Excerpt: Chapter 3
Chapter 3: Anxiety at the Airport
“Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.”
– Mother Teresa
The customs officer looked at me. “Get your passport and ticket ready.”
I looked nervously around at the other travelers. What if this is a scam? What if Vladimir sold me a fake ticket? One woman noticed that I was looking at her ticket. She cautiously put it away in her purse. My ticket showed my name, flight number, and the price it had cost Vladimir. “Everything looks right to me,” I said to myself. Wait a minute! I looked again. My name was handwritten in blue ink on the ticket. Would this be a problem?
“Where are you going?” the customs officer asked me.
“New York,” I replied, hoping to find out that I did have a “real” ticket. I looked back. My cousin was still waiting to see if I could get through the airport customs service. My thoughts were racing like a fast-moving river. No, they were chattering and jumping like a monkey. I wanted them to stop and sit still. Then I turned to the same customs officer, who seemed to be friendly. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just got the ticket. Can you tell me if it’s real?” I was about to burst into tears.
“What do you mean by ‘real’?”
“Well,” I said quietly, “I bought this ticket from my friend Vladimir on the street. Can you please help me to get through the line?” I pleaded.
“Is Vladimir a pharzovshik [illegal trader on a black market]?” the man asked me.
“We were classmates.”
“What else did you buy on the street?” He shook his head. “This generation is lost. Let me see your ticket, Kim. How many bags are you checking in?”
“This is all I have,” I answered. I was embarrassed that I only had a backpack.
He pointed to a counter. “Go and fill out the customs form,” he said. “And don’t lose your head.”
I rushed over to the counter, my pen poised to fill out the required information. I looked more closely at the form. Suddenly I saw that all of the questions were in English. My stomach sank. I groaned in dismay.
The woman next to me must have sensed my distress. “What’s wrong?” she asked in a kind voice.
“I can’t figure out the form,” I confessed.
And serendipity, good fortune, whatever you want to call it, once again came to my aid. This kind woman and her husband, from the Baltic States, helped me fill out the form. She spoke fluent English and, judging by her luggage and mink coat, also had good taste. They had leather suitcases unlike any I had ever seen.
She picked up my form. “What is the address of where you will be staying?” she asked.
I looked at her blankly and shook my head. “I have no idea.”
She looked at me as if I were crazy. Perhaps I was.
I had one dollar in my pocket.
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