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So far so good on my way to Oman, with just a few minor hitches. As I sat in the Minneapolis airport this morning, minding what I thought was my own business, a swarthy gentleman whose back was to mine turned around and leaned into my personal space. “Got your visa?” he said. I looked up from my milk carton into his face, brown eyes to brown eyes. He must have overheard me visiting with someone else about my plans to fly on to the Middle East.
“I’ll buy my visa when I get to Oman,” I said to this stranger.
“Are you sure?” he said. “You usually must have it before you arrive.”
Somehow this man could not shake my confidence, though it seemed he wanted to.
“My American friends in Oman assured me that I could purchase my visa right at the airport after landing,” I said again. Why was I speaking with this man? He was handsome. Oh yeah—that again.
He leaned a little closer, over the backs of the seats that separated us, and told me something more: “Well I’m surprised it would be that easy for you, because you know, they don’t like Americans over there. You make it very difficult for them to enter your country, yet you expect to walk right into theirs. They don’t like that.” He looked at me like I stunk. Did I? Already?
“We’ll see what happens,” I said, and turned back to my little picnic of paperbacks, candy bars, and apples. Jerk, I thought. Ain’t ruining my good time.
And really, since then, only a couple other minor disappointments: For the life of me I couldn’t think of a good reason to climb into my seatmate's lap on the way to Amsterdam—a burly man with scruff on his beautiful face who was heading back from the Iditarod to his home in South Africa—and though I finally got to watch The King’s Speech during the wee hours somewhere over the Atlantic, my headphones didn’t work well, so everyone in the film had a speech impediment.
Pity the icky guy with the visa warning could speak so clearly. What a waste of precision. But he didn’t win the category for Most Unforgettable Voice on this travel day. That award goes to the young man in the wheelchair who boarded the plane in Amsterdam. Long after I forget the exact way his physical body was curled and twisted, how his face contorted with every movement and sound, I’ll remember the way his rumblings and loud outbursts reminded me of Cookie Monster talking to Grover. When I first heard him carrying on, I thought, I’d rather listen to him all day long than that asshole in Minneapolis say one more word.
And I happily got my wish.