The old jalopy and I are swinging along with our usual gay abandon, merrily hooting and tooting our way round town, if we are not going here or there, then we are definitely going somewhere else!
In retrospect, it was all rather funny, sort of game for a laugh. Actually, it transpired that it was no laughing matter and I quickly realized that I didn’t know it all and would have to get a grip with things rather smartly!
It was one of those glorious starts to the day that only seem to manifest themselves during the early mornings in Dubai. Those of us who are especially lucky to live along the Creek are blessed with a grandstand view, as these mornings are truly magical.
At that time of the day the sun could be relied upon to be rising slowly over the desert, its rays gently gliding towards us gradually playing a merry dance over the waters of the creek, bathing the entire scene in a glorious rosy glow, engulfing one in it’s aura.
This sight was always accompanied by the cacophony of the various Mullahs calling the faithful to pray, their chanting eerily echoing over the rooftops adding a special dimension to early mornings in Dubai.
This was always a very special moment, in a very special place, which required one to stand back and gasp at the sheer wonder of it all and maybe make a note to rise early every morning, to savor these splendid delights.
It brings to mind the song, that Frank Sinatra sang so well, Chicago, Chicago, you’re my kind of town. I can honestly say, if the name were to be changed, then guess what you would have, Dubai, Dubai, yes, you’re my kind of town, I salute you. Rest assured, I will be saying hello again tomorrow, same time, same place, Marsalamah.
What an enchanting start to my day, by my reckoning it should only get better. I’m now all polished up and ready to motor to the Airport. As I get closer I can feel strange vibes, everywhere is eerily silent, my goodness, something’s up, but what could be causing this tension in the air! As many of you know, in those far off days, Dubai International Airport wasn’t exactly a flurry of activity, especially in the mornings but, oh my goodness something strange was happening this morning, what is going on!
I parked as usual, which bay should I use, so many to choose from, I virtually had the whole car park to myself. I sauntered up the steps, over the con-course and into the Office. Who’s for coffee, was my usual greeting to the boys as I poked my head around the door.
This morning, though, much to my utter astonishment, the Office was choc a block, my goodness, Oh, my goodness, what is going on. My first thought was surely there won’t be enough coffee, milk or cups to go round. Who are these people and where, oh where have they come from! I was swiftly marshaled into action and early that morning my first task wasn’t to make copious cups of coffee as normal! Why was that, you may ask? All was then revealed!
It transpired that there had been rather a large skirmish between the Indians and the Pakistanis, somewhere over in the Sub-Continent, which necessitated all BOAC flights flying to or from that zone to be diverted through Dubai, whilst the situation could be assessed.
Naturally, it was necessary to know whether fighting was occurring in or around the airports, used by BOAC. If so, a strategy would have to be worked out, to enable flights to be resumed as soon as possible, obviously avoiding the danger zones.
Naturally, this type of information gathering takes time, consequently everyone our end had to be prepared to rally round. It was obvious that a situation like this would not or indeed could not be remedied over night. I was first to be put into bat. Oh, what a mistake that was!!
I was briefed about the situation and told that the Arrivals Lounge was stuffed full of people who didn’t know what was going on, where they were in the World, and why on earth they were there in the first place. I was then packed off, to pour oil over troubled waters.
One has to be reminded that in those far off days few people had heard of Dubai, consequently these stranded passengers must have felt somewhat apprehensive, especially as when peering out of the vast windows of the Arrivals Lounge all they were able to see was desert. Not too reassuring!
What do I do, I surely didn’t know, in local parlance, the natives were getting fractious and my job was to calm them down! They were in for a treat! Instead of pouring oil on troubled waters, I think I possibly had the opposite effect and sent their collective blood pressure soaring!!!
In retrospect it was so funny, I was told to go and placate these poor passengers and do my bit for Queen and Country or was it Sheiks and sand dunes! So off I sallied in my usual fashion to be gob smacked by what I found. Normally, the Arrivals Lounge would be frightfully busy with about 12 passengers waiting, but that morning there seemed to be millions, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or run for it
How do I play this, it was definitely a new ball game for me. I was quickly spotted, not too difficult, in my distinctive gear, and was pounced upon, where are we, what are you organizing for us, when can we expect to arrive at our final destination, on and on they burbled.
Quite naturally, I didn’t know the answers to any one of their questions and when one man asked me what was the time now in London, I looked blankly and said well, it’s 08.30 here, we are four hours ahead! And ran! Not very professional, I must admit!
As the day progressed these passengers become more and more irate, particularly, as I don’t think any of them liked Arabic Coffee too much or Fanta Orange, the only beverages being meted out at the little cafeteria on the concourse
As for the lady who was normally in charge of the very basic catering facilities, she couldn’t make it out at all, particularly when they were all shouting at her in English, I want Nescafe or English Tea and oh yes, milk please and sugar naturally. As milk was normally of the evaporated kind from whence she came, a pantomime of gigantic proportions was erupting before my very eyes and I had no idea what to do about it!
Eventually, Airport catering, who were situated in the bowels of the building were pressed ganged into action but, par for the course, they really were no better. As very few airlines uploaded meals from Dubai, they didn’t know how to jump to it pronto! Can’t remember what they produced but it must have kept the wolf from the door because, to my knowledge, nobody collapsed in a heap!
I kept dashing back to the Office, falling about with fits of the giggles, thinking it was all so terribly funny, only to be told to leap back into action. It was like being sent into the Lion’s den, quite terrifying.
Eventually, I managed to work out what the local time was in London. Understandably, they also wanted to know what the flying time was to London and if, as they hoped, they would depart in the next few hours what would their ETA be. Well, that really was a tricky one, actually I had no idea and nor had any of the Operations staff when lift off could be anticipated. I have never told so many white lies in my life, I am ashamed to say.
The boys in the Office were not much better; they would dash out with their caps, under their arms looking oh so smart and efficient. Although, they scuttled back as fast as their little legs would carry them because they too didn’t know how to cope with the situation either, thank goodness, I was no alone!
It took about three days for things to right themselves. Quite amazing that a little dust up between two neighboring countries many, many miles from where we were could cause such havoc!
Unfortunately, when airline schedules are disrupted it takes quite awhile to re-jig operations; as there are so many ponderables to be taken into consideration. Actual position of the planes, crew availability, the uploading of fuel and most importantly for the passengers the vitualing of the plane. Consequently, a disruption like this usually morphed into a gigantic logistical nightmare but was obviously not without amusing moments.
I very much doubt whether those stranded passengers, of whom they were many hundreds, thought it was funny at all, once they had discovered that they were marooned for a time in the darkest desert.
It was, to them, possibly a Lawrence of Arabia moment, and we all know what happened to him! Maybe they thought that they would never see civilization again even be eaten alive by something really, really nasty or more terrifying stranded in the desert for ever. My they would have got a lovely sun tan though, bet they hadn’t thought of that!
I hope you have found this little tale amusing, those definitely were the days!
Essay 44 will be posted on Tuesday 28th October, 2015