So, time for a change of look. I’ve grown weary of the oh-so-hip, minimalist, serious black garb of this blog, god only knows why I chose something so lifeless to envelope a document of my life. Today begins a short experiment in differing themes, a quest to find something more closely connecting to my current and desired outlooks on existence. Something a bit cheerier to be blunt. Feedback welcomed, if I hit on something you like then let me know.
That aside, I’m sitting in Kuwait International Airport as I type this and I’ve just got to relate an incident of a few hours ago, one which undoubtedly makes me a Bad Man but which, I hope, will raise a laugh in anyone having a bad day. I’ve never been to the Middle East before so I’m still finding it a little odd – not unsettling at all, merely odd – to suddenly find myself immersed in Islam, surrounded by Arabic people and able to see all the way to the horizon, an uninterrupted, mirror-smooth landscape of sand, sand and more sand. To complete the culture shock, Wednesday was Haji, the Islamic day of pilgrimage to Mecca, and accordingly there’s a steady stream of returning devotees clad in their finest Muslim garb.
For someone accustomed to the sights and sounds of small-town Thailand it’s just… odd.
So I found myself sitting on a bench in the remarkably poorly-appointed transit area, seemingly the only spot in the building capable of receiving free wireless (and, naturally, out of reach of a power outlet). At this time in the morning the building was sparsely populated, the odd security official or shop clerk making their rounds but few fellow passengers. My only companion on the bench was a Kuwaiti fellow, one whom I guessed was a tad nervous about flying given the amount of fidgeting he was engaged in – tapping feet, wringing hands, looking every which way. It was almost a relief when he signalled to me to look after his rucksack while he went to the bathroom.
Minutes passed, I thought nothing of it. Random, aimless websurfing has an insidious, evil way of sucking time and diverting attention from your surroundings entirely, I was aware of very little going on around me. One thing I did tune into was the frequently amusing, automated PA announcements, the highlight remaining, “Would all passengers please turn off all electrical appliances and lights when leaving the house. Thank you.”
More time passed, the PA the only voice I was aware of, when a chill ran through my bones. “We would like to remind all passengers not to leave any luggage unattended. Any unattended luggage will be treated as suspicious and may be destroyed.”
Painfully slowly, my head turned to the seat beside me and the rucksack it accommodated, and I swear the rucksack stared back. Why was it bulging out like that? What on earth had he packed in there? Was it as big as that when he left? How long was it now, ten minutes? Why had he been so nervous. Where was he… oh shit. “Radicalise the moderates.” The phrase from the idiotic wannabe cell-leader in Chris Morris’s hilarious Four Lions took on a sinister tone and echoed around my head, taunting me. Days after Haji, hundreds of Muslims returning home after their pilgrimage, a soon-to-be-crowded arrivals hall in Kuwait City, whose symbolism from the first Gulf War certainly didn’t escape me. I didn’t even get as far as thinking “What the fuck do I do?” No, my brain skipped the whole ‘solutions’ flim-flam and went straight for “Well, at least I’m right next to it, If it blows I’ll not know anything about it.”
No sooner had that ridiculous, cowardly, fatalistic thought scrambled through my cranium than my erstwhile companion rematerialised beside me, sitting down as though nothing had happened, as though our lives hadn’t been hanging in the balance, and re-commenced Operation Fidget. I have never, ever felt so stupid. Not a soul had the slightest inkling of the drama which had unfolded in my consciousness just moments before but still I wanted to shrink out of sight of everyone. I’m not an idiot, I know I’m more likely to get struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist. I’m not a racist either, and normally pride myself on not prejudging people based on appearance unless they’re trendy fuckwits in designer clothes. Somehow though, after a hard couple of weeks, a lot of travel and precious little sleep, my normal senses collapsed and abandoned me in front of the seemingly obvious conclusion – I was about to get blown up by a rucksack which was, as I discovered minutes later, apparently stuffed with duty-free chocolates…