So here we are again, the sequel. Can it live up to the shockingly low expectations set by its predecessor? Probably not.
Following on from where we left off. After being almost crushed to death by suitcases masquerading as carry on luggage I managed to push my way through to the departure ‘lounge’. Now I know Ethiopia isn’t world renowned for its luxury and glamour but I’ve seen Little Chef’s more inviting than the departure lounge at Addis Ababa and that’s a sentence I guarantee you’ll never hear again.
The airport is one massive room split into two halves by a glass partition that stretches to maybe 8ft high. That was all that segregated the departure lounge (the secure area where people who have checked in go) and the arrivals area for people waiting for loved ones or those who have not yet checked in. Basically the ‘you definitely don’t have a bomb’ and the ‘we haven’t checked you for bombs yet’ partition. Now maybe it’s just me being a little paranoid… But is an 8ft glass partition in the world’s most understaffed airport really a strong enough security measure to prevent people from smuggling aboard something they shouldn’t?
I could have quite easily strolled into the airport with a bag full of (what can I smuggle from Ethiopia…?) small Ethiopian children dumped it over the 8ft partition then strolled through check in and picked it up on the other side. It’s not as if there was any security wandering around. Though really in terms of security that wasn’t my biggest gripe with Addis Ababa. Me complaining about an 8ft glass partition is a little like me serving you a steamy turd on a plate and you leaving a trip advisor review stating ‘there’s wasn’t enough sweetcorn for the price’.
The steamy turd in this instance being the completely vacated security checkpoint. I kid you not, the check in section where flyers slide their baggage through a carousel and get molested by a high school dropout with an armpit fetish was completely abandoned. You could just walk straight through. If I’d had a rocket launcher I don’t think anyone would have noticed. You may laugh and think ‘haha silly third world airport’ but need I remind you I had flown in directly from Heathrow. How is it justifiable that I get fisted by border patrol on the way out of London for having some soft mints in my pocket but coming in from Ethiopia nobody even cares if my bag is ticking.
This flight happened to be before Rene was pregnant with our daughter, back when she was still a filthy smoker. So as you’d imagine with a 7-8 hour layover there was a requirement to find the smoking section. Not that it was difficult, it was the corner of the airport that appeared from a distance to be on fire. If you’re a World War II history buff who is interested in Auschwitz and the harrowing life of a Jewish citizen in the mid 1940’s then I definitely recommend visiting Addis Ababa. It’s the only place where you can truly experience what a gas chamber feels like. The smoking boxes were barbaric. One giant plexiglass box that at one time was transparent but was now so fogged up and misty I half expected Cilla Black to pop out welcome a Stars in Their Eyes contestant onto the stage. How you could design a box for exhaling toxic fumes and neglect ventilation is beyond me, Rene was only able to go in for the occasional drag on a cigarette before she had to run back out like some bizarre bush-tucker challenge.
To be honest, it’s hardly surprising there were design flaws in the airport. I mean the view out of the main window (a tourists first view of the city) looked like the aftermath of an Avengers film.
You may be thinking, surely i’ve ran out of things to complain about now, but no, i’ve been saving the best for last. There is one element of this particular trip that stuck in my mind enough to justify torturing you all with two blog posts about an international airport.
So, 8 hour layover, nowhere to eat obviously, it was at night and all of the ‘shop’ was closed. That wasn’t a mistaken lack of pluralisation, they had one and only one food store, a weird mix between a cafe and a canteen that closed at night despite being in an airport with flights going until the early hours of the morning. Despite having nothing to eat, nature began to call so I went off in search of the toilets.
I say ‘went off in search’ the airport in its entirety is smaller than the ground floor of your average supermarket, it didn’t take very long. Slap bang in the centre of the airport is what I can only describe as a porta-cabin, not a porta-potty as in a toilet. But a building, with windows (because we all want people in the airport to see us on the toilet). It’s as if they designed the airport without toilets then added a separate popup building in the middle as an afterthought.
Into the toilet I strolled, wet floors, first red flag. That’s when I saw the sign ‘Urinals out of order, please use alternative provided’. Now I could play a game where I have you guess what the alternative urine capturing contraptions they had come up with were, but I think the actual answer is more shocking than what people might come up with.
Buckets! People were standing around pissing in buckets. Buckets full of other people’s piss. Each urinal had a bucket next to it and people just peed in there instead of the urinal. In an international airport! In a country’s capital city! Now this was about an hour or 2 into an 8 hour layover. Walking in and seeing this was like that moment in a horror film when the doors all lock or the power goes out. We were stuck. Stuck in Dante’s forgotten 10th circle of hell. Stuck walking in circles for hours around a smokey, piss stinking, terrorists wet dream. Walking because they only had about 10 fucking chairs in the entire departure lounge all of which were taken by people who may or may not have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Next time I’m flying KLM.