As two travelers in the land of Domodedovo, we were both weary and hungry. This means we were easily sucked into a false sense of security as quiet falls over our gate.
From where we sit, draped in our coats and bags and eating mini-pretzels, we can see the gate for passengers flying to Osh. I didn’t know this at the time, but I found out later that Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan. Those flying to Osh weren’t forming a nice orderly queue. Not that I blame them. Their flight looked severely delayed and lots of them had small children. Small children don’t wait patiently for late planes. They swarmed the desk and stood staring at the gate staff who were nervously twiddling their thumbs and playing around with their walkie talkies. It wasn’t an aggressive crowd, but it was a pretty huge one nonetheless. And none of the staff looked like they wanted to tell an already cranky group of people with a long flight ahead of them that their plane was delayed even later.
I mentioned in Part 1 the Domodedovo strict code of security. This only continued – albeit in a slightly more whimsical fashion – once we were sitting at the gate. Television screens were showing a reel of local ads, and in between the commercial messages were little public information films.
In one of them a cartoon villain, complete with long pointy nose and chin, black balaclava and evil eyebrows, tiptoes up to a rubbish bin. Not too far away a policeman is chatting up a female cabin attendant, who flicks her blonde hair over her shoulder and, apparently, also doesn’t notice a cat burglar hanging around the bin.
The baddie opens up his bag of misdeeds and pulls out a package. He places it on top of the bin then tiptoes away.
A young man with spiked hair and a dog collar choker (clearly they think the youth of Russia all dress like extras in a Blink 182 music video) notices. Since the police officer is still putting moves on the flight attendant, this upstanding young member of the public taps him on the shoulder and points out the potentially fatal contraption on top of the bin. The policeman finally stops trying to get the stewardess’s number and gets his cartoon dog to sniff the package. Oh dear, Fido doesn’t like it and starts to bark.
The screen confusingly fades to black, and we are left to assume that they all lived happily after. Except the Russian police officer who you may hope would have to go on a special weekend course on how not to flirt on the job.
The general message from Domodedovo airport, then, seemed to be that ‘our staff are too busy trying to get into the knickers of the airline’s stewardesses. Please exercise caution and do all of the baddie-catching for them, there’s a nice passenger.’
Let’s play ‘Try and get on a plane that hasn’t landed yet’
In the land of Domodedovo, they have many traditions and games that may seem strange to the lands of other airports in the world. One of them is a quaint game of ‘let’s get on a plane that hasn’t landed yet’. And passengers are the participants whether they want to play or not.
Yes, we had seen, heard, and been dampened a little by the thunderous storm that had rolled over Domodedovo. But it had been a good hour since it had stopped, and our plane was meant to be landing shortly. With a hopeful glint in our eye, S and I assumed that everything was on time.
This being a boarding gate for a London flight, everyone queued politely and waited their turn to be checked and then led onto a bus. Not wanting to get left behind we managed to get the beginning of the queue and wriggle our way onto the plane with our bags.
And waited some more.
The staff who had let us through the gate fought their way on board after 20 minutes and told us in both English and Russian that we weren’t going to be boarding the aircraft just yet…because it had yet to land. It was probably going to be another 40 minutes.
What on earth was the point of getting us on the bus then?
The games they play in the land of Domodedovo may seem strange and confusing, but there’s bugger all you can do about them.
As always on a British-bound flight in a foreign country, there were some token Brits who felt it was their need to take charge and whip the damned Russians into shape what what. So off they harrumphed to go and find someone to complain to.
But this is Russia. And since they’ve never been a British colony, they’ve never developed a fear of shouty red-faced Brits who think they have a right to complain. I’d heard the particular member of staff they were moaning to speaking English to another passenger earlier. Now he was pretending he couldn’t speak a word. Well done good sir.
Tired of everyone pretending not to understand them, the Bossy Brits boarded the bus again and talked loudly about the various incompetence’s of the airport. We – Brits and Russians alike – agreed with all of them, but what’s the use. S and I bedded down on the bus floor and waited it out. We’d had good practice waiting for things not to happen when they should do whilst queueing to get into the Kremlin, so we propped ourselves up against our luggage and miserably watched the time slip away. The more time we spent delayed in Moscow, the later we were going to land and the later we would be getting to bed. Both of us had to get up for work the next day. The thought of not getting enough sleep was torture.
Half an hour later, and everyone had spied our plane land. Eventually the staff conceded that yes the big orange plane we could all see was ours but we would still have to wait a little longer. Those who had gone back into the gate quickly scurried back onto the bus. Finally, after another ten minutes of extra waiting, we were driven to the plane.
Huzzah, we were on our way. An hour delayed, but on our way. We pulled out onto the wet runway and eased up above the land of Domededovo. We waved goodbye to the carpet of fir trees that had greeted us on our landing. We waved goodbye to Moscow, spread out beneath us in all its enormity as we headed up into thick black cloud.
Goodbye, Land of Domodedovo. You were a strange and bewildering place. I hope I never have to fly from you again.