Tag Archives: Airport Adventures

400

On Saturday afternoon I arrived at Cox’s Bazar airport for my flight to Dhaka to apply for a visa extension at the Bangladesh immigration and passport office. The airport metal detector beeped loudly even though I had no metal or dense shoes on, but the security guy just gave me a fake pat down and waved me into the airport anyways.

My backpack rolled through the x-ray machine on the left side of the entrance. Now standing in the crowded check-in hall, the airline staff said there’d be a half hour delay before issuing boarding passes. I heard a banging noise near the entrance, so I looked back. A technician was standing on a wooden table, performing percussive maintenance against the side of the second x-ray machine with a crescent wrench. Two red indicators were brightly lit up with the words “X-RAY ON”. The sides of the machine were open. The technician jumped down, pushed some buttons on a control panel, jumped back up, hit the machine some more with his wrench. X-rays flew through the room, or so I imagined. I kept my distance, hoping I want being irradiated.

The X-ray machine being repaired while turned on in Cox's Bazar Airport, Bangladesh

Boarding passes were issued. I showed mine to the security guy at the entrance to the gates. This second metal detector didn’t beep. The guy stamped my boarding pass with a passed security check stamp, and he said to me “I knew just from looking at you that you’re alright, no problem with you!”

A few minutes later they announced the flight was cancelled due to bad weather in Dhaka; come back in the morning.

Sunday morning I caught my 43rd flight of 2017, which was my 400th flight in my lifetime.

Boarding pass for my 400th flight; I
Selfie time in Cox's Bazar Airport, Bangladesh

That second x-ray machine was still out of service. The weather on arrival in Dhaka was clear and sunny, with a few floodwaters.

Floodwaters in Dhaka, Bangladesh, following heavy rains

Into the underbelly of Entebbe International Airport, Uganda

“Excuse me, are you Mr Anderson?”

“Yes, Chris Anderson, that’s me.”

“Sir, there’s something vibrating in your bag.”

Entebbe International Airport, Uganda

“Uh… I don’t think there are any electronic items in my bag…”

“Well, once you’re through passport control, we’ll go take a look together.”

Five minutes pass. My passport is stamped. And then…

“OK, Mr Anderson, come this way.”

Escorted by the man who had checked in my luggage, plus an airport security lady, we walked down a set of stairs, made a left once we reached the tarmac, and finally a second left turn took us into the underbelly of Entebbe International Airport.

The luggage conveyor belts under the airport were still. The holes in some places and random bits of broken machinery in others testified to years of neglect in this part of the airport, normally hidden from the view of the thousands of passengers flying in and out of this otherwise shiny, modern airport every day.

Ahead and to the left, a huddle of baggage handlers in yellow reflective overalls stood and crouched in various poses, some with arms crossed, others arms akimbo, as one might expect dancers in a Broadway musical to surround the star actor at the end of an action-packed song and dance number. Except, in this case, the star actor was my backpack.

Into the centre of the circle of men I strode, attempting my best to exude friendly, nonthreatening confidence. Sure enough, something was very much vibrating in my bag: the electric razor I use to shave my head. Having not shaved my head in a month, I’d completely forgotten it was even in my bag and, sure enough, it had somehow switched itself on.

Aside from that, the flights from Uganda to Switzerland went unbelievably smoothly.

I Terrorist

So it turns out I’m a terrorist.

Hokay, so: it started snowing in Vancouver before my plane took off, and we lost our place in the queue for de-icing so we ended up behind like 20 other planes, then they ran out of fluid for a bit, so we left over 2 hours late.

Arrived in San Francisco with 15-20 minutes to get from the N. American terminal to the gate for my Singapore Airlines flight. San Fran’s airport is not user friendly: one way the sign said “Gates A1-A10” or something like that, and the other way the sign said “Baggage Pick-Up”… there were only two ways to go.

I chose baggage, and luckily it turns out that in American English, “Baggage Pick-Up” refers to any part of the airport that is not a departure gate of the letter A. So I bust my ass to the other end of the airport, where my gate is, only to find out that my flight has been delayed 5 minutes. The ladies at the check-in counter take my passport and ticket, and upon reading my name both suddenly stop smiling and worry and pity spread over their faces.

They run into a side room and come back after a minute, then tell me things should be ok, but I have to wait a few minutes. “Sir, your name is on the TSA list. The police are on their way to interview you and then you’ll be allowed to go.”

Luckily, San Francisco Metro Police (at least the two I met) were quite nice and after 5 minutes of reading each and every one of my passport stamps and only asking me a couple questions, they let me go.

Run to the gate, where 200 people are lined up for security checks. I bypass all but 30 with a fast pass for the employees lineup. Then I called a security guy and persuaded him to let me skip past the other 30 to the very front since my flight was due to depart within 0-5 minutes.

Bust my ass to the gate, only to find that everyone is waiting – no one has boarded. 5 minutes later, a man announces that “the problem with the lavatory has yet to be remedied, and we will make the next announcement in half an hour.”

Get on the plane, turns out it’s not a direct flight to Singapore as my itinerary says. We stop in Korea for an hour on our way, with 45 minutes consumed by the security check (mandatory, even though we weren’t leaving the airport – and we had to leave the plane for cleaning).

Arrived in Singapore at 2am and was met by 4 kind young Singaporeans who paid for my cab ride to my hostel (I knew them from the internet).

And now I have to let the line of people waiting to use this computer have their turn.