Your foot or what’s left of it when the plane lands? Dizzy, deaf and almost catatonic you get your trolley thanking your lucky stars that you escaped a fatal head injury when your neighbor climbed on a few legs and shoulders to get his bags (50kg. at least), trolley and plants. You discover that your body can be flattened à la Tom & Jerry to make a place for the wave of human bodies trying to reach at the same time the one and only narrow door which separates them from the land of the braves. Totally disregarding any human obstacles let alone bags and trolleys, most of the passengers run for their lives to reach the narrow non-functioning- barely-there-escalator, colliding into each other, aiming for the long “lines” of passengers waiting to stamp their passports. Using the word “lines” can be misleading to first time travellers because the only thing they can see are groups of people waiting and chatting. I think that we don’t have them in our Lebanese genes, those neurons corresponding to the concept of standing in line. We’re averse to do it even in foreign countries. Our ego, impatience, competitive streak and congenital bellicose attitude have left their imprint since the Phoenicians times.
Finally you’re at customs facing a very bored man or a disdainful lady who barely answer you; Do they reflect the general feeling of depression you’re bound to feel the moment you enter the Lebanese orbit or is it an omission from their supervisors who forgot to give them a lesson in manners or they simply adopt this attitude to avoid noisy questions.
Next you face or not the assault of porters who are profiling you (Yes, I’m a fan of criminal minds). They are quick to give you the once over taking swiftly taking into consideration your general attire and luggage, coming to a decision in a few seconds to classify you as a worthy candidate for a good tip or not.
Directing you to the place of their choice next to the belt, they start weighing and shaking the passing luggage till they find yours. Gentlemanly, they don’t hesitate to help an old lady with her luggage or a damsel in distress with her oversized bag.
Waiting for your overzealous porter, you observe people looking for their luggage, calling relatives, running after their children …and giving other passengers a final assessment.
Your luggage secured on a trolley, your porter doesn’t hesitate to give you a full report about the current politics, his biased opinion about some leaders and his wrath against the overwhelming number of foreigners who are competing against the Lebanese population for the same jobs, “taking the morsel of living out of Lebanese mouths”. Trying to calm him down and asking him to lower his voice to avoid vexing anyone, he raises his voice, daring anyone to silence him and giving you a piece of his mind about freedom of speech in ”my own country!”
Running after your porter who is racing to get to the line in front of the scanner before any other porter, you get through the final stage and reach the airport hall where welcoming relatives and friends are waiting on top of each other behind the metallic bar; From bunches of flowers covering the noses of nervous relatives awaiting passengers to loud conversations you know that you’re definitely back in the country of chronic overwrought feelings. Kisses, hugs and the likes are over and done with and your overly patient porter is forcing a smile through his lips, urging you with his eyes to hurry since “some of us have to work!” You or your relative take money from your purse and give him the tip. A generous one! He either thanks you and gets on his way or if your bad luck made you select an old nasty porter out of pity you’re in for a performance: ”Walaw! (Seriously!) You’re working abroad and this is all you give me? Show a bit of generosity to your fellow compatriots! We’re famished and have families to feed…” Stunned, upset and angry to find yourself in this awkward situation because you thought you gave him a good tip, you hesitate then hand him more money knowing that the economy is not good in Lebanon and… you feel guilty. You think you’re through? Think again! He looks at you shaking his head, mumbling and departs without helping you with your luggage.
You get in the car exasperated, frustrated and already depressed. Your relative is laughing at you, teasing you and asking you to be patient: “you’ve got a longggggg way ahead of you. You still have to face the traffic, the noise, the chaos etc.. before you get to your final destination!