Driving for pants

When I think back to waking up this morning it honestly feels like a week ago.

I had slept a little over two hours in my second and final burst of nap. My alarm wrenched me from a benign dream involving a hippopotamus. Still mostly asleep I put my clothes on and drove to my first airport pick-up at 6.20. I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup. I think I sleepdrove them through the streets of Tabuk. 7am I was more awake and it was a pair of Spaniards. The idiots at baggage handling in Riyadh had lost one of their bags. This is standard. This happens all the time. Nothing to see here. Still, he was pissed off and it made it memorable.

I went home but sleepy time couldn’t happen as this was my only window for a self-tape that was too long for the part. My brain absorbed the words though. I’m a sponge at the moment, because I’m active. The new phone made me look good. I had to record myself though and cue it off camera. Tech… Got it good enough and drove into the desert and back.

It was the 16.15 pick-up where it really blew up. She’s a driver. She has been in the air for fucking AGES. She’s got a rental car so she doesn’t need shuttling. I’m literally just a Joe in a suit making sure nothing explodes. My job is to make her feel welcome. She doesn’t come through the gate.

They’ve lost her luggage too. Of all the people. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. But here I am, stuck on land side, suited up as a welcoming committee, and she’s messaging me, panicky, from flight side.

This is small airport. You can push your way through security with a bit of insistence. I get myself flight side when it has been way too long for me waiting and wondering. I find her sitting in a little sweaty office, where an orc with a moustache and hat presides over his fat desk. I take in the situation very quickly. I’ve never met her before but it is painted broad. She is upset and so so tired. He is smug and leering, explaining something that is obvious to him in a tone that immediately puts my back up. He’s exploiting a rare moment of vulnerability. I immediately switch on my alpha and take control of this horrible room and take his things and write numbers on his papers and get him to say back the thing to me repeatedly until we are all completely sure that that is the procedure and he is going to send that email isn’t he and yes of course he’s very sorry but let’s just get this solved shall we and by the time the driver and I are out of there he’s had a right earful and he’s clutching my mobile phone number. I don’t like people who start with that behaviour. It usually makes people look small and mean like the entire cabinet. But … I can do it with the best of them and it works when its right.

The car rental guy is on Saudi time as well. They drive like roadrunner but they do bureaucracy like Elmer Fudd. She signs all the documents and she is still shaken but she’s a driver so she gets us to the hotel. I’m with her still as I’m not going to let the hotel throw up one of their periodical games of “the company have used all of their allocated rooms”. Then I leave, but my car is still parked at the airport. It’s a 45 minute walk. “Get insured on my car. Then you can go and get yours!” “That’s how tired you are. Then I’d have two cars at the airport. I wish I could drive two cars simultaneously. But it’s ok. I’ll walk. It’ll give me some downtime.”

I grab a shrimp sandwich. I cut time by running across a five lane road while munching it. Then I hit a huge patch of wasteland just as the sun is setting. Dead dry mud cracking and crunching underfoot. When did it last rain here? The bleached bones of mammals lie where they fell, inviting touch – I have seen more dry and clean spines this week than ever before in my life. They fit together so nicely. And each vertebra is an interesting gamepiece. You can see how we ended up with things like jigsaws and dice.

Sunset, a skull and plastic. Saudi Wasteland.

I walk North across it. To my left, high in the sky already, the big face of the waxing moon, almost full in Leo now. Fight night. To my right, the sun dips orange below the shredded buildings and trees of this strange and broken town. The call to prayer starts to sound all around. The devout are pulled to their ritual. We all contemplate the infinite as another day ends. Seven fighter jets roar up from the airport. I push on, walking in places I am definitely not supposed to walk. This is not a pedestrian city. There is no walkway into the airport. I walk through the car gate. I get my car back and almost immediately a call from the other side of the world.

Nobody else can do it. I have to buy the things that have been lost by the driver. It might be a few days before the bag comes back. Meantime the driver needs clothes.

I’ve never bought an outfit for a woman before. Thank God for Lou. She talked me through the pitfalls. I try and get practical stuff here. I’m erring on the side of active-wear.

There are no women’s knickers in H&M here though. I am told to go to the big store in the mall where the security guard won’t let me in. Bloody prudes. Men’s pants aplenty but the women have to go to the big city. Thankfully Next is nearby, and not so buttoned up. I get it all. I drop it off at her hotel. I wish I could have bluffed that a woman had done the shopping and not me. That’s essentially how it worked anyway as I took full advantage of Lou’s incredible grasp of fabrics and styles and kept on sending photos and getting guidance.

Then it was yo-yoing up and down to the airport and dear God it’s just turning 1am, I slept 4 hours total last night in two short bursts. I’m gonna close my eyes and vanish. A mostly solitary day with a burst of social behaviour in the middle. And I was very very happy. Focused, active, needed – and not forced to make small-talk. A good place. I dunno what I got so weirded out about yesterday.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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