A No-Nonsense Teenage Trip From Plane To Plane

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story of teenager's trip with father to have an operation done in Germany

Submitted: January 06, 2013

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Submitted: January 06, 2013



Day 1


Cairo Airport


What could be worse for a forty five year old father than to spend time with his teenage seventeen year old son? None. I finally got the chance to travel with my son alone. Like any father I felt it a great opportunity to finally communicate with him at the level of men. Now, we would have no holds barred. I can talk to him about life, women, sex, his future prospects and anything else that came to our minds. We would have fun, intellectual discussions, male bonding and this would be a trip to remember. It sure was! No sooner had I been alone with him in the airport and we finalized the boarding passes, baggage check-in, passport check then we were alone. I had a specific routine about airports. I like to take my time to pass the time. At some time in the past when I had less money, I couldn’t afford to sit somewhere in any airport and have a cup of coffee. I remember when I used to look at the luscious wrappings of the sandwiches that glared at me, I would calculate what little money I had and see if it would fit into my budget. It usually didn’t. That is why I divided my time in any airport between window shopping, walking between my departure gate, duty-free shops and restaurants. It was a time I enjoyed.  But on this trip, with a reversal of fortune, I had enough money. I had enough money to spend on me and on him. I was ready to reap my revenge on those good old days when I didn’t have enough money to grab the various ethnic gourmet foods available and store it into my stomach. Little did I know that when the right time came, the companion of choice would not share my zeal.

Our flight was a morning flight so I wanted to enjoy a breakfast that would compensate for those good old days when even getting to have one of those bloated sandwiches was a miracle. My son always had food on his mind so I thought that this would be an invitation he would find hard to refuse. To my surprise, his answer was no. I tried to entice him with the attractive sights and smells but he still said that he was not hungry. That didn’t bruise me much. And, hey, if we’re going to save some pennies, then all the better. So, I cruised this eye-shaped string of restaurants looking for the right breakfast to have. There were some choices. Then this coffee shop stood out among the rest. It offered a packaged breakfast in three categories. The first category was the cheapest with the least number of food items involved and the third was the most expensive with a select seductive entrée. I had money and it was high time that I damn well enjoy it! So I went for the most expensive one.

Now that I had my order, it was time to pay attention to my son. I was berated by my older brothers, his uncles, whom he went to visit in Toronto, for not spending enough time with him. It was tough thing for me to do as I have to flit from one part-time job to another to make ends meet. After my father had died and left me a bit of money, life became a more comfortable. Money makes life a bit more comfortable but it does not make it that easy, not in everything. It certainly doesn’t make it easier when it comes to trying to reach your son. For some fathers, reaching the deep end of space is more achievable than reaching the deep ends of your teenage son’s brain. As we waited for my breakfast to arrive and we were perched on our seats, I thought this might be a good time to start a conversation. As I was about to talk with him, he got his smartphone in my face, put on the wireless headphones and blocked himself out from the outside communicating world. He was playing some game in which a chic like figure was chasing what seemed like coins. There I sat, frustrated, waiting for a word to pass his lips to mine. I was eager to talk. I was eager to probe his mind and scoop his problems. This complete shutdown can be a real turn off. And just to make my life complete, my rich buffet breakfast arrived. In this day and age they should change “a picture is worth a thousand words” to “a picture gives birth to a sucker every minute”. My select items were not more than the size of morsels of bread at best all collected on one platter. The biggest item in that whole breakfast was the diameter of the cup of tea that was complementary with that breakfast. With no communication afoot, a sour taste in my mouth and the first drop of money bled on this bizarre trip we moved he and I to the departure gate.

As much as I tried to entice him that we browse around the shops just to kill the time, he just would not budge. Every time I tried to tell him to come and take a look at this or that, even though I was sure it was nonsense and I would not pay a red cent for it, he gave me the old double eyebrow pyramid shape with his nose stuck like a button in the middle. If that did not work, his automatic verbal response of “no” came flying out. How natural is that response when it comes out of his mouth every time with the same exact force of utterance and intonation? How come when he said it, he managed to always make it sound like a strong objection and not like anything else similar to “I’ll think about it.” Or “I might consider it.”. So, I was dragged against my will to the departure gate where he and I sat just waiting for the departure to gate to open and start boarding people. Finally, he spoke. I didn’t listen to what he had to say much because what he was interested in and wanted to talk about was movies, movies and movies. If he did not talk about movies, he talked about TV programs. If he had anything to talk about, it had to be about some form of visual entertainment. Occasionally, while we talked we touched upon subjects of family and how I got married to his mother.

The gate was open for boarding. Our passports were checked for the third time and our stuff x-rayed and our bodies scanned. We went in the waiting lounge to get on the plane. I phoned my wife and told how frustrating it was not to be able to have a conversation with the one companion I have had for a trip since the longest time. We hung up with the usually goodbyes and promises of hope. I went to him and asked him if he needed to go to the bathroom one last time before we boarded. He declined my offer. I asked him clearly if he would be able to hold off his urination for five hours till he got to Frankfurt. But there was the shape of his face and the usual “no” although this time it was tainted with the vulnerability he felt about this issue. Finally, there was a stir in the crowd and people started moving towards the plane.  After a final check of our passports, we were on the plane.

