Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta safety. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta safety. Mostrar todas las entradas

sábado, 30 de julio de 2016

Paradise is not safe

   The sandstorm was slowly subsiding. For a couple of hours, every grain of sand in the desert had been lifted and sent several kilometers further from where it had been for months. Storms were not uncommon as the desert had them very often, especially in the summer month when the weather there got even worse.  It was a dangerous and unforgiving place, but it could also be beautiful and peaceful.

 There was a small oasis, containing a rather large pond, which had resisted to the wind and the forces of nature. To any traveller, it surely seemed like an illusion because it wasn’t very common to see all that water in the middle of the desert. A flock of orange birds arrived just as the sand settled, sitting on the palm trees and, from time to time, flying low over the pond to get their feathers wet in order to clean them.

 It was a small paradise. Some hours later, another creature came close to the oasis. It was a human and it was wearing a full mask over the face but, whoever it was, also had uncovered arms and tight pants that were smeared with mud and sand dust. The human was riding a camel, which was barely walking. As resistant as they were, it was clear this one had gone through a lot and really needed to get rest. Just a few meters away from reaching the pond, the came collapsed and the human hit the ground hard.

 For a long time, maybe a couple of hours, the person stayed there, with the face on the sand and the legs crossed in a very weird angle. The camel had stopped breathing the moment it collapsed. Whoever that person was, there was no ride that could take him or her back to civilization. Now, the desert had become even larger with the death of the camel. But nature and the orange birds ignored this. To them, it was all the same.

 When the human woke up, it ran to the water, fast, as if something was very wrong. It moved a lot in the water. Apparently, removing the mask was much harder that envisioned. After a few minutes of struggle, a shorthaired woman came out of the water and sat on the edge of the pond. She had to cut through the mask with her nails and she had hurt herself a bit by doing so as the material had become difficult to breath in because of the sand.

 She looked around, watching the orange birds and her dead ride, as well as some small twister far in the distance. The storm had not entirely died out. But that wasn’t really the problem. The real problem was being in the middle of nowhere with no way to survive. She looked at her reflection on the water and saw the small cuts she had given herself with her fingernails. She also realized how tired she looked and how her arms were burned by the very hot desert sun.

 Unwilling to stay put, she decided to dig with her own hands a grave for the camel. It was not only out of respect, but also because she didn’t want certain animals to come there looking for a meal. Burying her camel was hard, as it had been a gift from a person that had saved her some days ago and now that gift had left her stranded in the middle of nowhere. She actually had no idea who that person was because, as she was, the person also had a covered face. But the woman felt it had been another female prisoner back in that place.

 All kinds of memories were rushing back to her head and dug the grave: she had been a long time on a prison right there in the desert. It was run by legionnaires, men that were dedicated to the preservation of those colonies, places where they had no place to be in but there they were. Besides, she knew they hated woman because female prisoners always had worse punishments if they did something wrong. For stealing a loaf of bread for example, a woman would be flogged in the yard twenty times. A man would only get one punch in the stomach and that was it.

 But one night, something had happened. Apparently the prison had been attacked by desert dwellers and it the chaos, the woman that had given her the camel had appeared and liberated her from her chains. She helped her getting some clothes too and the mask in order to survive the harsh conditions of the desert.

 The shorthaired woman dragged the camel centimeter by centimeter, being a very heavy creature. She knew it was a waste to bury it and not eat it but she had no knife or a way to make fire. She couldn’t keep the creature’s milk and grease anywhere so there was no point in letting the camel there for the scavengers to eat. It took her several hours to get the animal in the hole she had done and some more time putting sand all over it. Finally, she rested on top of the mound she had created, shocked by the fact that she was hopeless.

 She really tried to remember her name, something that was so essential and obvious but she had no idea what it was. She had no idea either of how she had arrived to that prison. It was possible that the woman had been a thief or some sort of criminal but she really had no recollection of anything before the prison. The only image she had very clear on her mind was the one of the whole compound burning as the night became darker and she rode of on the camel. For a moment, she had wanted to go back and pick up the person that had saved her but, whoever it was, had disappeared in a matter of seconds. She wanted to thank that person, do it with her voice because she hadn’t spoken a word. But it was too late.

 Looking at the water again, she decided to take off her clothes and have another swim, this time to really clean herself up and feel like a human being again. Not that she remembered how to feel like one, but maybe she could have a revelation while in the middle of the pond. She left the tight and brown clothes near the camel mound to dry and then walked the few steps that separated her from the water. As her feet got wet again, she felt better than in any other moment in the past few months. When her whole body was in, she felt new.

