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Location:Texas, USA Naturalized US Citizen of Irish extract -   Fixed Wing and Helo trucker.Interests: "The Absurdity of Man". I am a proud supporter of Blarney, Nonsense, and Hooey. I enjoy being a chopper jockey, and trying to figure the world, people and belief systems out. I'm just not very good at it, so it keeps me real busy. I scribble, blog, run this website, mess with rental houses, ride motorbikes, and read as much as I can. I went solo 44 years ago, and I like to say I'm gonna get me a real job one day. When I grow up. ("but not just yet, Lord, not just yet") For my aviation scribbles see enjoy! I wish you Peace in your Life. May you always walk with the sun on your face, and a breeze ruffling your hair. And may you cherish a quiet wonder for our awesome Universe. Life isn't always good. But it is always fascinating. Never quit.
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One Midnight in the Departure Hall

One Midnight in the Departure Hall

Luanda Airport, Angola

       Some stories are better left untold.
I've been telling myself that about this story for years. However, it's like a bed bug. It keeps reminding you that it's around.  You can pretend all you like, but it's there, and it likes biting you.
       So I wrote it up, with the intention of exorcising it. Letting it molder away on some old hard drive. Like the porn stories, and the Anti- Big Government rants. Oh, and my how-to-build-a pocket-nuclear-bomb manual. None of that can ever see the light of day. People might lock me up. So this story, this better left untold story, is firmly destined for the same moldy old hard disc.

     It all started with my better half, who is a kind, sentimental lady, with a big heart, and who worries a lot about her Irishman, who gets himself into all sorts of troubles, usually by the simple methodology of opening his mouth. When silence would have been golden. So, at some stage, this caring lady, with the warm heart, bought me a Teddy Bear. Called, after some mind blowing flash of creative originality, "Teddy".  So, I owned a Teddy Bear. I was a grown man, but it's okay, I'm sure. To own a Teddy Bear. Lots of people own Teddy Bears, right? I mean, it's not the take them to bed and cuddle yourself to sleep type Teddy Bear, now is it? It's just a symbol of affection between two partners. Often accompanied with a box of chocolates, right? No big deal. Really.
      Until... she decides that you need to take Teddy with you on your globe trotting expeditions.

      Your face falls a little at the thought of Teddy accompanying you to Man only male preserves like Taiwanese tuna boats and rough old hotels in far off, rugged places. But she says that she wants you to take Teddy to "remind you of her".  Oh. There's no wiggle room there. She, a truly remarkable lady, of whom you think the world, has A)  bought  you a Teddy Bear, and B) has told you to take him with you on your travels, so that you think of her every time you look at Teddy. No, there is no way out of that one. Believe me, you smile (whilst wincing internally) and agree of course to the lady's request.
     Years went by. Teddy accompanied me everywhere. Africa, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Philippines, Hong Kong... Teddy came along in my suit case, and was always duly propped up in whatever flea bitten hotel room I got to stay in. I can't say I always thought of Brenda every time I looked at Teddy, but I often did. And who owns a bear that has traveled all around the world, for years? Not many people.  In this manner, normality set in. I carried a Teddy Bear in my suitcase. A cuddly, furry, honest-to-goodness, Teddy. Bear.

