Saturday, 24 September 2011

To Oslo...

Idrees was my taxi driver to the airport. I tried carrying my luggage onto the train, but my gear weighed 25kg, my backpack around another 10kg. Just walking to the train station from my flat was a challenge.

(North Face, you make a great expedition bag, but carrying it on your back is too painful to be practical...please redesign the straps. I'm happy to help...)

Half-way to the train station, I ducked into a side street and asked Sam's Cars to take me to Terminal 5. Idrees walked me to his car. I was so tired after only 4 hours of sleep the night before, I was ready to fall asleep immediately. I always fall asleep in cars. But Idrees' conversation was too involved to fall asleep to.

He told me about how hard he works, sometimes doing two ten-hour shifts back to back. He doesn't take any chances when he gets tired, though. He doesn't do any of the tricks some people do - opening the window to get some air or drinking a cup of coffee. He just goes straight home to sleep. "I'm not going to risk my life for ten, twenty quid," he says.

He tells me about his boxing career. 30 wins in 40 bouts. Most of his losses were because he couldn't get his weight down enough to fall into lightweight - 60kg. He talks me through some of his losses, recounting exactly what it was that finally knocked him down. He says he likes boxing, but who wants to get beaten up all the time?

He has a child on the way - his wife should be giving birth in about two weeks. Idrees would like a boy. He'd like to teach him boxing, but he's not sure it's the right thing to do, teaching a child to beat people up. Sport is great, but maybe not boxing. He took his nephew to a fight once, but he felt bad when he got knocked out - he kept thinking "why should my nephew have to see me like this?"

We talked about the price of baby clothes, and all the accessories you need. He bought a pram for £400. "You could get one for less, but then it'll look cheap. You don't want to be walking around pushing a pram you're not happy with."

"You're Palestinian? Were you at the demo on Saturday?"
I don't really go to demos any more.
He lifts up his sunglasses and shows me a scar.
"That's from a riot shield. People started pushing, and the riot police just beat up anyone they could get their hands on. I had to get 12 stitches and my eye was black and swollen for two weeks. They didn't care who it was. There was a woman next to me, you could see she wouldn't hurt anyone, but they beat her up, too."

As I pay for the taxi, Idrees gives me his card, so I can book a taxi on the way back.
"Good luck with the baby!" I shake his hand as I heave my bags into the airport.
My bag is 2kg over the limit, but the woman at the checkout counter lets it slide. I wouldn't know what to do if she'd stopped me. I would have had to try boarding the plane with my snow boots, weighing 2kg each.

I call my sister to say goodbye. The call reminds me that my airport protocol has changed. I would always call my mother last thing before boarding a flight. She would say something about missing me, never quite sure where I was going or why. I would say something about seeing her soon, never entirely true.  

I fall asleep taxing out of Heathrow. I wake up in Oslo. I was so tired I didn't even notice take-off.

1 comment:

Freep said...

Cabbies are often the MOST interesting folks to chat with. Chances are it's not who they are it's just how they pay for stuff. And these days you just might run into truly exceptional people stuck in shitty circumstances. A phd from country X feeding his family with a cabbies' salary.
Looking forward to your story unfolding mate. As Lou Reed said, it's the beginning of a great adventure.
Stay safe