Airports in Developing Countries, Pt. 2
The first power outage strikes as I lay my carry-on and metallic possessions on the conveyor belt to be scanned. Children squeal with delight, the older men and women just freeze in place with tired expressions and wait. I lean against the scanner, thinking it polite to wait until they have the electricity to officially determine I am no threat. I mouth the word ‘typical’ into the dark through a toothy grin.
There’s a kick in the bowels of the building, crackle zap pow, and the florescents strobe to life. Nervous laughter all around. The steady whir of machinery resumes and my belongings find their way under the rubber strips and through the scanner. I pass through security without incident and walk up the stairs to Gate One. There’s only one gate.
The atmosphere is the same inside as out. Soupy air that makes your clothes stick to your skin like tissue paper over a shaving wound. Heat and ever-present strangeness. And dust, every smell comes out of the dust. They didn’t track it in here after the airport was built, it was always here; the beams and drywall and tile were already covered with dust, it was already raining from the ceiling materials before they became a ceiling.
The second power outage, while I’m in the restroom washing my hands. The water runs cold, and I hear young men out in Gate One yelling jokes into the musty dark in a language I can’t understand. Scattered laughter in response. Just knowing they have a sense of humor about their fickle bitch of a power grid is enough to make me laugh, too.
I can’t find a level chair anywhere. The plastic seats weren’t designed to not lean at one angle or another. A few shops populate either side of the rectangular off-white room. They sell the same gold-painted statues and silk-bound portraits and knock-off sunglasses that the street vendors shove in your face every day. At one end of the room is the VIP Lounge and the Business Class Lounge. In a single gate airport. There’s always room for a little socioeconomic distinction.
By the time the fourth power outage has run its course, the whole event has lost its novelty. Boarding time comes around, and we pile onto a rickety bus that takes us twenty meters up the tarmac to the lonely plane. We step out into a dark cloudy night, and walk up the mobile stairs. When everyone is aboard, the tail half of the plane is full and the front is totally vacant. Some genius of efficiency decided to sell the tickets from the back up. Before we take off, I move up to claim a row for myself.
It will be raining when we arrive after the hour flight. We’ll descend through some serious turbulence, several gut-wrenching drops as if gravity suddenly remembered what to do with solid objects that are thousands of feet high. When we break through the clouds we’ll see orange city lights below and splashes of white lightning from above. The wings will shake and the landing gear will extend and we’ll come in hot. Then another twenty meter bus ride. It could be the same bus if it weren’t for the spider web up above the passenger handles. One of the biggest webs I’ve ever seen, and here it is in an airport shuttle. Either no one wanted to sweep it away, or no one bothered.