After a month of relaxing enjoyment in Berlin it was time to go home and face the music. Not so scary actually. A nice girl waiting for me, fast money, and all my family and friends. I was actually getting excited to be back. What was I thinking?
I guess things started to go sour on the plane home. It was an Air Berlin flight from Düsseldorf to Vancouver. Now usually I enjoy flights immensely, what with the free food and drinks, music, movies, cool views out the window, and the general thrill of air travel. I mean your tearing through the sky at eight hundred kilometers per hour in an aluminum tube. Worth every penny. This flight was a little off though. I had acquired a new hat in Germany from a friend. It’s a cowboy hat displaying the three bands of the German flag. Pretty gaudy, but a very cool souvenir. Now I already had a camouflage NY fitted cap that my friend in Phnom Penh had given me. Perhaps people feel compelled to cover my pointy head. So what do with two crisp hats on a flight? You certainly cannot pack them. The only real option is to wear them both. When I entered the plane with both hats on, maybe that’s when it all turned on me.
Now I am pretty certain that every flight attendant on a commercial flight in a first world country can speak English. The woman dealing with the section I was sitting in refused to speak more than a couple words of English with me. She must have seen my hats.
When the lunch meal finally rolled around I was ready and waiting. “Chicken or veggies?” she asked. Ha. “Chicken thanks”. “And would you like anything to drink?” she asked. “How much are those beers?” I asked. She told me that they were complementary with the meal. “Ill have six please.” I said. She turned to her trolley and then back to me with the beer. “Fuck you”, she said in a low, hostile voice. 'What the fuck is going on here?', I thought to myself. I responded by grunting a little, contorting my face, and shuddering my upper body in a ‘WHAT ON EARTH DID YOU JUST SAY TO ME’, gesture. She responded by mocking my gesture and continuing on down the isle.
Not understanding what could have brought on such behavior I thought back on our interactions so far. Then it donned on me. Maybe she thought I said, “Ill have SEX please”. A bit of a stretch, but what else could account for such unfriendly behavior from a person who is employed in the fake smile industry. That musta been it. That, and the hats of course.
She didn’t appear again for half an hour or so, and when she did she looked a little flushed. In my imagination she had been trying to trade off her section with another attendant. When she came near me, I made a big deal of squinting at her nametag and copying it onto my hand with a pen. I figured that if she were to make a complaint about me, I could counter it with one about her trucker mouth. It occurred to me that this might all be in my head too.
On the ground and out of the plane, I headed over to the line marked: Canadian Citizens, and cued up. Looking around I had a feeling that maybe I had entered the wrong line. All around me there were minorities. Women in saris, men in turbans, and just about every third world Asian I can think of. Were these people in the wrong line? Who the fuck let all these people into the country? My blood began to boil. I knew I was being narrow minded, but it felt good to have a target. The pretty young blond behind the counter asked me how long I had been away from home. I told her it had been just over eighteen months. She asked what I had been doing while I was away. Teaching and traveling. She seemed to accept this, doodled on my customs form and passed it back to me. Little did I know she had marked me with the dreaded ‘62’.
I proceeded to the carrousel where I grabbed my big backpack. I walked to the trashcan and pulled off the plastic bag that my bag was in and through it away. Hefting my pack onto my back I headed toward the exit. On my way there was a police officer standing idle and his interest peaked when he saw me. “Welcome home cowboy”, he said in a smirky tone. Fucking hats. “Lets see some ID”. Like what the fuck? Here I am in the airport, just got off the fucking plane, on my way to the final door, and lets see some ID?? My mood sank lower. Why me? I felt like a bad little boy and I hadn’t done a thing. I wanted to rip his fucking throat out. Cocksucker. “Away for a year and a half and nothing to claim?” “That’s right, I didn’t buy anything.” “What about that cool hat cowboy?” “It was a gift and it only cost three euro.” “Still have to claim it big guy.” Somebody has to die for this shit. He took out a pen and wrote down: hat, 3 Euros. Money says that fucking pig never left the province except maybe to visit the Calgary stampede.