      I was working in Africa. Flying helicopters. Angola. Four weeks on and four weeks off.  The actual commute was a pain. The local flight (terrifying) on an ancient, beaten up Boeing 727. Up to Luanda. (Capital of Angola). Then the connecting flight to Paris. Then connecting from there to Houston. Then on to Lafayette, Louisiana.  A long, boring, tedious journey.  Relieved once in a while by something weird. Like the blind drunk Scotsman who threw up all over me, shortly after take-off to Paris.  He did apologize. I think so, anyway. It was so slurred, I could hardly make it out. I think he said "suh-suh-sorry". Then again, he might have said "Suh-suh-serves you right".  Because he could have been one of the many Scot Oil and Gas workers, who flew on my helicopter all the time. Maybe he was just getting his own back, who knows.  Amazing how the smell of vomit wafting from you causes a neat empty circle to form around you in any crowd.  If I could market a perfume with that odor, it could be useful in certain circumstances.  In a queue at the cinema, perhaps. Or if Buggerlips behind you at the Opera was loudly consuming popcorn and pickles. You know, you could market it with catchy slogans:
     "make your own empty circle around you?"  
     " Guaranteed results or your vomit smell refunded?"
I'm just saying... Anyway, there I was, late at night, tired as hell, desperate to go home. In the departure hall at Luanda Airport. Darkest Africa. No picnic, let me tell you. It's a rough old building. Poor or non-existent air conditioning, Charles Dickensian toilets, rough floors, and jam packed solid with heaving, sweating, impatient humanity. We wanna go HOME....  People everywhere.  I'm in another interminable queue. At the end of this particular queue is an Angolan gentleman, in some kind of uniform. They just love their uniforms. And they love their Authority. They can ask the White Man for his Passport. Anytime they like. And everybody asks for it. I have a feeling it makes them feel important. Pointless, but satisfying. A bit like mastur..., oh, never mind. I once was asked for my passport five times in the space of four minutes. I shuffled no more than thirty yards in this slow moving snake of pissed orf humanity, than I ran into yet another stocky little Angolan, who got right in my face and barked out the usual, loud:
There's no: "Please may I see your passport, Sir?"    
(Which, translated,  actually means: "Gimme your fuk'n passport or you are gonna be here for HOURS, schmuckface!")   (but at least in America they dress it up, nicely). Nope, in Angola all you get is the barked command:
It gets wearying. Like "What the FFFFF are you guys looking for!!???"   And, "What do YOU think YOU are gonna find in my passport that your FOUR buddies back there did NOT???"  But you're tired, and you just want to get to your destination, so you meekly and obediently hand over your passport, and the Angolan thumbs through it like he knows exactly how to spot a dangerous, international gun and dope running fiend wanted by Interpol and the Holy Pope in Rome. Sheez...  This one day I deliberately handed my passport to him upside down. Upside - down. And you know what? He just leafed through it like they all did. Page after page. Until he came to my photo. Then he studied it, carefully. You could tell he was on to me. "Ha! I've got YOU figured out, Mister Dangerous International Gun Running and Sex Trafficking Mastermind!" He fixed me with a stare that said it all:  
       " ON to you...!"
I for my part carefully set my features to innocent, neutral and expressionless. I'm pretty good at that, after all the practice I've had. (Twenty plus years of marriage and hiding the Whiskey teaches you a lot.)  The Angolan's gaze went from me to the upside down photo. Back to me. Back to the photo. Then, very slowly, he turned my passport right side up. There. And gave it back to me. The Mastermind. He had me all figured out.

      Of course, some Angolan attitudes towards other people's passports could be problematic.  Thus, they would collect ALL passports when we arrived at our work station at Cabinda. Nobody liked it. But that was the system. You arrive at the Gulag, you are surrounded by barbed wire and mine fields (seriously, yes) and vestiges of a nasty recent civil war, and then they impound everybody's passports. You -hopefully- get yours back the day before you are supposed to travel. Except my buddy. They couldn't find his. Initially they said they had never got it. He got pretty excited. It was the system. It had been that way for years. They take your passport. Nobody gets to keep theirs. Not if you want to work in Angola. Now his return date home was put back a week (he was hopping) because of no passport. With two days to go for his delayed departure date, they had STILL not found his passport. My buddy was constantly hanging out at the camp office responsible for returning our passports. His sense of humor had long since evaporated. He was heated. The Angolans were heated. The bosses were involved. Then... he happened to lean over the counter. And notice that one of the desks had obviously been at an angle on the crude floor. Some genius had propped a support under one of the desk corners. The crumpled wedge was the same color as an American passport. He looked harder. It WAS an American passport. He kicked up a fuss. The wedge was retrieved and examined. Yep, it sure was an American passport. What was more, it was HIS passport...

