I leaned my tired body on my hand-carry and tried to stifle a yawn. It was 4.15am and yet there was no coolness in the air. The automatic doors behind me provided some relief as they opened and shut intermittently, sometimes to make way for approaching passengers and staff, sometimes in a mistaken response to my movements. Every now and then I looked at my watch to count, to the nearest half-minute, the amount of time I had spent waiting for the hotel shuttle. The curious looks I got from the few passersby made me anxious that I was standing in the wrong place.
Sure enough, about sixty seconds later an approaching coaster made me realise I had crossed one crossing to many. I walked quickly to rectify my mistake and was about to climb inside it when I saw the name of the hotel written on a card in the windshield, not mine. Frustrated, I stepped back and looked at my watch again to do some important sleep loss calculations. Every moment lost brought my next flight closer than I wanted it to be.
Having had enough, I proceeded towards the line for the taxi and no sooner had I stepped in it that I was directed towards a line of cabs driven by ladies uniformed in pink scarves. The first of them stepped forward to take my bag. “Holiday Inn, Dubai Airport,” I told her after she had placed my luggage in the trunk and was adjusting the mirrors.
“Man! why you do this to me so early in the morning!” was her unexpected reply, “You should have told me before, there is a free shuttle for it.”
“I know, but I waited for it and it wasn’t coming,” I replied meekly, feeling like a child reprimanded by its teacher.
“But there it is now, I can see it,” she said and pulled the car out of the parking lane, putting to rest my momentary fear that she would make me walk back to the shuttle stop.
The following five minute journey, which was interspersed with phrases like, “It is so near” and “You will see how close it is when we reach”, ended in the meter showing a reading of Dhs 9.50. I took out my wallet to pay her, totally intending to let her keep the change to make up for the disappointments she had not shied away from expressing.
“It’s ok, you keep it,” said her voice as I opened my mouth.
“Umm..” was all I managed as I stood still for a moment in confusion. waiting for my brain to respond. Then, as she walked back to the car after placing my bag on the curb, I rushed to the window and tried to offer the money again, “Why aren’t you taking the money?”
“I would have gotten this much even if I didn’t come here,” she said as she drove off into the darkness, leaving me with a ten dirham note in my hand, perplexed at her snappish generosity.
Some moments passed before another approaching yawn reminded me of more important things, and I headed towards the reception to request the keys to the rooms where my family was currently sleeping.