I made my way to the final line. They took one look at the ‘62’ on my card and sent me into the ‘suspicious’ line. After a short wait I had my bag on the search table and young Indian police dude was asking me, “Now is there anything you want to tell me before I pull your bag apart?” I let him know that I had a hard drive, some shoes, two pouches of tobacco, a bunch of clothes, and of course, the fucking cowboy hat. He led me to a back room where I was instructed to put my hands against the walls and spread my legs. Usually I welcome a bit of a rubdown but this guy was really rough. Grabbed my crotch and dug his hands in around my belt. Satisfied that I wasn’t concealing a machete or a bazooka, he let me tuck my pockets back in and we headed back to the table.
He changed his approach at this point. This time he was my old pal. “You smoke anything over there?” he asked. My reply was perhaps more clever than the situation required. “So you’re a police officer and your asking me if I did any drugs on my trip? No officer, I don’t do drugs.” That’s when he decided to swab my bag for ‘traces’ of drugs. You cannot get high on traces fuckface, and you sure can’t sell em. I was scared nonetheless. What if he did find the dreaded ‘traces’ and made a case out of it, saying I was selling them to bugs, or mice even?
One hour into Canada and I already had a bad taste in my mouth. When I eventually did get out my uncle was waiting for me. We commiserated about the ridiculousness of the Canadian police. It was great relief to have a lift from the airport, as I have never been good with public transit.
Back home and in the land of cheap sushi. I spent the first couple days gorging on sushi and playing basketball and tennis with my uncle. I was aghast at the price of nearly everything and was constantly muttering as I walked away from a transaction. I was feeling lost in my own country, refusing to swallow the reality around me. No more beer at the corner store, or anywhere else for that matter. No entering the parks after ten pm. Wear your helmet when you ride your bicycle, it’s the law. And don’t smoke anywhere. I stopped at a seven eleven and bought a hotdog, a coke and a bic lighter. The tab was six seventy-three. I nearly puked on myself. These dirty dogs fucked my country all up while I was gone. Was it like this before? I wonder if this is why I left.
My aunt was visiting Vancouver at the same time I was there so we made plans to meet. Since I had been traveling and in the tropics for so long, I had very few warm clothes. My uncle lent me some old white tennis shoes and a funny cap and I was on my way. I took the sky train to Richmond and was amazed to find that there was no one driving. I could actually sit at the front where you’d think the conductor would be, and watch everything as though I was driving the thing. Fantastic setup. If it crashes would they blame me or the nerd in charge of keeping the thing on the track? Probably the nerd. I think I would have felt better seeing a real human controlling such massive machinery.
It turned out that my aunt had an alligator for me. A real stuffed alligator bent into a human pose, offering a wooden bowl that you could fill with candies or condoms. What a grotesquely unique piece. Ok, now I just had to get across town with a four-foot alligator in a canvass bag. Piece of cake. I got plenty lost in no time. Two hours in I decided to get off the bus I was riding as it was filling up with rush hour commuters and they were bumping my fragile gift. I wandered the streets asking people which way it was to commercial drive. I must have been in the tourist area because no one had a clue which direction I should go, and they were too friendly to be locals.
My alligator was getting heavy and I must have been suffering from low blood sugar since I was getting real edgy. I felt like everyone I looked at was having a laugh at me. I dragged myself through neighborhoods looking for a familiar site. I accidentally bumped into an old lady who was chuffing back a smoke with a nasty frown on her face. It must have been fate for our miserable lives to cross paths. She was flabbergasted at my inconsiderate stride and told me to watch where I was going in a wretchy voice. I gave that old snaggletooth the harshest words I have ever given a senior and trudged on.
Some time later I arrived in the general area where my uncle and his family live. I stopped in at the white trash mini mall for a quick haircut. After my sixteen dollar basic trim I grabbed my alligator and headed for the mall exit. One of the overdressed greeseballs working at the cell phone kiosk pointed me out to the security guard. ‘Yes dummy, I have a bigass bag and my clothes don’t match. Doesn’t mean I stole something’. The security goof came over and made a big deal of taking a look in my bag. ‘This twat thinks I stole some hairspray’ I thought. “I just got my hair cut. I didn’t steal anything!” I didn’t want him to see my possibly illegal friend so I gave him the tiniest peak inside the bag before I told him to suck it and stormed off and out the doors.
With no shortage of things to enrage a man here, I am staying busy. Getting a cell phone was a real treat. Unlocking a phone to use with a different network and finding a plan with minimal anal tearing was a truly rewarding experience. I would like to ‘disappear’ every second person on the streets here. Bunch of fucking cows. I vow to escape the herd before I get branded and lose my way.
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