A Broad Abroad: Leaving Ukraine

It is the end of a week’s training course in Kiev; Victoria and Lena are due to pick me up at noon for the short journey to the airport.  I get a call at 11.30am to say they’re running late due to traffic congestion.  Not a problem for me — I just sit in the foyer and read.  When they arrive at 12.15pm, they announce we have plenty of time and will have lunch first, but should eat in the hotel, since the traffic is too bad to risk going elsewhere.

I should go with my first instinct and chose the fitness salad.  I know it is okay and I like it.  Instead, when the waitress brings us the menus, I see the sushi and my greed gets the better of me.  We pick a mixed platter and then sit back to wait.  The sun is shining, the garden and park are full of families and we have a pleasant time just soaking up the warmth and people-watching. There is a sense of the last few fine days before winter arrives and the onset of six or more months of cold, ice and snow.
Nearly an hour later, when the food arrives, it is really good and I enjoy it.  I fail to stop Lena taking a lump of wasabi on her chopsticks and swallowing it. She doesn’t say anything, but the watering eyes tell a tale.  
I’m asked by Victoria when I need to get to the airport.  I say preferably by 2pm and by 2.30pm at the latest — I am aware of the possibility of long delays at immigration.  So why, when it is 1.45pm do they both insist on ordering ice-cream and then sit and eat it slowly?  They must be the only two people from this part of the world who do not race through their meals.  
Finally, at just after 2pm, we leave the hotel and drive straight into a huge traffic jam.  It only takes about 15 minutes to get through it, but to me each minute is a disaster (and the seconds are pretty bad as well).  Finally we hit the highway — and Victoria sits in the middle lane (maximum speed 80kph) with two open lanes (maximum speed 130kph) empty at her side.  As we approach the airport (at 2.45pm) I can see it is packed.  
‘Look, just drop me at the roadside,’ I say, with a sinking feeling as I know there is no way I am going to get away with this.  ‘I’m checked in and I only have to go through the barrier and upstairs.’  
‘Of course we can’t do that,’ says Lena, ‘Victoria is worried you will have problems. There are some bad people in there.’ I try telling them I’ve been in more airports than both of them put together, but to no avail.  They say they want to make sure I get through OK.  I point out that immigration is upstairs, out of sight of land-side and they will have no way of knowing whether I get through okay or not.  But they ignore me.  I sigh heavily and then try to look gracious and grateful — both of which are far from how I’m feeling at this point.  
By now, we are stuck in a narrow lane behind a taxi that has stopped to pick up a passenger and their luggage.  Hitting the horn and shouting has no effect but Victoria tries it anyway.  We are right by the curb and I am tempted to jump out — but know I wouldn’t be able to get my luggage out of the boot. Finally we get through and enter the car park; then we have to drive around to find a parking space; then Victoria has trouble locking the car. By now it is approaching 3pm and I am walking away from them, towards the terminal.
When we get to the barrier, Victoria suggests I stay there while she goes to enquire where the BA desk is.  At this point I finally flip (but try to stay polite, since my hosts have been so kind and hospitable). 
‘I don’t need to know where the BA desk is. I’ve checked in, I have my boarding pass in my hand and I just need to go through that barrier.’  I manage to keep smiling (just) while spitting this through clenched teeth.  At that, they both give in, we hug and I head for the barrier.  
The lady on duty looks at my boarding pass and tells me to go and make enquiries of the BA representative.  I take one look at the check-in area which is heaving with people and take the executive decision to ignore her.  I jump on the escalator and head for security, customs check and immigration.  As usual, I pick the wrong queue and watch all the others shrink while mine stays the same length.  Finally I am through, into the comparative calm of the departure lounge.  And that’s when I look at the monitor for the first time.  My flight is delayed by two hours.  What on earth have I been worrying about?
Leaving Ukraine was first published in Parcels in the Rain and Other Writing.
By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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