A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

coming home

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 30, 2007

I arrived back in Beirut this afternoon, on the Middle East Airlines flight from Paris. Ordinarily, I hate flying MEA. The attendants are nice, but rarely up to the task of managing the egos of their passengers.

For example, on my flight out of Beirut last week, the woman seated behind me decided that I was not allowed to recline my seat. When shoving my seat forward proved ineffective – and telling me “you cannot put your seat back” equally so – she called a flight attendant. (I do try not to be unreasonable – I don’t put my seat back when meals are served, and I don’t put it back all the way during daytime flights or when the person behind me is particularly long-legged. But the seats are made to recline …)

It took the personal intervention of the purser to … well … if not convince her … at least bring the active shoving down to a manageable series of kicks. And no, she wasn’t a teenager – in fact, the two teenage children accompanying her were much better behaved. I’m not one to praise the world’s airlines for shortening the pitch of their seats, but I don’t think it beyond the pale to try to catch a few zzzz’s on a 2 am flight.

What really makes me roll my eyes about MEA flights, though, is the fact that everyone claps when the plane lands. I am all for clapping when the pilot has done an exceptional job – I clapped heartily in July 2001, when the plane I was on made a successful emergency landing in Detroit after losing its mechanical brain. And I clapped long and hard in November 1996 when my post-Thanksgiving flight landed, skidding but safe, on our third approach into Albany during a white-out blizzard. But clapping for every ordinary landing? This is the outcome I expect for a commercial flight. Otherwise, what’s the point of having pilot’s licenses?

So I was delightfully surprised this afternoon when no one clapped. Besides myself and one newly hired professional basketball player from Rhode Island (who unfortunately could not pronounce the name of his new team), the plane was full of Lebanese from Venezuela and other points south. Perhaps their years abroad have made them more discerning flyers.

Anyway, bravo aleikon, fellow flyers! I arrived back home to find that karma once again dictated that I should arrive on a 3-6 power cut day. So I started my unpacking by candlelight, which might have been more romantic if I were less of a klutz.

Once the power came back on, I spent a few minutes picking up everything that had fallen while I roamed around in the dark, and a few more minutes sorting out everything that I had “put away” in the wrong place. I’m still missing a bottle of Whole Foods’ organic peanut sauce – I’ve checked my toiletries supply, my laundry pile, and the kitchen shelves, but it is nowhere to be found. Its alright, though. Based on years of past experience with my own absent-mindedness, I am confident that it will turn up, when (and certainly where) I least expect it.

I also decided to try out my new surge protector, a very welcome Christmas gift from Santa.

surge-protector.jpg

The idea is that I plug this into the wall and it will protect up to five appliances from the surges of electrical power that occur when the power goes off, comes on, or has any number of daily hiccups.

But the surge protector has a three-prong plug, and my electrical sockets (which are dual North American/European and 220v) only take two-pronged plugs. So I plugged the protector into a universal converter, plugged the two together into the wall, and BOOM.

It wasn’t exactly a surge, and it certainly wasn’t protection – it blew my apartment’s fuses and the general fuse for the building’s floor, to boot. I guess Beirut’s power supply has a mind of its own 😛 .

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