For the Writers Island prompt "flight," there was a time in my life when I was on a plane practically every week...a hectic, thrilling and unpredictable time when it sometimes seemed I took planes almost like other people took taxis.
Most of those flights were thankfully, rather uneventful. But there was one trip when the police wouldn't let me out of the airport in Kuwait. Seems the consul at the Kuwait Embassy in Amman, Jordan had deliberately left an essential stamp off my visa, because I politely spurned his advances. As I was wearing a dress and high heels, the police jumped to the conclusion that I must be some rich man's personal plaything. Luckily, an executive for Kuwait Airways was meeting me at the airport and raised a ruckus until they let me pass.
Another time I got on a plane in an Arab country and prayed for it to hurry and take off, before guards tried to arrest me for something I wrote that angered the government - to the point the magazine in which my article appeared was confiscated! When the plane finally lifted off the ground, I breathed a huge sign of relief, certain I'd escaped hours of questioning - and perhaps worse - about my confidential sources.
In those days airport officials were very suspicious of a young woman traveling on her own, even if one did carry proper international press credentials. In one Middle Eastern airport, the customs officers searching my bags - and me - were so intrusive, I cursed them in Arabic (I was young) and threatened to phone their foreign minister. They were shocked that an American girl was speaking Arabic to them - never mind what I'd said - and immediately apologised and became very solicitious.
Once flying from London to Amman, I was bringing back extra luggage for my friend Lindsay, who worked at an international school. Her brother had met me in London with two suitcases jammed with clothes, videos, books and treats from home. So the airline confiscated my passport, told me I couldn't leave the airport until I paid the excess baggage fee and informed me they were seizing the luggage. Of course, I was more than a little annoyed - this was my thanks for doing a favour for a friend - but I decided the airline really couldn't do much to me.
Near the end of the flight, I persuaded a male flight attendant to give me my passport. He said, "OK, but you'll have to leave those extra suitcases at the airport." As the baggage carousel came around, there were no guards to be seen. So I grabbed my bags and Lindsay's and sailed into a waiting taxi. The next day, the airline created quite the kerfuffle about me "absconding" with the extra bags, but a Jordanian friend who worked for the airline resolved the problem so Lindsay didn't have to pay a fine.
Flying from Amman to New York, I was seated in business class and a group of tourists kept asking for my autograph. Seems they had me confused with a Canadian actress. I was so ill with food poisoning, I'd barely been able to board the plane. I didn't feel like repeatedly explaining, "Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not her!" Finally a flight attendant took pity on me and moved me to a quiet corner in first class.
Then there were all those flights when I was giddy with excitement, flying into the arms of a man I loved - or tearful farewells, as each of us boarded planes going in opposite directions. I have many, many travel stories which I will save for an upcoming book.
These days I hate flying, particularly the trans-Atlantic flights. I do everything possible to distract myself from the fact that I'm on a plane - reading, writing, watching a film, listening to music, chatting with my fellow passengers - anything to make the time pass without thinking about being in a plane. Beginning in May, I have nine flights coming up - and as much as I'm looking forward to seeing my daughter and friends at the other end of the flights, I regard the actual travel part as something that must be endured.
What about you? What's your best or worst air travel story?
Lehnert and Landrock photo, Tunis, early 20th-century