Glass screen at Sa'ad Abad, Reza Shah's summer palace
George Bush International Airport, May 15th
Have you ever noticed that there is something about airports that brings out the voyeur in everyone? As spectacles go, it is truly a free-for-all of watch-fests. People sit and observe other people without any restraint, the word discretion chucked out like so much lost luggage. I think it has a lot to do with the transitory nature of airports. Who cares if I shamelessly stare at you? Like me, you will be getting on a plane and neither one will see the other again. As far as everyone is concerned, airports are one of those places where an unspoken carte blanche to people watching is extended.
The loudspeaker announced: Passenger Hoodini, passenger Hoodini, please come to the Lufthansa counter. My husband looked at me and said, “you think he’ll appear?” It took me two seconds to process what he was referring to but, once he realized I had gotten the joke, we simultaneously dissolved into uncontrollable peals of laughter. It was the perfect tension breaker to a harried morning of trying to get ourselves to the airport.
In flight, May 16th
The truth is that our previous mirth had deserted us halfway through our cramped plane ride. R was a little trouper but even his small frame was having trouble adjusting itself to the compressed space of his seat. I had done my best to make it as easy and distracting as I could for him. I’d loaded my iphone with movies and some of his favorite TV shows, packed a goodie bag of never before seen toys. A magnetic slate with airplanes, helicopters and other airborne contraptions turned out to be an inspired choice. He played for the longest time with it and fell into exhausted sleep still clutching it in his small hands.
I myself cannot sleep on airplanes. Everything about flight is geared to impede rest for me. I just cannot. My husband dozed fitfully but every once in a while, we’d stare bleary-eyed at each other, silently ticking off the minutes, counting down the hours till Frankfurt could be reached. Hoping our son would remain asleep for as long as possible and thus be spared the worst of our transatlantic journey. We willed a burst of speed that never really came true. It took forever to get to Germany.
1:00 am Houston Time, early morning in Frankfurt
Dragging what felt like all our earthly possessions through miles of airport corridors, we finally made our bedraggled entrance at the Frankfurt Sheraton. We had debated prior to going whether $370 for a half day (unforgiving Euro exchange rate) was a worthwhile investment for the 10 hours we would have to enjoy our Sheratonian luxury (notice the sarcasm). All it took was the hot spray of the steaming shower to convince me of how wise I had been to make the reservation. Clean and revived, we got into bed the three of us and slept like the dead. No dreams, no movement, exactly as we lay down is how we woke.
Frankfurt, early evening
If not exactly fully there in our bodies, we had at least responded well to the pseudo defibrillation of our truncated rest. We made a sorry sight trudging back across the skyway and into the airport once more. For R, all it took was knowing we were getting back on a plane and he morphed once more into the Energizer bunny. At that point in time, I would have given much to have just a smidgen of his energy. I keep wondering where exactly I’ve lost my love of flying because I know that I’d pay a fortune to just materialize in places with all my bags by my side. Yet one more reason why I don’t question my love for Star Trek…
Anyway, despite some apparent last minute snafus by Lufthansa, all three of us got on a fully Persian-populated flight. The few foreign flyers stood out mostly by their coloring and by their ineffectual attempts to keep their invisibly drawn circles of personal space, intact. Not that it did them any good since for the most part, Iranians are physically pushy people (with your pardon jan). From experience, I've learned that many Persians don’t give a hoot about your body boundaries. If you’re in their way, they will get you out of it. Getting into our seats was a Farsi-comedy of mistaken chair assignments (not our own as we knew were we were supposed to be) and a mad-dash for overhead compartment space. I could tell the German crew was used to our kind of crowd. “We have noticed that many of you are carrying more than the allowed pieces of luggage onto the plane – where necessary, we shall be forced to send some carry-ons down to the luggage storage.” There was some rapid scuffling in an attempt to hide the chickens better and to camouflage the 3-foot high date tree sapling but, it was all for naught. Before the plane could actually move there were wars fought and lost, a modern day reenactment of the Persians vs. Sparta except it was the Huns who won this round. Call it what you will but to my fascinated eyes, this was Roman Circus at its best.
By contrast, the last segment of our flight itself was fairly uneventful. Right before we landed at 3:00 am Iranian time on the morning of Saturday the 17th, all the women on board were exhorted to cover their heads with the hejab and their bodies with the manto because by “edict of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we were asked to do so.” I will assume that you are not in the know and explain that a hejab can be any triangular piece of cloth or any type of scarf (colored or printed) that covers a woman’s hair. A manto, is a coat that comes to the knees or a little further up and covers your arms up to your wrists. Like most of the women, I waited until the last possible second to wrap my hair in a sheer ivory gauze scarf and to don the prettily embroidered cocoa-brown Indian style tunic I had brought along as my manto.
I’ll stop my retelling at this moment when we were about to enter customs because I’m tired and, the post is already long enough. More later…
Glass screen at Sa'ad Abad, Reza Shah's summer palace