Seven-year-old Mohammed Fazlu kicked his football onto a freight train, climbed up to retrieve it, then couldn’t get down because the train had started moving. He ended up more than 800 miles from home and was reunited with his family in Bangalore, India, only four months later, according to the British press.
Mohammed Fazlu was an accidental tourist. But even on the best-planned trip, the unexpected will occur. Sometimes it’s the best part.
But this morning, when my husband announces “Ben-Gurion Airport is on strike,” 19 hours before we are to begin a long and complex trip to the US, the unexpected is snaking its way over our doorstep. My first instinct is to slam the door shut and pretend it will go away. I have a story to finish and no brain cells to spare on anxiety. With all my sympathy for the airport workers, who are fighting to ensure their pensions, all I want is some quiet and some clarity.
Then that snake slithers over to me and starts licking my forearm with its raspy, sticky tongue. Should I call the hotel in London and say we might not get there? Should I alert our brother-in-law in Los Angeles that we might be delayed?
The strike story takes a weird turn. According to the news, a group of disgruntled Hassidim who have just returned from prostrating themselves on the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine, get carried away, hop on the luggage conveyor belts, and start dancing. They sing “Ya-ba-bam, dy, dy, dy” and the airport workers melt, giving them a prize for damaging the equipment that is needed to serve them. The workers will unload the Uman-dancers’ luggage so the plane can go back to Uman and bring home more of them. Now the workers have decided to unload the luggage from all the planes, though probably more slowly than they would normally, because one conveyor belt is damaged. But still no take-offs … yet.
A friend reminds me that in April, the last time I traveled to the US (on a similarly complex route through Europe), a cloud of volcanic ash threatened to keep me grounded. I left on the first leg of my journey not knowing whether I would be able to board the continuing flights. But the ash dissipated. And the baby, whose birth I was to attend, waited for my arrival. The happy end banished any memory of anxiety. With luck, I’ll forget this strike by the next time I travel. But years from now Mohammed Fazlu will probably be telling his children and his grandchildren how he got carried away with his football.
Text copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.