      So when I finally got to the head of this particular queue at Luanda Airport that midnight, I was tired, bone weary, home sick, fed up with officialdom, and aching to feel the wheels lift off the War scarred Angolan runway.  Now I was faced with yet another Angolan. In uniform. With Authority. That power gleam in their eye.
I gave it to him, right side up.  I meekly put my suitcase on the table in front of him. It had already been examined and poked through two thousand seven hundred and thirteen times.  But you never know, I could be hiding a landmine in there. As it turned out, I was.  
I passed the Passport inspection. One step closer to HOME.  Next he opened my suitcase. And rifled through my stuff the way they do. Behind me, a long queue of my regular passengers. Scots, Americans, Dutch, English.... All crammed on top of me, in that cramped, hot, stuff, smelly hell-hole.
He was very thorough. Then... BOOM! Landmine.
It happened in a nano second. I saw the calamity unfolding. I remember I thought:
      "No! NO! Not the frickin' TEDDY BEAR!??"    
He had retrieved Teddy. Holding Mama's sentimental effigy gingerly by the paws, he raised it high up in the air, so he was studying it at arm's length, looking up at it. The whole hall could see it. Half a million ex-pats, a zillion Angolans, and the airport cat could see it. The blood drained from my face.
       "WHAT IS THIS?"
He posed the questions with no trace of amusement. He was dead serious. What was it? Errr.....
Behind me, guffaws and snickers. People tapping buddies on the shoulders. (Hey! Check out the Pilot's Teddy! Is that Francis? Yep! You like his Teddy? SURE... We LOVE it...)
My mind was grappling with the question. What was it? Errrr...
(as softly as possible) "It's a Teddy Bear..."
Conversations were dying away. We were the undisputed center of attention for twenty three million people. I felt this shrinking feeling, kind of a disappearing act into my boots. This couldn't get any worse.
Yes, it could. He had to ask, in a booming voice.
        "IS IT YOURS....?"
(laughter, cat calls, cheers, foot stamping)
(Oh, FFFFFFFFFF) (What do I say to that????) (If I say "No", I open myself up to more questions...)
(as softly as possible)  (squeaking)   "Errrr... yes..."
(laughter, cat calls, cheers, foot stomping, camera flashes going off...)

*           *             *               *                  *

        Teddy, I can tell you, officially went into retirement after that journey. It was his last Intercontinental globe trotting deal. He occupies a fine place of honor in the house, and his wise, furry face has seen a lot that other ordinary Teddy Bears will never see.
Or experience. Or hear.
Including the entire, crowded, departure hall at Luanda Airport, Angola, wildly clapping-cheering-whistling, one horrible midnight, many years ago.

*           *              *                *               *

      Some stories... are better left untold.
I've been telling myself that about this story for years. However, it's like a bed bug. It keeps reminding you that it's around.  You can pretend all you like, but it's there, and it likes biting you.
So I wrote it up, with the intention of exorcising it. Letting it molder away on some old hard drive. Like the porn stories, and the Anti- Big Government rants. Oh, and my how-to-build-a pocket-nuclear-bomb manual. None of that can ever see the light of day. People might lock me up. So this story, this better left untold story, is firmly destined for the same moldy old hard disc.

Francis Meyrick

PS:  so there I was, one day, flying along, happily, over the Gulf of Mexico, many years after this story first appeared on the InterPlague. A voice called me on the FM. "Hey Francis!"  I could hear laughter in the background. We want to ask you somewhat! "Sure!", I replied, "What's up!" Something was going on. That I could sense...
"We wanted to ask you, did you bring Teddy along...?"



Last edited by Francis Meyrick on February 18, 2014, 1:01 pm
We little humans, hurtling through the Universe on our tiny, pale blue dot, will find few answers to Life's great mysteries. But we should at least find many of the questions. To write is to ask. To seek. To grope. With humility, and humor. Peace.
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