Michael Totten

Embracing the Suck to Kuwait

By Michael J. Totten
KUWAIT CITY — I have no breaking news to report. I haven’t even made it inside Iraq.
No one should expect a smooth and comfortable trip to Baghdad and Anbar Province — especially not in July — but things shouldn’t have gone south as soon as Chicago.
While listening to my iPod and waiting for my flight at the gate in Ohare Airport, I noticed some teenagers pointing in amazement at the sky outside the window. I pulled out my earbuds. “They can’t make me get on an airplane right now,” one of them said.
The sky boiled with evil black clouds. Lightning zotted across the heavens.
The kid needn’t have worried. No one was allowed to get on an airplane.
I waited sixteen hours in Ohare for a flight to Dulles International Airport in Washington. My flight to Kuwait from Washington left long before I arrived.
When I did finally arrive I had to wait another sixteen hours for a re-booked flight to Germany. In the meantime, every hotel in the region was full. Washington, apparently, had weather delays of its own. The entire eastern half of the United States was snarled in air jams. So I had to spend the night in the airport.
Dulles is not a nice airport. It is not where you want to spend sixteen hours.
Some European airports have nice lounge chairs where you can sort of get comfortable if long delays force you to sleep there. Not Dulles. Only uncomfortable chairs with no head or foot rests are stocked in that airport.
I found a dozen or so wheelchairs stashed in a corner and thought I’d be clever by wheeling one of them over to a row of chairs and giving myself a place to put up my feet. I stuck my noise-reduction earbuds in my ears, donned by sunglasses, put up my feet, and felt good to go. A bed would have been nice, but this beat the floor. I fell asleep instantly.
A half hour later I woke with no circulation in my feet — the wheelchair was higher than the seat and my feet were too high. So I rolled onto the floor and slept flat on the savagely hard marble. All I could do was laugh at how crappy everything was. I was on my way to Iraq, not the Bahamas, and had no right to expect comfort of any kind. At least I was awakened by the BEEP BEEP BEEP of a guy driving a whatever-you-call it loaded with suitcases instead of a car bomb.
My flight didn’t leave until evening, and I’d be damned if I spent another whole day in an airport. So I took a taxi to the Adams Morgan neighborhood and had breakfast with Noah Pollak, who is briefly there from Jerusalem. I sure didn’t expect to see him any time soon.
We thought about walking around the neighborhood, but the heat and humidity turned the air into a thick nasty soup. So we watched a movie in an air-conditioned theater — A Mighty Heart, as it turned out, the film about the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. This was probably not the best choice of movies to watch on my way to Iraq, but everything else looked insufferably lame and this film turned out to be slightly okay. (The negative reviews are too harsh. It deserves two and a half stars at the worst.)
United Airlines rebooked me on a late flight to Frankfurt on Lufthansa and told me my luggage would be transferred to them and should arrive with me in Kuwait.
“Are you sure my bags will get there?” I said. The whole system was in chaos.
“They will get there, don’t worry,” the agent said.
My bags did not get here. I have no body armor, no helmet, no camera, no laptop, and only one change of clothes. Lufthansa swears my luggage will arrive here this evening, but pardon me if I’m skeptical. According to their online tracking system, they still have no idea where my bags are.
But hey! This is the kind of suck that isn’t too hard to embrace. I have a king size bed to sleep in after spending four days in the claustrophobic airport security and transportation regime. I can eat when I want and even shower. I may have to wash my socks in the sink, but at least I have a sink.
Postscript: Despite the various snags, I should be in Iraq soon enough.
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