3 min

April 3
Up in the Air

It was an early morning when I checked out from the Ibis hotel and the taxi pulled up in front. The hotel concierge put my luggage in the trunk of the taxi, opened the passenger back door and said, “Have a nice trip sir!” Then we drove to Queen Alia International Airport. The words remained echoing in my head while looking through the window at white stone facades of building, homes, shops, reading signs and gazing at mountains, and valleys as they pass fast.

“Amman is nice!” the taxi driver said.

“Indeed”, I nodded.

With that the cabbie started a dialogue. Assessing the Arabic accent from my response, he launched into a series of questions about me.

“Here we go again”, I am thinking – repeat the same lecture.

Every time someone asked me where I am from, I feel I have to give a speech entitled: “Assyrian, Christian, Iraqi, living in America”.

As we engaged in back and forth questions and answers, he pulled up to a small coffee shop on the road and ordered us both some Arabic coffee.

Then before long, the usual happened – the dialogue switched to politics. He was a Palestinian-Jordanian (almost impossible to meet a Jordanian born taxi driver). He started by telling me a story about an Iraqi guy who rode with him one day and had blamed the Palestinians for all the suicide bombings in Iraq. The driver defended that argument and warned the Iraqi guy to never say that again in Jordanian and reminded him that he was a guest in the country. Making such accusations in front of someone else can get him in deep trouble with the security police in Jordan, he had said. I was wondering if the driver was warning me, lecturing me about politics, or correcting me in case I had the same belief.

Then to no surprise, the driver in turn blamed Israel for all the chaos in the Arab nations starting with Iraq. That is where I turned my face to him and said, “No!…Why don’t you say it is the Saudis and their Wahhabism belief?”

With assertive tone I continued, “Saudis have the greatest production line of terrorism from the Wahhabi factory not only in the Arab countries, but in the entire world!” With that, I ended the political conversation.

The Dead Sea road signs broke the silence again as it passed us. Apparently he wanted to start another lesson, by educating me on the benefits of the Dead Sea salt, and, he said, if I liked, he could stop by a shop along the road so I could buy some. It seems he had setup some kickback deal.

We pulled up to the new Queen Alia airport. It was clean and beautiful with natural looking cement color to resemble the environment around. I checked in to my flight and waited with heart filled with excitement to fly to Chicago. In 12 and half hours, I was going to meet my family and celebrate Easter for the first time after three years with them.

I had learned that Royal Jordanian introduced the new 787 Boeing Dreamliner in their fleet. I was looking forward to riding in that plane. I had paid $100 extra at the ticket counter to get an exit seat. As I was walking through the tunnel, I stopped and took a picture of the plane. With a smile and welcome-aboard-sir greeting followed by hand sign to the right then to the left by the flight attendant; I headed to G25 Exit-Aisle seat.

My three-day excitement started to wear off. The seat was tight. The two seats to my right were empty. As we were taxing to the runway, people started to eye the seats and waving their hands indicating their desire to come and sit. I ignored them.

After take off, I pulled out my iPad and started to read. As I continued reading for the next six hours of the flight, a couple of people came and tried to sit but were instructed to go back to their seats. Then the flight attendant brought one person. I complained to the flight attendant and asked to be re-funded $100. The passenger told me that she couldn’t sit there because there was a non-stop crying babe next to her seat and she would not be able to tolerate a crying babe during the entire duration of the flight.

My irritation started to increase as well. I was getting the smell of the nearby bathroom every time someone used it and people were crowding into the area waiting their turns to use the bathroom.

My frustration was amplified to complete aggravation. It was not only from the bad smell, but also by 12 and half hours or non-stop crying babies.

There were many pregnant women on the flight. It looks they were going to deliver their babies in America to grant them U.S. Citizenship, I noticed this trend 20 years ago from my first flight to America.

I spent most of the flight reading with full aggravation and frustration. My past two days of excitement and anticipation of arriving to see my family in Chicago was gone. It was one of the worst 12 and half hours – a disastrous flight.

Royal Jordanian is famous for having a non-stop-crying-babies-flights.

After landing in Chicago and meeting my family, I tweeted Royal Jordanian with: “It was one of the worst flight from Amman to Chicago. Full of 12.5 hours of crying babies. Never use again”

RJ replied back with apology and promised to look into the matter.

I am planning to upgrade to an Exit seat again on the way back and film some of the moments. I am sure; I will relive the same bad experience. But this time I am thinking maybe I share the video.


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