 The woman sunk her head in the water and stayed there for a few seconds, realizing how great it felt to have the sun on her skin and her body all wet at the same time. She felt like a person, very different from what she had felt like in prison. She tried not to think about that, not to remember the atrocities she had lived through but it was impossible. It was the only life that she knew: the mistreatment, the dark cells, the lack of food and water, the laughs of the guards and the feeling that she was never going to see anything else than that awful place.

 A howl was heard on the wind. All thought of the prison vanished. She stood still in the water, waiting to confirm if what she had heard was real or if she had imagined it. No, there it was again. She got out of the water fast and realized it would take a while to get dry. Besides, she had no ride so she couldn’t go far. Another howl made her desperate, looking all over the place for an answer that didn’t seem to be coming fast enough. What should she do?

 The howling creature was a man, the leader of the guards in the prison. He rode a stallion, as well as the two other men that came with him. He arrived at the oasis at very high speed, which scared the orange birds from the palm trees. The three men descended from their horses and let them have a drink of water as they had a drink from the bottle they had on their waist. They also had a gun each on their belts and one of them used it to shoot a bird that had not flown. The little body dropped into the water, almost silently.

 The three men walked around the oasis and took random shots at the ground and the water. Then, their leader howled again, as they came full circle around the pond and reached their horses again. They left in a huff, the orange birds arriving shortly after.

 It was then when the woman stood up from the sand, having been breathing through a small whole which the men had ignored. They were obviously looking for escaped prisoners, which meant she wasn’t far enough from them. She unearthed her clothes from the ground, put them on and started walking. Maybe she had no chance but she couldn’t stare there forever. Paradise was not safe.

jueves, 26 de mayo de 2016


   The end of the lines was just next to a Mexican food stand, were many people ate, unaware that the line that was getting longer and longer had nothing to do with the food they were eating.

 The last two people to get to the line were a couple, a woman named Mel and a man named Jon. They had come to the park because they wanted to ride The Abomination, a very tall and long rollercoaster, built out of steel and wood at the same time. It was one of a kind and had landed the best reviews for a rollercoaster in a while.

 The couple had come all the way from another country just to have a go in the rollercoaster. The ride was supposed to last for a whole minute but the expected time in line was a bout two hours. That’s why the people from the park had to relocate some garbage bins and benches in order to put up a special place were people could make the line. It extended all over the park and it was cut at some places in order to let other visitors to the park move around with ease.

 In every place where the line was cut, there was a supervisor checking that every person in the line had a decent behavior and that no one got in line out of nowhere. If they discovered someone left or cut in front or behind their friends, there were taking out of the line very rapidly by the security agents of the park. So it was a very tense place.

 People would also have food in there. As many had backpacks, they brought everything they needed as they waited on line. The only thing they took care about was the amount of liquid they drank. It was hard because the sky was clear and the temperature had begun to rise dramatically. Yet, they didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom and then lose their seat, so everyone took very small sips and only if they felt really thirsty.

 Mel and Jon had drunk a lot of water before going to the park and had also eaten all that they could back in the hotel. They had complimentary breakfast so they stuffed themselves with everything and even brought some food in Mel’s purse in case they had the urge for something with sugar or to eat something after the long wait.

 They also had cards and videogames in their cellphones, which many were playing. Others decided to just chat with the people they had come in or they would simply eat because they had left their hotels early in order to be the first group in line. Needless to say that the first train that day had left with people that had camped outside the park, something that was supposedly forbidden but they had found the way to do it without the police arresting them or something.

 Jon was the one that had taken her girlfriend into the world of rollercoaster. Since being a young boy, he had been an enthusiast because they lived in a town with many rollercoasters, where people fro mall over came to ride them. So he thought there had to be something great about those structures and he eventually discovered there was, when he was finally able to ride all of them. The day he turned eighteen years old, he rode a rollercoaster called Dragon slayer. He was so happy that day that he celebrated his birthday right on the park with all his family and friends.

 Mel had never really been a fanatic of rollercoasters. She had rode some in her younger years but she had never really seen the interest of riding rollercoasters. When she met Jon, it was obvious he was a fanatic and, at first, it seemed there was going to be a problem about that because he was too obsessed the subject. What she did was taking him a away of all of that, at least for some time a week, in order for him to know there were other things in life he could be trying.

 That’s how she got him to try a variety of food they had never eaten, especially very spicy food. He got really hooked on that, to the point he bought a bottle of Tabasco every single time he went out to a supermarket. His parents noticed right away and asked him if he was ok and he answered that he was very happy with Mel. Instantly, they blamed her for every change his son showed in the next months, something she had to live with every single time she visited their home.

 Eventually, she got to convince them, by actions, that it was their son that had a problem. Everything obsessed him with an incredible ease. He grew attached to things in a matter of minutes after knowing them. It was amazing the amount of foreign food he brought home, the amount of sports he tried to be involved in and the way he got involved in every single thing.