As soon as we were in our seats, he started complaining about how uncomfortable his was. It was a small plane for 300 passengers with one isle in the middle and three seats on either side. I made him have the window seat and I was stuck maybe for the first time as far as I remember in the middle seat. As always on these trips you keep wishing that the seat next to you will remain vacant then at least one will have some comfort in space. But it was not to be. This hunky young German sat beside me. He sat in his seat and kept fidgeting as he sat. I did not know the reason why he was fidgeting but I knew that he was uncomfortable. Then as I was trying to comfort my son for his ill-fated seat assignment and plane arrangement, I was trying to know what the matter with the other guy was. There was a glimmer of hope for him and us when he spotted an empty seat two rows up front. I was about to let out a sigh of relief knowing he would be off our chests in some seconds. He looked up and scanned the seat he wanted and prepared to make the big plunge and dash to the empty seat. But as he raised his body he spotted the head of a child that popped out of the said seat. He even jokingly told the crew member that he was actually getting up to it but he did not see “child in seat”. So, it was this German’s fate with the two of us that we three get stuck like that for the next four and half hours. A few minutes afterwards, the speakers went on with the captain’s voice for welcomes, safety regulations and timing to destination. When all was quiet and the plane moved on the ground in twists and turns and it started to pick up speed and we felt the rush of the metal against the wind, this hunky German brought out a golden cross from his t-shirt, kissed it, crossed his chest and waited for metal to meet the clouds.

After a compact meal of chicken on the plane, and an even stranger movie called “The best marigold hotel” and a real life scary experience of turbulence while drinking coffee in the air, which the captain failed to announce although he had announced about three times earlier and nothing happened, we landed in Frankfurt international airport. I had come to Germany earlier in 2004 and I had a bad experience at the passport check in Berlin. I had my Canadian passport ready and I presented it to the passport check. Some facial expressions you just never forget as long as you live. My passport’s issue was Cairo because I live there. A young girl stood and took a real quick look at the passports, presumably most of them were German passports, and swished them by into Berlin. My turn came and I presented my passport confident that there would not be a problem. I’ll never forget her face. She made this eye glance at her superior, who really looked like one of those dangerous secret service police I used to see in movies. He had an uncomfortable look as he scanned my passport up and down with his eyes. Then he asked why I was coming to Berlin. When I told him it was to visit a cultural Fair, he cast away his eyes, and was silent for a moment and then gave me back the passport and nodded in the direction of the girl to let me pass. However, this time with my son and a lot riding on this visit, I tried to be ready with a solid attitude. I advised my son that we have to speak only in English. I told him he had to stand steady and deliver his passport with a firm hand. My son found these instructions strange. But I scolded him that he had to do as I told him. There were two people in uniform who checked the passports. Sure enough before us there were two people of Middle East origins, who when they showed their passport, were beckoned to the side to await some sort of further inquiry. We were next. We flashed our passports. A quick glance was given to us and our passports then we were swished in.

We finally made it outside to Frankfurt itself. We were supposed to meet a taxi driver who was going to get us to the town of Selingstadt. We turned circles in Frankfurt airport trying to locate the gate where he will be waiting. We finally exited and had no idea what the taxi looked like and where he will be parked. I phoned him on his mobile phone and he led me to where he would be waiting which turned out to right opposite to where we were standing. We drove in spirals out of the airport till we got to the highway. The car was super warm and the radio played a light FM tune that was audible and at the same time not too loud. I wanted to comment to my son all the way on the magnificent natural scenery which we do not get to see much of where we live in Cairo. But I preferred to remain silent. I knew whereas I admired nature my son admired the technology of the car. We left the highway and started going into narrower streets. That was the small town of Selingstadt. I knew where I was going because I had studied it on Google maps before leaving Cairo. But because some areas still do not have Street View on Google maps, I had no idea what the area actually looked like. When we finally arrived at Hotel Maintrasse, I was both surprised and disappointed. I was surprised because of its actual size. On the net, it seemed to me to be a bit more spacious. I was disappointed because the grandeur I perceived on the net did not seem to be there. We got out of the taxi and hauled our one bag onto the stairs and went in. There was an elderly gentleman who did not speak English very well but spoke well enough to serve us. He checked our reservations and gave us the key to our room. I had never been in a house turned hotel in the way that that hotel was. As we climbed the stairs we found a labyrinth of intricate stairs that lead right and left. We finally found our room and that disappointed me even more. It was at the back of the hotel and the view was the wall of another house. It was also quite narrow. I went down to the elderly gentleman again and told him I want a room with a river view. He told me that the other room would not have separate beds. I told him that that did not matter. So he gave me the new keys. We changed rooms and it was worth it. The view was that of a river stream with boats floating across and a walkway where people strolled and jogged. As always in travel, when you get to your final destination you think your body is ready to go. It is only a matter of time that you discover that it needs more than you tend to take it for granted. As much as the kid and I disagreed on almost everything, we shared a common feeling of hunger at the same time. It was getting late at night. I hardly knew where I was and how I can get things. We needed water and food. So, I went down to the elderly gentleman and asked him where the nearest supermarket is. There was another guy with him now who looked like head of a restaurant. They looked at each other in a sort of apologetic way and looked at me. They told me anywhere is really far and at this time they were closed. However, they said they were willing to give me what I wanted at a special price. Yes, it was a special price and I found out that the hard way later on in the trip. I took the beverages then I had to get the food. So I went down again and asked for it. They showed me the menu. It was difficult to choose. The items were in English but some of the ingredients were unknown to me. Or even if they were known to me, combined I wouldn’t know what flavor they would produce that would meet our Mediterranean taste. However, I took a chance on the most familiar and the cheapest: pasta and salad. We were so hungry that my son, who is usually very selective about what goes into his mouth, just gobbled up what came. We finally ate, rested, even chatted and he displayed his latest electronic toy and what it could do in showing full feature movies. Bored, watching movies did entertain me a bit. With that we called it a night on Day 1.

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