Thursday, July 14, 2016

Drunk in Moscow, Not Idaho


In 1994 I traveled from Malaysia to Paris on Aeroflot.

Kuala Lumpur-Karachi-Dubai-Moscow-Paris.

The flight time to Moscow totaled about 24 hours. None of them were comfortable in the flimsy chairs of the Soviet era jetliner.

Disembarking at Moscow, I discovered that my connecting flight to Charles De Gaulle was delayed until the next morning.

The Norwegian couple whom I had met in Dubai Duty Free were in a similar predicament.

"It's 10PM. What are we going to do all night?"

It was a stupid question.

"Drink wine." The husband pulled out two bottles of wine.

"I have two."

"And my wife has two."

We opened the bottles and sat on the floor surrounded by stateless travelers trapped in the aeroport. There were hundreds of these visa-less prisoners sleeping in cardboard villages. Some looked as if they had been in limbo for weeks. After finishing the wine a refugee from Afghanistan sold us a bottle of vodka.

The vodka was homemade. The liter lasted longer than the wine. Several other Afghans fleeing the civil war joined Jameer with other bottles of vodka. It burned a hole in my stomach. They spoke in dialects. After two bottles I was speaking their tongue, but was losing consciousness from the overdose of hard spirits and lack of sleep at dawn.

"Your flight is now." The Norwegian pulled me to my feet.

"I don't care." I wanted to stay in the aeroport. "Life simple here."

"You have to go." His wife strapped my bag over my shoulder and they escorted me to the plane.

"Bon Voyage." I saluted them at the door of the Airbus.

Stepping on board I rejoined civilization, but hardly in a civil state, as I stumbled down the aisle to my seat. The faces of the other passengers gauged my state of drunkenness. No one wanted me to sit next to them. I fell into an empty row and buckled up for take-off.

Several hours later a stewardess woke me.

"We are in Paris."

"Already?" I was the last passenger on the plane.

"We've been on the ground for 15 minutes."

"Great." I got to my feet and trudged out into the terminal. The time was 8:30. My friends were waiting for me in the city.

It was Bastille Day.

It was good to be out of Moscow.

People drink too much there.

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