 When Mel convinced him of playing volleyball with her and her friends, he grew extremely competitive after a single match. Even after hurting one of her friends after hitting her face, Jon’s enthusiasm wouldn’t go out. By the following week, he had already bought a net to put on his family’s backyard as well as an official volleyball and the proper attire to play the game. He started watching matches in TV, surprising his father who had never seen him enthusiastic about a sport.

The same thing happened to him with rollercoasters, with other sports such as basketball and softball, with spicy food, confectionery and even with the grooming of his dog Mordo. He grew to be obsessed with every single thing, driving people around him mad.

 Mel was the first to talk to his parents about it and, surprisingly, they agreed with her. It was obvious there was a problem to be solved and it had to be addressed before Jon was older, before he had to start working somewhere or prior to someone taking advantage for those obsessions, because he was sincere and innocent in some way when he had that uncontrollable rush to be into something. They all agreed they would help him overcome his problem.

The first difficult thing was to actually speak to him and tell him what they thought was happening and what they thought could be a good thing to do. He wasn’t really convinced but he listened to Mel when she asked him to go to a therapist she knew very well. It was the father of one of her best friends and he was a very well renowned professional that helped various types of people to improve their mental health by doing exercises and talking a lot.

 Not surprisingly, Jon got really hooked up with going to the shrink. He would be there thirty minutes earlier and would try for Dr. Bernstein to let him stay longer, as he thought it was very interesting how he dug into people’s minds with his knowledge. Mel was very disappointed at first. It was then when she realized it would probably be for the best if she ended up the relationship, no matter how much she loved Jon. The situation could drive her insane and she didn’t want that for her life.

 But then, something happened. As Jon had to talk about his problems, had to really dig deep into his past, his present and his thoughts on life, his enthusiasm begun to dwindle down after a full month going to visit Dr. Bernstein. When he came back from there, he would never talk a lot and would prefer to play his videogames or work to get his degree in engineering. He grew very quiet around that time and his parents got very worried and, again, blamed the girlfriend.

 Eventually, she was invited to join one of the appointments. It was the first time she saw Jon cry and the doctor explained him they had found the cause of his obsessions. It was simply because he needed things to be trustworthy, he needed to trust into objects that would always satisfy him. It was not a surprise, as he had always had problems dealing with people. He had few friends and he had met Mel practically by chance.

 So they visited the Abomination as a way of atoning all of those awful feelings he associated with people and with objects. The idea was for him to say goodbye to his obsessions and just live a life where he could like something without it becoming a huge thing in his life.

 After two hours in line, a bit hungry and dehydrated, they entered the car in the Abomination. They sat down and put on the safety bar down. Then, he took Mel’s hand and smiled. She hoped that was a good sign.

jueves, 25 de diciembre de 2014


So many people, coming and going. So many people busy or pretending to be easy. Some with their families, some alone, some others in large groups were they never really meet. Other are there to work hard, give away tickets, checking people on their flights, tending to their many needs or cleaning the large spaces filled with light and energy.

At the entrance, the men that guard the trolleys to put the bags on, chat about how many tips they have received today. They live on them so every single coin and bill count. And many people prefer to carry their bags inside, not wanting to spend the little money they have on a trolley they have to return to the entrance. They prefer to spend it on one of the restaurants or in some gift to the person they are going to see at their destination.

One of the men hasn't had the best week. He really needs to win some money and tries to attract clients by telling them how easy it is to help them with their bag. He greets foreigners specially, as they are more likely to ask for their services or women alone traveling with a lot of baggage. At home, his wife works doing laundry for neighbors and their daughter works as a secretary. Life is hard and, sometimes, difficult to bare but they are fighters and never give up.

Inside, the many women and men handing tickets are specially busy. They have to be smiling every single minute of their work, trying to provide the best service possible. They are many hundreds of them as all airlines make use of checking counters, wether they have fifty stands or only one. Most of the workers are women, dedicated completely to the old art of traveling.

One of them, Adrienne, is working for he first time. Every time she came to the airport when she was young, it was a whole experience to see the many people working and the planes through the glass of the main corridor. She loved to wonder how many people were traveling and to what exotic destinations they were heading. She never traveled a lot to be honest, her family couldn't afford it. Her first time on a plane was for the school trip on her senior year.

Children like it specially when groups of pilots and flight attendants pass by. Their uniforms are so pretty and most of them look perfect, like real size dolls. They are greatly poised, carrying their wheeled bags, always matching the color of the bag with the uniform. And there are so many colors and shapes of uniforms, pending on the country of origin of the airlines.

