I feel so…. Tall?

As you know, I was on a visa run to Dubai for the night. I came back to Muscat this morning, and almost did not make it back.

It all started when I made my flight booking for the run. I booked through Oman Air and assumed that I would be traveling through the regular route of ticketing with Oman Air in both Muscat leaving, and Dubai returning. You know what they say about assuming. Such was the case!

Today, when I’m checking out, a shuttle had been arranged and they asked which airline, so I assumed it was Oman Air which is who the booking was through.
Not the case..

I get to Terminal 1 of the Dubai airport for the flight in plenty of time.. about 2 hours. I make it through the security checkpoint with no problems. I go over to the ticket desk and no one is there. I figure that maybe they are running late. So I wait about 10 minutes.. Still no ticket agent. I go look at the departures wall and look for my flight. There’s no flight at 8:30 to Muscat.

Hmm… Houston? We have a problem.

I go back out through security, and ask the nearest ‘blue shirt’ person where the Oman Air agent is. ‘Blue Shirt’ are people that are there to help. The back of their shirt says so. She points in the general direction of the ticked agent. I go to the only agent available outside the ticketing area and I tell him that I’m confused. I show him my e-ticket indicating my flight and ask him if I’m in the right place as there are no Oman Air agents to be seen. He says that the flight is an Emirates flight and I need to go to Terminal 3.

I’m in Terminal 1.

So I ask the gentleman how do I get to Terminal 3? He tells me there is a shuttle, it’s out in the middle lane. Just ask someone were it is, they will show you.

I thank him for his time and head outside to the middle lane. There are busses… big busses in the middle lane. Bigger than I would have thought for a shuttle.

I ask one of the drivers if this was the shuttle to Terminal 3? He tells me no, and points in the direction of traffic, and says it’s on the other side of that construction (yes… it’s all torn apart. they are making it better). So I walk back to the safer side of the sidewalk and follow the traffic, and I see what looks like a bus stop. I also see another man walking my way and he has an airport ID. I ask him if that is the stop for the Terminal 3 shuttle, and he tells me that it is. I ask how often it runs, and he tells me that at this time of day, probably every 25 to 30 minutes.

It’s now 7am. I still have time, but it will be close.

I start to head back to the middle lane, and the shuttle arrives! I figure ‘I’m in luck!’ I poke my head in the door and confirm that this is the shuttle. It is! I hop on, along with several other people, Their baggage is placed in the back end of the bus somehow, by another person. Then it’s off to Terminal 3!

10 minutes later, we arrive at Terminal 3. I go in. It’s Emirates new terminal and very classy (i.e. big and automated). There is no security checkpoint like in Terminal 1. I find a person standing near an entrance of ticket agents, show him my ticket and ask where I need to go. He asks me if I checked in online? I tell him no, and he tells me that I can use the self check in. The self check in is like some of the self check out’s at stores.

I went up and put in my ticket number with the help of my new friend (who walked up to greet me as I walked over to the ‘self’ check in), the pseudo ticket agent who is there to help people like me that don’t understand this new fangled stuff. I key in my ticket number. The machine, rather than coming back with my printed boarding pass, comes back and says that there is no record of a ticket for that number. I put in the other number that is on the e-ticket I have in my hand. It tells me the same thing. We (the pseudo ticket agent and myself) scratch our heads. The pseudo ticket agent takes my e-ticket and he wanders over to another pseudo ticket agent, who is there to help those of us that have difficulty understanding how these new fangled things work. They talk a bit and decide that I need to go see the ticket agent on the other side of the check in area (pointing in the general direction of ‘yonder’). So I wander over to the real ticket agent, and he checks my e-ticket, keys in the ticket number and tells me there is no record. I consider this interesting as he’s holding my printed e-ticket in his hand. I could have told him this based on my recent experience with the automated check in system. He tapped some keys on the terminal, tapped some more, and more. It’s now 7:30, and I’m beginning to wonder if I’m going to make my flight or not?

Finally, I get my boarding pass and have 30 minutes to get to gate 136. In Terminal 1. Where I just came from.

Off I go, through passport control, and up to the gates. I’m standing in front of gate 230. The sign points to the right for gate 136, so I head off in that direction. I walk, and I walk, and I walk some more. I can tell I’m getting close, because I see the old Terminal 1 up ahead, and it’s now 10 till 8. The gates close 30 minutes before departure.

I see gate 135 on the left, and gate 134 on the right. Hmm…. Houston? We have another problem.

Where the hell is 136???

