Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cyprus not to be

Ann's been jonesing for some ocean and liberal values for about five months, and set up a jaunt to Cyprus for a few days. She had an extra day off because of Jordanian Independence day, and we were going to celebrate by getting independent of Jordan. Got the e-tickets off Cyprus air and we were ready to go.

At 5 am we go to meet or driver in front of Shaer Apartments, our erstwhile home, but he's not there. Ann gives a call to the driver service and the guy there, Rajid, says that the driver was told to come back at 6am.

Ann-"by who?"
Rajid-"By an American at Shaer Apartments. Your friend told the driver that he was early ad didn't need him until 6."

A-"What? My friend? He's not my friend! You should have given the driver my name!"
R-"But your friend sent the driver away..."

A-"Look, I don't even know who you are talking about. Where is our driver? We need to go now so get him here."
R-"But your friend-"
A-"Send the driver NOW!"

So we get out of there around 5:30am, and the driver is going fast. We get to the airport in time and get to the desk before 6. Hand the e-ticket, the guy prints our boarding passes and then says there are no tickets. We have reservatios, but no tickets.

There is one guy working behind the counter and two guys in uniform in two other counters, possibly working. One of the slacker guys, whose name is Hussein, is apparently senior, and our no-ticket problem gets bumped to him. Now you'd think that this guys function as a manager type might be to offer additional customer support. It becomes apparent very quickly, that his role is exactly the opposite. To remove any support at all and try to extort money from us.

He repeatedly says there is no ticket and manages to deftly straddle the line between arrogance and ignorance as we repeatedly remind him that money was taken from our account, that this is fraud. His refrain is "we cannot pay for your ticket." Often delivering it with a laugh as if it was the most absurd thing in the world.

We checked online and couldn't get a receipt but could see the funds had been taken. It was too early to reach Cyprus air and we asked Hussein if we cold see the manager of Cyprus air, he stretched up to his full bureaucratic weasel height of 5'4" in inch riser heels and said "I am the manager." Around 6:30 (the flight leaves at 7) we figure we'll be able to recoup the cash somehow and bow to Hussein's demands to buy another ticket.

H-"If you don't want to go to Cyprus, why are you here."
Us-"Of course we want to go to Cyprus,but we don't want to pay twice."
H-"If you don't pay, how can you go?"
U-"But we did pay. We don't want to pay again"
H-"Ah. Then you do not want to go?"
U-What? Yes we want to go, but we don't want to pay twice."
H-"So you don't want to go to Cyprus then. OK."

You know steam is coming out of Ann's ears and bodily harm to Hussein is eminent at this point. I figure that since we bought the ticket with a credit card, we'll just throw the fraud word around and get our money back somehow. I don't think the word "Fraud" is in Hussein's vocabulary, or perhaps his definition of it is as a synonym for "profit." So we decide to buy another ticket. He charges us 100 euros more per ticket and starts printing up the boarding passes. I'm thinking we should just snatch them and bolt, but there are too many ways that could end badly. He asks for 440 dinars and I hand him the credit card.

He looks at the card and says
"what? Cash only"

"Huh? you're kidding. We don't have that much cash"

"go to cash machine"

"We can't take that much out at once."

"Ah. then you do not want to go to Cyprus."

He rips the boarding passes up. I take a picture of this bastard with my cell phone, and then I ask to see his ID badge. He flashes it so quickly I couldn't even tell what color it was, much less get a snap of it. I ask hi to show me his badge again, but he's tucked it into his coat. I keep yelling "Show me your badge!" but he is now stuffing all sorts of paperwork into a vinyl bag and casting about with shifty eyes and pretending we are not there. Then he grabs his vinyl bag and sprints to the end of the conveyor belt that the luggage rides on. One final glance back, like a weasel expecting pursuit, and he bends down and crawls through the hanging flap doors that the luggage goes through. He is gone. It is 6:45am. No flights to Cyprus available from any airline, no flights to anywhere we want to go.

