This is a little something inspired by the note “contrast of Madrid Airport to Abu Dhabi – couple who can’t keep their hands off each other.”
(December, 2010 Madrid)
(December, 2010 Madrid)
I’m waiting in the Madrid airport for Andy, praying he is on this flight. He missed his connecting flight in Chicago and I got word that he hopped another flight which requires a transfer in London. London has been boxed in by snow storms off and on for the past few days. I hope he makes it. I am ready to start our reunion as I’ve been separated from my son for five months now: he back to University and me headed over to the Middle East for an indefinite work assignment. I had carefully scheduled his flights so he wouldn’t have to make any connections in a non-English speaking country nor get stuck outside the US if he had any weather related delays at this time of year. But this man-child of mine (mostly child in this instance) fell soundly asleep in Chicago O’Hare (damn those finals week sleep deprived study habits) and missed his connection.
While slightly annoyed at my son’s irresponsible travel behavior, I am still very happy to be in the Madrid airport. Frankly, I am very happy to be anywhere outside the UAE. But really happy to be in Europe. I am sitting at a café, facing the gate area that I think he should be coming through sometime in the next hour. I am sipping on my second cappuccino, watching the romance and drama of the international arrivals gate. I love a good reunion. I am writing a few notes in my notebook/journal, looking busy, and eavesdropping on the conversations around me, trying to make sense of the Spanish being spoken. At this point, newly arrived and a great many years distance since my last visit to Spain, and even farther from Middle School Spanish classes, I have only a hit rate of about 20%. By the end of our two weeks in Spain I will be closer to a 45% hit rate. For now I can just fill in the blanks with the passion in their voices and the tale tale body language.
I am aware that the three also middle aged café patrons at the table next to me are also amazed at the scenario in front of me. A young punk couple is desparately, almost violently making out against a pillar in the middle of the arrivals hall. The passionate display is outrageously x-rated and the thought crosses my mind that I, and the other folks calmly awaiting arrivals, are the subject of some Punked type tv episode. These two dive together with hands through hair, deep throated kisses, bum grabbing, crotch grinding urgency. They go at it in ten second intervals (believe me, a lot of contact can be jammed into ten seconds) until they must come up for air and a rest. And then they are back into it just as passionately as before. At the nearby table, the one with his back to the scene, at his dining mates urging, tries to subtely turn around to see what they, like me, are taking in. He turns back, mouth agape and catches my eye. I smile and shrug at him, raising an eyebrow to indicate that I am shocked and amused by this extreme public display of affection.
The couple goes at it for quite some time. Their crotch grinding so intense and rhythmic I have to stare until they uncouple just to make sure that they actually have their zippers up. Remarkably they do. OK, so I said I stared, and I did, but I tried not to be obvious about it. I busied myself in my journal or sipping on my cappuccino, just grazing by the scene as subtely as I could because it really felt like I was watching some x-rated porno film, one that I certainly wouldn’t want strangers to know I was watching.
I kept thinking “somebody stop them.” “Where’s the policia when you need them.” But nobody seemed to feel comfortable interrupting this display. And then I remind myself that I am newly arrived from a Middle Eastern country where the only people holding hands in public are little children and grown men (I mean children holding hands with each other and grown men holding hands with each other which is totally normal and no indication of same sex sexual preference…it’s just the normal for the middle east). Yes, the pornographic scene played out in front of me, while shocking to even the Spaniards at the adjacent table, is tolerated because passion is a component of life in Spain. Similarly, one might find such a scene in the airports in Italy (my most favorite European country…to date). In the Middle East: not so much.
In Abu Dhabi, when we pick up folks at the airport, no matter how darn happy we are to be reunited with a friendly face from back home, we hold back. A handshake and a warm smile is what we try to remember to do. Well especially if it’s someone of the opposite sex. A couple engaged publicly in Abu Dhabi in what I saw in the Madrid airport would be deported, if they were lucky, or, more likely, incarcerated. There is no legal cohabitation of unmarried couples (housing or hotels). Local ladies are covered so that only their eyes and hands show. Many actually even have these covered with full face covering and gloves. An American friend of mine who teaches locally was advised by her local counterpart that she should consider covering her hair as she would be safer from being raped. We were amused by this statement as we are all so untouchable here that the danger of being raped has never crossed our minds. But that is what the local women believe: show your hair: you are asking to be raped.
I have more to write about modesty and fitting in yet remaining yourself and how to dress and how not to dress in the UAE. I’ll save those for some other time. Right now I’d like to just replay that pornographic scene from the Madrid airport and remember that there is passion, even x-rated passion, elsewhere in the world and somehow it all makes sense.