Another shocking experience to me: the whole science of airports.
This was my first international trip which also meant my first encounter with the international terminal of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. It was no different than that of its domestic counterpart except that there is no immigration section in the latter. When I landed at Bankok’s international airport, my whole impression about the airports got changed. My god, I told myself, how can an airport be so big? I felt like roaming around the terminals (and duty frees shops) whole night ignoring the sleep at a day care center inside the airport. (Kiran Nepal and I did that for hours before we were damn tired of moving..) I think that was another shocking experience to me: the whole science of airports. Checking in, finding the luggage, going through the security check (opening shoes in all American airports) and double security check (at least once in an American airport.) and eating in the restaurants inside the airports. The best part of my journey was being exposed to Airport procedures. I took 11 flights in 24 days (from 1.5 hours to 13 hours long) and at one point I was tired of going through all those security checks.
In New York’s JFK airport, I was pushed to the double security check section where a white woman was standing with her family. It didn’t take more than a minute for the security man to clear me from the desk. As I was heading towards the boarding area, the woman approached me and asked, “Do you also carry a foreign passport?”
“Yes,” I said. “Why?”
“Hum..that’s why they sent us for double security check. I too carry an European passport.”
Her daughter was standing on her side but I had no time to chat with the ladies as I was getting late to catch my flight to Detroit.
While landing at Los Angeles airport, still in the sky, I saw another flying plane. That was my first experience and that was terrific. We have very thin air traffic in Nepal and in a busy sky near LA airport that was normal: to spot a flying plane from another. To my utter surprise, I saw the same scene in Nepal too after returning from the U.S. I was returning from Dhangadi and I saw another twin otter flying on my side (somewhere above Dhading). That was terrific too.
And in Tokyo, while returning, I faced similar circumstance of being double checked by security guards. I hurriedly reached at the boarding point; about 15 minutes ahead of the schedule. Knowing that I had some time, I went to the rest room, came back and started waiting for the flight. People started boarding into the flight for Bangkok and I decided to go at last because there was no meaning of standing in the queue. I showed the boarding pass and as I was about the move towards the plane, a female security guard invited me for the check up. “Excuse me sir,” she said. “Can I see your passport?”
“Of course,” I replied. “You can see everything that you want to see.”
And she did just that. She started looking into my bags (one that had my laptop and the other that was full of newspapers). It was really irritating. I was wondering what the hell made her suspicious toward me. I wasn’t dressing up properly, I concluded. I was wearing a not-so-clean UWB t-shirt along with a rugged trouser. I was tired and pale. I didn’t look like a decent business traveler. But I hardly care about my dress up and look. I was wearing formals even in so called formal meetings and conferences in the US. I wasn’t wearing tie and my t-shirt grabbed the attention in the conclave and other meetings as well. That was a good form of advertisement of UWB and creating awareness about Nepali democracy among the international audiences as well. At least 15 people wanted to buy the t-shirt including some editors but I told them that the garment wasn’t for sale at the moment.
Okay, coming back to Naruta (Tokyo) airport. Even if I wasn’t dressing well, I wasn’t a security threat for sure. But the woman even ‘requested’ me to take off my shoes so that, I guess, she could inspect my socks. And she got more than what she wanted to see. I had a hole in my right sock and toe was out. “Oh..,” she said in an embarrassing tone. And I said to myself “But you deserve to see this, don’t you?”
That was the moment of satisfaction for me.