Padma, for example, works for Air India and, as expected, her outfit represents her country everywhere she goes. It is a beautiful traditional sari. Its bright orange in color with a red and black scarf around her neck and black shoes complementing it. She is very proud of wearing those colors every single day to work as it represents the rich tradition she loves so much. Being born in Mumbai, she learned through her mother about the gastronomy and many other cultural aspects of her country. After finishing school, she traveled through all of India and then decided to become and air hostess in order to bring India to the world.

But the most interesting part of the airport is were all the passengers and crew members gather: the duty free area. A tiny mall inside the airport, the stores sell every single thing passengers may want to give as a present to their fellow travelers or to someone they are looking forward to meet when they finally get home or to work. The stores are never deserted, filled with the scent of thousands of perfumes, the voices of buyers and sellers and even the taste of many delicacies made for the inevitable need to eat and drink.

In one of the stores, Roger works selling small crafts for people to go home with. There are refrigerator magnets, smalls pieces made of wood or glass or plastic and many sweets and other traditional pastries. Roger likes when people want to taste the pastries in advance, wanting to know what they are bringing back home. It's a pleasure for him to promote the country, its traditions and even the values behind it all. But buyers often go straight to the magnets and that's not bad. He has many, funny and not so funny wants. Delicate and detailed or just simple. He sells them all.

Meanwhile, in one of the many fast food restaurants, works Felicia. She puts fires on the fryer and puts salt on them. She also pours the drinks and sometimes flips the burgers. The ambiance in a fast food kitchen can get very annoying, all hot and sticky and smelly. But its a "safe" job. People work there for as long as they like. No one really gets fired, unless they do something really gross or awful. Felicia likes it and hates it at the same time. She loves the pay, that simple. But she hates to smell like a burger all day long. And she hates it too because there's no way to go out and smoke. There is no out so she really has to wait all day to feed her need for a cigarette.

At the waiting rooms, other hard workers do their thing with people many times not even noticing them. They clean up the place, making it look decent, unspoiled and perfect. They pick up every single piece of paper, every candy wrap, old magazine left behind and many other objects passengers may leave around thinking the airport cleans itself. But it doesn't, an army of men and men work every single second to provide high higiene standards, specially in the bathrooms were people tend to be even more careless than usual.

There, cleaning one of the stalls in one of the many women bathrooms, is Clara. She's a big woman, capable of cleaning a big mirror in seconds with the help of her many work tools: liquids, sponges, rags and mops. She loves it when no one enters the bathroom when she's cleaning. She cannot block people from entering so most of the times it proves to be a difficult thing. But when no one comes near, she feels like singing and even dancing a bit while cleaning the floors. Clara likes it a lot when everything is nice and clean. That is because if she does her job right, she wins more money. And more money is a better life for her and her children. She's not married but has three kids to care for and they are her reason to live. And with her kind smile, she greets passengers when she's finished working.

The other army working at the airport is the one working below and outside. The many people helping bags getting to their planes, the security guards caring for the safety of everyone inside the terminal, the ones with the glowing sticks helping planes to their stands and even those with unique jobs, that no one really knows about.

Henry, for one, is in charge of the birds around the whole area of the airport. Yes, that's his job and he has a companion. A small hawk called Flash. Henry uses Flash in order to scare other birds and animals and make them clear the runways. If one of the those birds gets sucked by a turbine, they may cause a fatal accident and no one wants that to happen. So every single day, from dawn to dusk, Henry and Flash go around the airport on a small four wheeled transport. They have fun together, pulling the danger away from the runways, looking closely at how the planes land, filled with people glad to get home or to a new beginning.

That is the heart of the airport. The planes and the passengers traveling inside. It is them who make an airport what it actually is. And they are some many over the course of a single day. People sitting on a small or very large planes, bound to a city an hour away or another continent very far away. they may get to sleep or just to sit around for the duration of the flight. There are some many going through the airport, running even, as they are making a connection. Those people, although not spending a lot of their time, end to know what the airport experience is all about and that is bringing people together.

We have the example of the García family. Maria and Manuel married three years ago and now they have a new member on the family: her name is Emilia and she's only one year old. It's her first time traveling and its a long flight. She will be visiting her grandparents, uncles and cousins, who haven't yet met her, or maybe only through a webcam. She can't speak yet but she's thrilled by the prospect of a new experience. Although she doesn't know where she is, she knows its something different: the sounds, the smells, even things feel different.
Her parents are excited to. As soon as they sit down, they put on their seatbelts and take each other's hand. They have that custom and they are not letting it go no. They squeeze hands when the plane's door is finally closed and the craft begins to pull away from the airport.

That's how one airport story ends but, as we know, many more are still ongoing and many others are yet to come.