|Steven, Miriam and I in Jordan in 2007, at Kerak Castle, maybe?|
Our little family of three, plus my little brother Steven, who had been visiting us, headed to Queen Alia International Airport in Amman on a bright August morning in 2007 to head back to the US after a summer in Jordan taking care of BYU students. We arrived with plenty of time to catch our flight - about 2.5 hours early, in fact.
Well, two of those hours later, we were just barely getting our turn at the check-in counter. Yes, thanks to a group of VIP travelers who cut in front of us, and a Jordanian lady who spent over an hour arguing with the check-in agent about whether or not she needed a visa to enter the US (she did, and she didn't have one), we had a scant 30 minutes to check in for our flight, get through immigration, get through security, get to our gate, and get on the plane. With our numerous carry-on bags (and almost-2-year-old Miriam) in tow.
When it was finally our turn to check in, the Royal Jordanian agent mentioned nonchalantly that we'd need to pay some additional money at - get this - a totally separate location in the airport with a totally separate line. We ran over to the other counter, waited in line, asked about this mystery payment, and found out that (I still can't even believe these words as I type them) since the price of our tickets had changed since we purchased them, we had to pay the difference, about 200 USD each. Including Miriam. Who didn't even have a ticket since she wasn't two years old yet.
Oh, and they wanted 200 dollars from my brother, too, even though his ticket was bought totally separate from ours for a totally separate price.
I'm sure you can see why we returned to the check-in counter more than a little incensed, and with more than a few questions for the RJ agent. She couldn't give us any more details about the 800 USD we supposedly immediately owed them. But she was very clear that if we didn't pay it, we weren't getting on that plane.
Months later I thought back to this moment and wondered why we paid it. Why didn't we put up a bigger fuss? Why didn't we ask more questions and get to the bottom of this surprise fee? Why didn't we give up that flight and go home to straighten this mess out and get a different flight?
Well, the truth is, we put up quite a fuss. Words were, um, "exchanged," loudly and in Arabic and in English and some of those words may been choice ones like "extortion" and "I hate Royal Jordanian." More of the truth is that we did ask questions and nobody could tell us what was really going on. And as far as we understood, if we gave up our tickets voluntarily we would essentially have to buy new tickets to get out of that place. Add in the time pressure and I'm sure you can understand why we just paid it. I knew I would be sending a nastygram to Royal Jordanian immediately upon arrival in the US.
At that point, we had 15 minutes to clear immigration and passport control and get to our gate. We grabbed our bags and rushed through, cutting in front of a few people (with their permission) and thankfully this year, there were no problems with our exit visas. We made it to the boarding area just in time and they literally closed the doors right behind us. We sank into our seats with a sigh of relief and in the back of my mind, I was already considering a plan of attack to get our 800 dollars back from Royal Jordanian.
As soon as the plane lifted into the air, however, all thoughts of vengeance were pushed out of my mind when Jeremy and I realized all at once that we had left our carry-on suitcase in front of the check-in counter at the airport. Amid all the fuss and rush and extortion, we had forgotten it there, plain and simple. You know how they tell you never to check your valuables? How they say you should always be sure to carry on anything that's important or expensive? Well, that's the suitcase we left behind. The one filled with things that were important and expensive.
And it was sitting there, unattended, in front of the Royal Jordanian counter in Amman where the Palmer family's last words had been a desperate, "I HATE ROYAL JORDANIAN."
Would we ever see it again?
To be continued...