There I was standing in the middle of the Istanbul airport actually getting the smallest degree of pleasure from having just been transformed from a regular traveler to someone who was totally destitute – destitute as someone can be with a Chap Stick, an Istanbul city bus ticket and 90,000 lira (90c) in his pocket. Thirty seconds before, one of my bags containing my Irish passport, plane ticket from London to the States, all my money and credit cards had been stolen from one of the airport x-ray machines leaving me with my U.S. passport and a plane ticket for a flight to London, leaving in 30 minutes, that I still hadn’t checked in for. Good thing I pulled those two items out of my bag before sending it through the not so secure security checkpoint entering the airport. Why is it every time there’s a massive crowd of people the ringleaders of the establishment (be it a stadium, passenger train or airport) always seem to make it as difficult and inefficient as possible. The Istanbul airport was no exception.
I’d been in Istanbul for the past week enjoying my time in this city that straddles Europe and Asia. The city is totally beautiful and very Western so I was at ease travelling around – the best parts of the trip were my journeys by bus up the Bosphorus to the suburbs. It looked like the south of France or the Italian riveria with the cobblestoned streets lined with cafes facing the water. There were small harbours where the locals docked their sailboats after a jaunt up to the Black Sea. This was not what I’d expected from Istanbul at all. This morning I boarded my bus to the airport and arrived there at seven thirty thinking I’d have pleanty of time for my 9:15 flight. If I’d looked at my ticket I would have noticed the 9:15 flight was coming to Isatnbul not leaving – my flight was departing in one hour at 8:30 a.m. There were masses of people trying to enter the airport but ALL travellers must have their bags x-rayed and pass through a metal detector before checking in for their flights. I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t make my flight but I had an hour so I joined the rugby scrum to make my way towards the x-ray machines. There were families of ten moving around like small gangs making it increasingly difficult for me to make any decent progress. I had my large backpack and my daypack that held my camera, journal of the trip and all other important items, this daypack which rarely left my hands.
I made it to the metal detector, threw my large pack through then stepped up to the detector, ready to literally throw my daypack onto the x-ray machine, walk through and retrieve the daypack on the other side before anyone could get to it. The luggage was pouring out of the machine on the other side into a huge pile that everyone was crowded around like they were giving away free money. I stepped up to the metal detector and the policeman patted me down and found my leather waist pouch. “X-ray”, he said pointing to the machine. “No.” was my response an I opened up my pouch and showed him there was nothing more dangerous than an Irish passport, et al inside. “X-ray.” “NO.” “X-ray” was the third response I received – this man wasn’t going to let me into the airport unless I conceded to put my leather waist pouch through the machine. I now had 35 minutes to try to make my flight so in the interest of time I took off the waist pouch put it inside my daypack and put the daypack on the x-ray machine.
When I turned around to go through the detector one of those roaming families with eight members had moved in and were now crowding around the metal detector, giving me looks like there was no chance I was going to to get through until they were done. It took more than a few minutes for them to clear the security checkpoint, mainly due to the approximately 70 bangles each of the women was wearing on their arms. The sheer volume of silver kept setting the machine off and when instructed how to walk through the machine so it wouldn’t beep they never seem to get it right until the fifteenth try. I finally stepped through the machine and joined the crowd to retrieve my luggage where I immediately
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