I look back the way I came. Did I miss an extra gate somewhere? I’m confused. I walk toward 134 and there is a walkway in between 132 and 134. I look down there and it says gates 136 to 140! OK! Off I go. I finally find gate 136, and there is a crowd waiting to get checked in for the flight. It’s mostly Philippine women. Now if you google Philippine women, you get a bevy of beautiful buxom women. These were not those women. These women range in height from 4’3″ to 4’6″ (yes.. that small.). There were also Indian men (that have no concept of ‘keeping the queue’). It is rather frustrating though and I wonder if they know just how rude it is?

I get checked in, and I set myself right down in an empty seat. Two minutes after I sit down, the gate agents come over the PA tell us to ‘Proceed to the boarding area’. I thought I was in the boarding area, but, no! So we go through a set of double doors and down ramps. All the way to the ground (where they park the planes). Now, we had to board a bus, or 5 to be exact. I was in the 3rd bus, with the short Philippine women (no jokes about riding the ‘short bus’), and we were being driven to the plane. So we are passing the gates and the number are getting lower. Gate number 106, 104, 102, and…. the end of the terminal building. We go through the tunnel, come out the other side. I’m getting that confused feeling again, but I notice that everyone else must have done this before, so I wasn’t so worried. Not just yet anyway. We drove past the air cargo area, the flight ops center, and the engineering building. We kept driving, till we got to the end of the airport property, where there was a gate and a public street in front of us. I thought we were driving to Muscat! W turned to the right, just inside the fence and followed it. We turned right again towards 8 Emirates airplanes. Yipppeee! We are flying after all! These planes are at least half a mile from the terminal, maybe more.

We have to wait till bus two gets on the plane before we are allowed off the bus. Then it’s up the stairs to board the plane (no jetway this far away from the terminal). I get to my seat and buckle in. We wait, and more people get on the plane, and we are still waiting. It’s now 8:40, and the captain comes over the PA and tells us that we are waiting for more people. He says they are in transit and will be coming aboard within 10 minutes. More people get on the plane. About 10 minutes later, more people. There was 1 empty seat. I figure they could have doubled up the little women, and got a few more people on. The flight attendants close the doors and we take off at 10 after 9. I was thinking, there’s a lot of Philippine women, and lots of Indians. Am I on the flight to Muscat? it’s going to be fun at passport control when we get there. I’ll be standing in line for an hour, but at least I’ll be able to see way ahead of me.

I nodded off listening to my music (thank goodness my loving wife bought me an iPod for Christmas). I missed breakfast, both in the terminal and on the plane. No matter, I’ll pick up something in Muscat. I had some time to kill and figured I’d catch a taxi to the mall.

We arrive in Muscat, get off the plane and I’m in the second bus. I walk to passport control and up to the next available agent (no one was in line, to my surprise). I go out to the taxi stand and pay for a taxi to the mall. It’s only 10am and I have 4 hours till I need to be back to the airport for my flight to the field. So I wander around the mall, looking at shops, hoping to find something for my wife.

I’m also hoping that some of the restaurants will open around 11 so I can grab a bite to eat.

I’ve forgotten one very important thing. It’s Ramadan. Muslim’s fast between dawn and dusk, and I’m in a Muslim country. The restaurants are not going to open till long after I leave for the field. It’s also not the time to try and find jewelry for some reason. The prices seem to be much higher than they were a month ago. I wander around some more.

One of the guys at camp wanted me to see if I could find a hot air popcorn popper. He’s roasting his coffee beans with one. I head into the shop that handles electronics and appliances. I figure that would be my best bet. I look for the popper. No luck in finding one, although if he had asked for an espresso machine, would not have been a problem. I ask the clerk if they have a hot air popcorn popper. He looks at me with that fairly familiar ‘Doe in the Headlights’ look. I try to explain. He tells me that I want a microwave. I say no, a popcorn popper. He says, that popcorn is popped in a microwave. I try to explain more. This popcorn come in a jar, and you put a hand full in the popper, and turn it on…. Blank stare. It’s no use explaining any more. I thank him for is time, and head to Borders book store.

No, I don’t expect to find a popper at the book store, but I do seem to be low on small bills for the taxi back to the airport. I buy a magazine (Stuff) and wander off to find a taxi.

Mission accomplished, and back to the airport. It’s about 12:30 and my stomach is growling. So much so that the taxi driver asks if I’m ok. I tell him yes, and that I’ve missed the morning meal so I’m just a little more hungry than usual. He asks if I’m Muslim, to which I answer no. He asks if I’m fasting. I tell him that it was not the original plan, but I seem to be fasting today. He seems a little shocked that a western ex pat would be fasting alongside Muslims. I let it go.

I got through the check in security and went to the ticket window. The window opens in about 15 minutes, which really means 30 to 40. I got my boarding pass and went through another security scan then to the concourse, which has FOOD!!!

All was set right with the world again and I was safely on my way back to camp. It was a great trip, filled with excitement and adventure!

Yeah, right!

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