I have traveled a lot this past year. I have sprayed piss on my shoe during turbulence. I have lost an elbow to a drink cart. I have been amazed by airline magazine ads. I have seriously contemplated buying worthless shit from a Sky Mall magazine. (who doesn’t need an indoor potty mat for their little kick-me dog) I have gotten a 65 year-old grandmother so drunk that she giggled at every one of my jokes. She even flipped her grey hair while talking to me. (she really liked her wine, she really entertained me… she had the hots for me… I know she did) It is amazing what you can learn in an airport or on a plane.
The Girl Scouts celebrate a 100 years in 2012. The Girl Scouts just held their annual convention in Houston. The Girl Scouts have a new cookie coming out to celebrate this 100th anniversary. Don’t ask a Girl Scout to sell you cookies in an airport. Girl Scout alumni like to travel in gaggles and wear ugly Girl Scout green t-shirts. I found this all out recently (yesterday) while waiting on my flight in Houston.
“Why are all these women wearing Girl Scout t-shirts?” is what I asked aloud to my two golfing buddies as we sat at our gate. It was then that a group of women (25-50 years-old) informed me of the recent Girl Scout extravaganza. Because I am a dumbass, I then asked “So you got any cookies for sale?” One of the ladies curtly replied that the Girl Scouts “… are more than cookies; we are about empowering young ladies.” Again, because I am a dumbass I asked “What? No Do-si-dos in your carry-on?” It was then that one of them chuckled that no they didn’t have any cookies, but there will be a new cookie this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary… unfortunately she couldn’t tell me what type. To drive home the point of my dumbassness, I asked “What? Is it some damn national security secret?” This was the moment the Girl Scout gaggle determined it was a good time to find better seats in the boarding area. I think one them actually had to be held back from kicking my ass. Getting your ass kicked by a Girl Scout would be a great airport story.
An ass whoopin’ from a Girl Scout would pale in comparison to having to pay a bribe to leave a country by plane. I have had to pay (as part of a group) a bribe to fly out of a country. It happened at the Dushanbe airport this past May. Sidenote: click that link, seriously click it… that is an awesome display of bad English advertising.
Dushanbe (pronounced dew-SHAWN-bay) airport will meet all of your Third World airport expectations. Masses of unwashed masses, even at 4:30 am. Primarily, the masses are young men on their way to other Central Asian countries and Russia to either A) seek a job; B) smuggle heroin; or C) both. Airport employees and customs/immigration officers aren’t there to do their job, they are there to get paid. Flyers don’t necessarily have luggage as much as they have a blob of clothing and personal shit bound together with baling wire, plastic wrap, and tape. Crush of humanity with a side of body odor.
Traveling abroad teaches one to appreciate having your junk touched by a TSA agent. (true story). Traveling abroad teaches you the art of patience. Really… it is one big giant-ass adventure. If you ain’t laughing… you are crying.
In the Dushanbe airport the young workers/smugglers have to pay the border guards an exit “fee.” My colleagues and I had to pay $150 for… well, we aren’t sure what we had to pay $150 for. It was either for us having too many bags or because our bags were over the weight allowance. However, this bribe took a comical turn when the airport employee demanding the bribe couldn’t find the “appropriate” form to give us a receipt for the $150 “fee.” Seems the form guy wasn’t at work… 4:30am Dushanbe traffic can be a bitch. (not really, but seemed like a good excuse)
We paid the bribe. What else were we to fucking do? Staying indefinitely in Tajikistan didn’t seem like the greatest of alternatives. I like lamb meat, potatoes, and vodka as much as the next guy, but eating and drinking it for the rest of my life didn’t seem to appetizing. Once all the proper palms had been greased, we followed the mass of Tajiks onto the Rossiya Airlines plane. At least being American got us in one the first groups to board. Now the fun really began.
Waiting abroad the plane was the Russian flight crew and attendants. Seems the Tajiks can’t read Russian or English. It makes sense though, it has been 19 years since Tajikistan was one of the Soviet Union’s Central Asian republics… Russian is no longer taught in Tajik schools… I feel their pain, I, too, am a product of public schools… me read pretty one day.
Because the young Tajik men couldn’t read Russian, they were incapable of finding their seats. Tall, leggy, blonde Russian female flight attendants were more than capable in assisting them. This “assisting” consisted of the highly, highly, highly attractive flight attendant physically grabbing the Tajik by his shirt collar and throwing him in his seat… while cursing the Tajik in what I assume was some fan-fucking-tastic saltiness. It didn’t get better for these Tajiks, it got worse. The Rossiya flight attendants drive a mean drink cart. Basically it was the Russian airlines version of the Soup Nazi. It seems if you are a Tajik you get water and only water. If you are an American, you get free vodka and all the Russian cherry juice you can guzzle. My colleagues and I proved to be great vodka drinkers. Did I mention how fucking hot these flight attendants were?
The hilarity jumped up a further notch once we landed in St. Petersburg’s domestic terminal. The former Soviet Union Republics are still considered “domestic” so you don’t land at the international terminal… you land in the domestic one.
Domestic is a good word if you think “domestic” and “abuse” is the only way to use it. At the St. Petersburg domestic (abuse) terminal, the Russian Ministry of Interior troops were waiting. Fully armed and armored, these men (and dogs) were ready. Pushing and shoving does not accurately describe the fun. Sometimes it does pay to be an American abroad… at Russia’s St. Petersburg domestic (abuse) terminal, Americans get waved through customs… former Soviet Union citizens get an AK 74 (no I didn’t mean AK 47… I meant 74) to the face, chest, and groin. Snarling dogs sniffed their balls… I mean their bags. Once they were fellow communists and citizens, now the Russians assert dominance through a rough handling of passengers arriving domestically. I guess we do hurt the ones we love the most.
Leaving that party was a blessing. I smiled at the hot female immigration officer… she wanted me. As I walked into the crush of humanity waiting for me in St. Petersburg, Russia, domestic terminal, I think I heard a young Tajik sing a falsetto in pain… bad day all around for him.
Yeah, I got some airport stories for you. I’ll take a pissed-off Girl Scout any day… and she will have some cookies for me soon enough.