The Most Uncomfortable Airport In The World

Okay, maybe it’s an exaggeration. Maybe it’s because I have six hours to kill here. Maybe and probably, it’s mostly because I only slept three hours last night. But the Sabiha Gökçen Havalimanı airport in Turkey is really scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of amenities. It’s small, there’s no free WiFi, and very little in the way of a comfortable place to sit. All you can do is walk in a horseshoe shaped hallway of consumption: store after store, fast food joint after fast food joint with a couple of restaurants and one bakery with baked goods that actually look quite yummy. From the looks of it, Turkish bakers know what they’re doing.

Oh yeah and suddenly I’m looking at Roman characters again—Turkish uses them—and they are on all the signs, not that I can read them, of course, unless there’s a translation.

In order to get WiFi—and really my eyes are too bleary to read my book, there are two restaurants you can go into, and if you spend 30 lira, the local currency, they take your boarding pass and then ten minutes later, give you a one hour code that gets printed out of a credit card type machine, so you can go online and also recharge your computer if you have the right adapter—which I do. The first time I did this, I went to the Heroes Sports Bar and ordered scrambled eggs and orange juice. They said the juice was fresh on the menu, but it came in a metal can. The eggs tasted pretty good. I needed the hit of protein. Then I got online and spent my hour posting my blog post from this morning, with no time to spare for proofreading (sorry about all those errors).

After breakfast, I was genuinely interested in people watching, but there were no comfortable places to sit, no carts for your carry-on (and yes, yes, I am carrying too much) and it gets heavy. Finally I went up to the second level and almost all the restaurants were the worst in American chain food. There was a Starbucks (without WiFi, if you can believe such a thing), and luckily some comfortable cushy chairs across the way. I commandeered one, I put my backpack under my legs and my c-pap machine tucked under my ankle, grasped my purse with my passport and ticket and valuables on my lap, took off my glasses and tucked them in my shirt and covered myself with my Beduoin coat, which covered up everything into a big brown furry pile! Finally the perfect use for my coat. I slept for 45 minutes.

The very moment I woke up, a woman wearing an abaya, a long flowing black covering that only had an opening for her eyes, was leaning over just a few feet from my face. She was talking to her husband, and showing him something on her cell phone. She had on a pair of sneakers and a white femme backpack, which to my western eyes looked incongruous, though of course it was simply practical. I often wear sneakers in airports too, and always a backpack. But coming out of a groggy sleep, I was taken with her presence. Of course, I didn’t try to catch her eye, but she was a startling sight to wake up to. And as I woke up more and started to look around I noticed the incredible diversity of dress—mostly for women, with most in western clothes, but many women similarly covered. I immediately wondered about their lives and all the ways we might be the same and different–and how in all my life, the chances of me actually getting to know someone who lives her public life completely covered is so unlikely.

Afterwards, with four more hours to kill, two hours until my gate would be announced, I looked at the stores which had beautiful Turkish candies and plates and tiny little beautiful tea sets. I wanted to buy one for my granddaughter Ellie, but she isn’t yet four and is far too little to take care of a beautiful china Turkish tea set, and besides, do I need one more fragile thing to carry?

And all the things draped off my shoulders were threatening to knock things off the shelf, so I left the shop.
After I made my sixth pass of the horseshoe of conspicuous consumption, and saw for the fourth time that my gate hadn’t yet been announced, I decided it was time to buy more food, this time in the other restaurant, also offering an hour of WiFi if you spend 30 lira. So this time I ordered hot chocolate and fruit salad. And I went online. And then I noticed that it was 3:00 AM in the morning in the US, so there was no one to chat with, no emails to read, no new posts on Facebook, not even any bad news alerts–and very little to do to pass the time. You can’t get Netflix or HBO over here—so no movies either. So I decided to sip my hot chocolate and write this post. At least I’ll get a story out of my miserable day here. And hopefully I’ll nap on my next flight!

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