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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Near-Death in Mexico City, Part 4

Click here to go back to Part 3


Her side, continued:

I closed my eyes and clenched Russ’s hand across the aisle and waited.

When we bumped—not crashed--against the ground, a collective exhale of relief and a slightly strangled cheer erupted in the cabin. The pilot’s voice came back over the intercom, but I was too busy looking at all the emergency vehicles, red and blue lights blazing, that flanked each side of the plane as we taxied toward the building to listen to what he was saying. There were ambulances, fire trucks, and police cruisers as far as the eye could see. Even with my limited view of the window, I counted at least thirteen of them.

“I bet it was a terrorist,” Russ’s Bob said knowingly.
I thought Russ was going lean over and punch him in the face, I really did.

The airport helpers wheeled a staircase over to the plane. Many passengers abandoned the tradition of politely waiting for the people ahead of them to leave and instead, they stampeded toward the exits. I’m pretty sure that The Bobs were the first two off the plane.

We were quite a distance from the actual airport building, and the rest of us scurried across the tarmac like a line of little ants, eager to put distance between ourselves and that plane. We entered through an unmarked door to a very unofficial section of the airport that also seemed to be under construction.

Accustomed to leading crowds of people from our years of experience during fire-drills, Russ and I went into action. “Does anyone here speak Spanish?” we asked, and a large fellow bearing a striking resemblance to Mr. Bean raised his hand.

“Follow him!” we said, and everyone sort of fell into line behind us.

The airline had arranged for rooms at an adjacent hotel attached to the airport by a skybridge, but in order to get there, we’d have to pass back through the customs area to properly exit the airport. This task involved navigating through a maze-like series of corridors that would have made BF Skinner proud.

Our herd was becoming anxious and irritable, and it was contagious. Every minute that passed heightened the sense of urgency and desperation. We descended on the customs checkpoint like a herd of something exotic and ferocious. Hyenas? Madagascar hissing cockroaches?

The customs agents wouldn’t let Russ and me exit. “Please. I just want to go home,” Russ pleaded with them, and I was surprised and uncomfortable. I’d never seen him beg before.

The lady who was standing behind me, whom I already disliked for her violation of my personal space, interjected.

“Get out of the way so the rest of us can go. The pilot said if you had duty-free items you needed to return them before you could leave,” she said in a snotty, know-it-all way. "Weren’t you listening?”

Oh-so-slowly, Russ turned to face her.
WASN'T I LISTENING?” he roared.

Now that’s more familiar. Thank goodness.

“Calm down. Don’t let her get to you,” I soothed. “Just ignore her. Stressful situations can turn people into intolerable bitches,” I added, purposely loud enough for her to hear. It was the first time—and possibly the only time—I’ve ever name-called to someone’s face, and it was to a stranger! In public! And profane!

Russ's jaw dropped open, for this was a side of me that neither one of us had ever seen. With his anger toward the meanie-pants sufficiently replaced by shock, I took this opportunity to lead him away from the line and back toward the airport. How on earth were we going to find the exact duty-free shop where we’d purchased the tequila?

We wandered back through the maze and somehow into the main concourse. Duty-free shops lined every hall, and everything took on a surreal fun-house mirror quality.

I don’t know how we found the store, but we did.

Since we were back inside the airport proper, and since we were surrounded by Mexicana booking desks, we realized we should probably try to secure a flight for the following day.

Weary from the evening’s adventures, we approached an agent and asked if she spoke English.

“Hi. We were on the plane that just returned to the airport, so we need to reschedule and book tickets for a flight to Dallas tomorrow, please.”
“No problem. Why did you miss your flight?”

We tried again.

“We didn’t miss the flight. We were on the flight. We were half-way to Dallas. The plane turned around came back.”
“We don’t show a record of that,” she said.



1 comment:

  1. I have been reading since part 1 and i just wanted to say that you are doing a GREAT job telling this story. I have heard it millions of times from both of you and this is by far the best and most suspenseful interpretation I have so far. I have reread everyone from how beautifully written they are. Good job!!