Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pigeon English

Today, I’m standing in the Medan airport checking in for a flight to Banda Aceh. Of course, they don’t have my reservation so I explain in pigeon English to the clerk the reason God invented ticketing. It must have been the concept with which he was struggling because my pigeon English was perfect. The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: We pay you money so I fly.

Him: No reservation.

Me: Understand. We pay you money so I fly. We no pay you money so I sit in airport. No standby. Standby no good.

Him: You name no on list.

Me: I understand. Why we pay you money?

Him: You buy ticket?

Me: No, I no buy ticket. Administrator buy ticket.

Him: Name no on list.

Me: You fix.

Him: Wait 30 minutes before flight.

Me: We call that standby.

Him: Yes. Standby.

At which point - and the real point of this story: a guy walks up and tries to get onto our flight with—I’m not making this up—an AK47 and handgun that he sets on the counter when he hands his ticket over to the clerk. I dared to hope that this might pose a security problem but then remembered where I was. I don’t know the exact definition of “lax” but the security in Medan’s airport comes pretty close. Sure, they don’t check ID, sure you can carry knives on board, but we’re talking guns here. I mean, c’mon, we’re not in Iraq or Afghanistan, surely you can't just get on to flights with automatic weapons here - oh wait, yes apparently you can. The compromise that seemed to have been agreed upon was that he could carry the weapons but not the ammunition. (Yes, there were actually bullets IN the guns) and I watched the security guys take the bullets out of the gun and—wait for it—hand them back to him. Apparently, security here are of the “guns don’t kill people, bullets kill people” school of thought. More later—if I’m not gunned down mid-flight.

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