One jihadi less

I had boarded the plane to Paris, a narrow body Delta plan. I was wedged in between two enormous gentlemen at the front of the economy cabin. We had finished boarding when 5 border police entered the plane, trying not to look agitated but I could tell they were excited about something. They walked to the back of the plane, everyone craning their necks. About 5 minutes later returned with a young man with a shaved head wearing a sweatshirt, holding a white plastic bag. I had noticed him on the way in since my seat was right at the boarding door. There was something about that white plastic bag. He didn’t hold it casually, by the handle, but all crunched up. It had caught my eye. Now he was leaving flanked by the uniformed men, handcuffed. Outside the plane several white cars with flashing lights were waiting, I suppose for him.

No one said anything, as if it was a routine matter. People rolled their eyes. We were probably all thinking whether his checked luggage had been taken off the plane as well. It was momentous and banal at the same time. Rumors started circulating right away, ‘he had an Arab passport,’ (as if there is such a thing). My conclusion was that he was either doing drugs or he was one of those recently converted and wannabee jihadis who have been leaking into the Middle East from Europe, Canada and the US.

And then we took off and arrived seven hours later in Paris. I was able to secure all three empty economy seats on the row behind me, given myself and my bulky row mates more breathing space. I took a Nyquill and slept all the way. It was a good start after a bad one.

In Paris I had a few coughing fits and took more medicine before boarding the full flight to Abidjan. This time no empty seats or chance to sleep. Instead I listened to my audio book (Cutting Stone), did jigsaw puzzles and knitted, all the while keeping my facemask firmly in place except at eating time. The five and something hours passed quickly. I hooked up with my colleagues who were sitting at the back of the plane.

At our arrival in Abidjan we passed the temperature test, given a squirt of hand gel and let into the country. I hope they are as fastidious when it is time to depart.

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