my backpack in line and dart off to find someone to assistant me in saving this airport full of innocent lives. A vivid scene of chaotic drama blasts into play, with slow motion effects as people scream in terror with tears and blood, and shrapnel. NO! I snap back to reality. I’m about to prevent all that, as long as I can get to someone in time!
T first man in an airport uniform I see basically tells me to kindly F*** off. So,I do. I see a security guard- perfect! I get his attention, express the immanent dangers and the very little time we have to heroically act. He nods his head and brings me to his the guy who was telling cartoon stories instead of monitoring the baggage scanner. GREAT- it’s either this guy’s incompetence or corruption that got us here in the first place! However, what choice do I have. I explain the severe problem we’re facing, clearly, calmly, and with conviction. He no understand. He stops the baggage belt to focus on me better. The 50+ people waiting in the security line look at me with scornful contempt. Little do they know I’m saving their lives.
I explain, again, that right over there is an unattended suitcase, suspicious, and without owner. It is EXACTLY the kind of suitcase I would choose if I were in the market to pack explosives.
He very loudly says, “OHH You think it is a bomb” With a louder emphasis on the word bomb.
People look at us…
“Umm, I didn’t want to say-”
He cuts me off. “It’s OK, I can say bomb. I’m Muslim. Let’s go take a look.”
Not sure how that works, but I guess we’ll go check it out. He leaves the line of angry and about-to-be-stand-by people to wait as we go to check out the bomb.
I’m still not to anxious to get near to it, wisely staying at least 12 or 13 people away and point it out. He walks up to it. He lifts it. He shakes it.
COME ON MAN, don’t shake the friggin thing.
An short, scruffy and potentially a career criminal of a man storms over with a disdainful scrutiny in his eyes. He snatches the suitcase out of security’s hands and shoots a vicious look my way.
“Yo dosta (hindi for friend), your suitcase” is all I’ve to say to him.
He said nothing, but his eyes screamed evil.
Security shrugged at me and walked away.
Career criminal, turns, puts the suitcase in the same exact spot, and walks 20 people away to the front of the line.
ARE YOU SERIOUS!? So now, it’s confirmed to me that asshole is trying to blow the place up. I go to the front of the line, not sure if I’m really about to confront this man who I’ve convinced myself is a terrorist. What am I going to do up here? I wonder. The woman behind the counter asks for my passport and bag…
Well, OK, I guess I’m up here cutting all those chumps. I hand her my passport, double back for the backpack. She tags it, tosses it on the conveyor belt, and I go to my gate, get on my flight and safely arrive in India several hours later.
The security guard shaking the suitcase must have deactivated the bomb. I suppose that’s the stuff they’re trained to do. What a day! Saving innocent lives is most satisfying when it isn’t saddled with recognition. There is something more honorable, guardian-angle-like about it.
You’re welcome international travelers of the Gulf Region, it was a pleasure keeping you alive today.