We We met this guy Sebastion, who was trying to get home from France after spending 10 years in Japan. He had the same vapor-ticket problem we had. As we are leaving the airport, they make us put all our luggage through the x Ray machines and make us walk through the metal detector. But it doesn't go backwards, so we have to go outside the airport, walk thru the metal detector with our luggage, put the luggage on the conveyor belt, walk back thru the metal detector back into the airport to get our luggage, and back out again. This would have been funny, because the whole barrier was within 100 feet of the ticket desk.

We get in a cab and head back to Shaer apartments. I still can't raise cyprus air on the phone. Everything is closed in Amman. Back at the apartment, we decide to go to Israel and hang out in Tel Aviv. Because Amman is becoming ever more oppressive now that we feel trapped here.

So we call Rajid and he comes in person to pick us up at 9:30am and takes us to the King Hussein bridge. This is the closest border crossing, but they have no VISA issuing facilities for Jordan. Should not be a factor, because Ann has a residency until June and I have a VISA good until June as well.

After and hour car ride to the border, we grab or bags and head into the Jordanian customs to pay our exit tax. Here is where the spirit of the weasel again raises his eager pinpoint eyes, greasy whiskers eagerly twitching. The immigration guy says tat Ann does not have a valid VISA, so she cannot go without paying for the additional days she has been in Jordan without it. Ann repeatedly points ot that she has a 6 month residency stamp, so as a resident, she doesn't need a VISA. That's the whole point of residency status. Weasel agrees that she has a resident stamp but says that only allows her to stay in Jordan, and she can't leave without also having an up to date VISA. And she can't pay for the additional days she has been in Jordan at this border because they can't issue VISAs. We must go to the SHEIK Hussein bridge, 2 hours to the north, to take care of this. We call Rajid, and he turns around and picks us up. Ann is inconsolable and it feels like we are stuck in hell. No Exit. It is 11:30 am.

It is in the car heading north that as Rajid starts to make light of the situation, saying "Jordan wants you to stay here Miss Ann." "You are going to wander here like moses for 40 years.." Jokey stuff along these lines, and I'm kind of waving at him from the back seat, doing the throat cut gesture, laughing too loud to drown out what sounds like a litany of Ann's fears at the moment and Ann starts sobbing, her head in her hands beside me. "Sorry" says Rajid. I put my arm around Ann and try to hold her in the car, excruciatingly aware that this type of display is Haram (forbidden) in public, and this just compounds my frustration, but that's just in the background, really, because you can't not reach out to a loved one in despair. She gets it under control after a while, and I wisely decide not to do a quick in car video interview asking how her day is going so far.

At the Sheik Hussein border, it is very easy to get through. It's 12:30pm. The only snag was that they didn't understand why we had paid for exit tax stamps at the Appleby border crossing, so we had to go meet with the border big man in his office and explain that we bought the exit stamps but ten were refused exit. He smiles and they all say welcome, and everyting is OK. While we are waiting in line, a mouse goes scurrying through the passport control area, and some of the officals chase him, but he gets away. An smiles at this and says to them "He's going to Israel." The guy smiles back , after translating this to his buddies who start laughing, and says "It is OK, he paid his exit tax."

Finally we make it to Israel. A very easy crossing. I can't help but notice that there is nothing wrong with Ann's credentials and she doesn't have to pay additional VISA fees because, of course, she has a RESIDENCY stamp. Weasel two has earned a special place in the pantheon of petty customs tyrants.

You come into Israel, and everyone there is 19 and female, except for some guards, and they are just total slackers, flat of affect with us while joking and texting among themselves. It strikes me that this type of job is the equivelant of working at McDonalds for teenagers in a america. Its a McJob, except that its part of mandated military 1 year service for Israeli nationals.

Anyway, we get a taxi and for $100 we are conveyed to Tel Aviv. We arrive at 3:30PM. Five minutes on the beach and you feel all these repressed emotions slip away, and immediately feel more alive. It was a long day, but totally worth it.


Anonymous said...


You guys could use some good news. Obama has won the nomination! (unless you were hoping for Hilary) - Anyway - Stay safe and sane!

Love you guys, Ro.

Anonymous said...

okay I guess I jumped the gun. Someone in my office told me that. But the press is saying it's a sure thing now.