Friday, November 05, 2010


A small light situated on the runway flickers on every two seconds or so somewhere in the corner, officiating an atmosphere populated densely with the still, early-morning quietness that can only be encapsulated in places where the intensity accompanying a lack of sound signifies its seriousness. Sometimes the light forgets to count and misses a second. Most who are lucky to witness this usually criticize silently, forgetting that it is, after all, only a light.

And almost as if a fog of drowse seeps through narrow corridors and wide spread lobbies, chairs line up from side to side with all types of people united in the deepest realms of sleep. It’s as though if all those people weren’t there, the chairs wouldn’t be, either.

Only the odd bored introvert refuses to part with his thoughts, remaining awake to draw imaginary thought bubbles over the faces of unsuspecting sleepers, hoping to make his day by finding just one person with which he could have an intelligent discussion. A free meal and chocolate discounts will work for the rest.

A beep every once in a while from a scanner of some sort tries to set a standard of efficiency but is easily humiliated by a dedicated band of midnight man-nannies calling themselves police who patrol the high corridors in a childish golf cart. In a mysterious way their laughter echoes soundlessly in the halls they tour but reverberate strangely in the fantasies of a dreaming traveler who has his earplugs on.

In a way, everything talks at night. Pages of books flicked all too many times in a bookstore by bejeweled fingers always tell you they should be bought on discount. Empty tissue boxes always play a trick on you. Even above the ceiling, hiding in the ventilation shafts are not ninja assassins but loyally humming air conditioning units that rumble in their own language. They express in iciclessss.

The sound of a coin refused and landing in the return vault of a vending machine that has run out of chocolate milk and change puzzles the small, cute five year old Japanese girl standing in front of it. But she knows what she wants, points at it and commands the machine to obey - pink hoodie and everything. Challenged, the machine gives in and the cardboard pack comes tumbling down.

There is no truth to the Max Payne-esque notion that if time slows down, so does space and material. There is no truth to the opposite too though. One learns to appreciate this on break when food that was meant to be enjoyed over an hour has to be gorged down in a second and what was supposed to be digested in a second has extended beyond an hour, three lavatory breaks and even defeats the 5 am toilet rush.

As the sun rises, rays chase you until the feeling of lightness overtakes, bringing into balance the function of night and day. The world begins to spin again and suddenly you see Chinese going to Iran, Iranians eating Mexican, Mexicans going to Russia, Russians boarding onto India, Indians going to Germany, Germans flying to Germany, Brazilians going to Germany, Americans not going to Germany and so on. In fifteen minutes the true meaning of the term 'melting pot' is seen congruent with its physical namesake as one indulges in a feast of cultures, histories and traditions.

And as another midnight shift in an airport comes to an end, you realise that that's okay, because every day the sun shines... is a good night.

photo: Baggage trollies at Dubai International Airport Terminal 3, Departures Level. Credit: Unknown

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Closing Shift

As the early morning swish-swooshes into a blurry encore of the diminishing night's song, the night holds a protesting vigil that is exemplified through every passage of the common city. The street lights line up as legionnaires, tall giants spaced apart, silently and majestically showering the world with a caramel glow that illuminates safety through the haze of the dark night sky.

Traffic lights mount the pavements as sentinels, rhythmically emitting white light diffracted into iridescent splashes of ruby, topaz, and emerald. The colours prevail into the distance, cautioning awareness and granting passage to the superior four-wheeled race who hold up high their noses (radiator grills) and patronise the mortal bicycle men lurking in the shadows on either side. This squad of news distribution delegates emerge occasionally to gawk at the cascades of brushed aluminum, spherical opaque bodies and poised slivers of metallic gleam all while minding their own business.

As I grasp all of this in a second, my dalliance with visual modality attracts the attention of my seat-mate and the bluetooth-type kinetic transfer of epiphany that I attempt fails spectacularly.

Maybe we still need cables?

Still, as our faces hide in the absence of light we seem to share in common the sense of purpose that places us together there right then. The road extends onward like curvy waves in a sea of waypoints leading back - not exactly in terms of latitude and longitude but something that works well enough - to an individual’s heart or convenience. It leads to shelter. If you don't miss your stop.

Nevertheless as reflection overcomes perception, those behind the tinted windows of a transport van realize that to a lot of fortunate people the same window pane beholds outward a dizzle-dazzle world of satisfying nationwide nocturnalism that they help make real. They realize that after everything has been said, seen, done and happened it brings with it – like all type of occupational schedules – peace of mind maintained by a strand of reality as thin as a fragile gossamer that can be shattered when grasping the fact it doesn’t remit enough monetarily, it isn’t really worth doing or, unique to this scenario, you’ll be up again doing the exact same thing in very few hours.

In spite of all this as we travel through the passages of the common city, the golden sparkle of overhead orbs play a melody, sprinkling themselves everywhere like hundreds and thousands, transforming everything and revealing in a moment of clarity the sight before us, reaching far into our conscience the felicity of creation as they stun us and bring all around them to a halt. It effectuates the inversion of a robust township that can only be discovered when silence sails over and consequently only few witness.

Making it worth it, almost.

Anyway, in its undulating loyalty to the task, the tell-tale shine of two-minute shoe polish fails to mirror my look of dismay on black leather as I realize there’s nothing captivating about missing your drop-off point.

Happily, I’m already on the long walk home – and it’s just been night on the closing shift.