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March 7, 2012

Flying Backward for 21 Hours

Tom McLaughlin

I had made arrangements for the return of my illness but did not expect it so soon after my two-month tour of the states. It started on Friday with the buzzing in my body increasing, and by Saturday I felt I had gripped a running lawn mower.


By Sunday I knew it was time to head back to the states as I began to lose my balance.


Qatar Airlines had the fastest flight home to Frederick, an hour from Washington and Baltimore. There would be a stopover in Doha, Qatar, and then on to Dulles International Airport. The ride to my friends’ home would be only 45 minutes.


The Kingdom of Qatar is a thumb shaped peninsula on the Persian Gulf sitting on the world’s largest gas reserves. The Prince had decided to spend part of the billions of dollars floating around on an airline. One eats until bloated, can watch over 150 movies and are treated with blankets and pillows. Small pouches containing eyeshades, ear plugs socks and a toothbrush with paste are distributed. Sandwiches and ice cream are all available during the flight. Because of subsidized funds from the immense wealth, the planes were all new with hundreds on order to the delight of Boeing and Airbus factories.


The problem with this flight was an eight-hour layover in Doha. We arrived at midnight and my connecting flight was not supposed to alight until eight the following morning. I had passed through Doha before and my connector was only a two-hour wait, but not this time. I went into town and ate at the market place, delicious mid-eastern food, and wandered to quaint shops. However, this time all would be closed.


I paid $40 to use the lounge, which was sponsored by the airline. My ticket did not include this amenity although I tried to insist that it did. The hot shower with scented soap and towel was worth the funds after a seven-hour flight. The free food was a disappointment. There were lines of all sorts of cakes and other sweets, but nothing hot and satisfying.


I admired anyone who can sleep anywhere at any time. I watch them dozing on any form of transport while my eyes refuse to close and send me into a fitful slumber. I must have arranged the chairs in a thousand different ways but could not grab a snooze. I read a horrible book that I picked up someplace and even that did not do the trick.


Finally, 7 A.M. came around and, bleary eyed, I passed through security and boarded the onward 14-hour connection to Washington. I stumbled into my aisle seat and watched some of the movies. I think I managed six, don’t ask me what they were, without the slightest hint of sleep coming on.


By now, my friends are used to my zombie light appearance at their door. Eyes red, greasy hair, a slight body odor and barely able to walk after sitting for about 32 straight hours.


However, I was so glad to see them and I knew I had a safe haven to begin my treatments.


. . . . .Life is good….


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