In which I get even closer to cursing than last time

Someone in Jordan is determined to make the process of leaving the country extremely difficult for me and my family, and I think it's Queen Alia.

Or whoever named Amman's international airport after her, anyway. You may recall my account of last year's debacle. Well, unfortunately, I've got a new one for you.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time (or so we thought) - a good 2.5 hours before our 10.30am departure. None of the RJ counters were open for check-in yet, so we picked a line and queued up behind dozens of already-waiting fellow check-in-ers. By the way, the line system was the kind where each line is a separate entity. So if your line gets stuck and you want to leave it, you have to go to the end of another line. There's no one line feeding all the check-in stations. (This will be important in a moment.)

Well, in a few minutes, the agents arrived and started their check-in work. It was at this point that we realized that there was one line that was much shorter than all the rest. Its brief length was obscured by a nearby line, so no one was lining up there. We saw an opportunity and in what was to become one of my most regretted line-changes ever, we moved into it.

Shortly after moving into it, our line stalled as a female passenger was having problems checking in with the gate agent. Of course, the line we had originally been standing in was clipping on at an efficient pace. But we didn't want to change back to that line, because we'd have to go all the way to the end (it was rather lengthy).

But the lady at the front of the line had problems that weren't going away. Jeremy crept up to the front to see if he could overhear what the problem was. He came back and reported that the lady had a ticket on our flight to New York, but didn't have an American visa. Unfortunately, the lady herself overheard Jeremy tell me this and got very upset with us for, I don't know, being interested in the reason why we had been standing in line for 45 minutes behind her without moving. I think she said something about Jeremy not being her lawyer which, I'll grant her, was true.

Time passed and we still weren't moving. Members of a tour group who were in line in front of us moved to the next line over. We sent my brother Steven to the end of our original line as a contingency plan. Then that line stalled. Then a group of VIP travelers, whatever that means, cut in front of us despite Jeremy's vehement and eloquently stated objections.

No-Visa Lady finally left the line and it started moving again. I thought all our problems were over once the check-in agent started processing our tickets, and we called Steven back over to our line. But all of a sudden, she told us that we had to pay some extra money at - get this - a completely different counter, with its own separate line.

So Jeremy and I ran over there, leaving Miriam with Steven and our stuff at the check-in counter. I'll spare you most of the details of our experience at this second counter, except these:

1. We waited in line, again. It was now almost 10.00 and we hadn't even gone through passport control yet. Heck, we hadn't even technically checked in yet.

2. RJ demanded that we pay 140JD ($200) per person because the price of our ticket had changed since we bought it. This included Miriam, even though she is under 2 years old and didn't even have a ticket.

3. Angry No-Visa Lady was in line right in front of us and almost sued me on the spot when I kindly asked her if she was on the flight leaving in half an hour and, if not, if we could go in front of her in line. It seemed like a reasonable request to me but apparently she didn't agree. She yelled at me and I think I would have cried if I had had emotion to spare. As it was, my emotions were all being used on on frustration and stress at the moment.

We learned last year that you can't argue with these people. RJ told us we weren't getting on that flight - or any flight - without paying the money. We begged him to let us take care of it on the American side (no offense, Jordanians, but I think you'll agree we would have had better luck over there). He refused. Finally, we paid, and ran back to the ticket counter. It was now 10.15.

We grabbed our carry-on bags and rushed over to immigration. We waited in a small line and then got sent over to wait in YET ANOTHER LINE to pay the exit tax (since when has that existed??). Fifteen JD (each) later, we were allowed to cut in front of a nice Jordanian family and breeze through passport control. We got to the gate and they literally closed the doors right behind us.

Phew! We had made it. Or so I thought. As soon as the plane was in the air, I realized, with a terrible sinking feeling, that we had left our carry-on suitcase at the check-in counter.

Really, we can't be blamed. The check-in area was an exercise in mayhem and between running back and forth between counters (that's when Jeremy yelled out, "I hate Royal Jordanian!!") and trying to manage all of our other carry-ons, plus Miriam, it's easy to see how it happened. The worst part is that this particular bag is where we put most of our important stuff because, you know, it was supposed to be a carry-on. So we'll be lucky if we ever get the bag back, and even luckier if it comes back with a laptop computer, iPod, speakers, some souvenirs from Jerusalem, and our new camera still inside.

Still, it could have been worse. Thankfully, there were lots of important things that we didn't put inside that bag.

I can only hope that RJ handles their lost-and-found items better than they do their ticket pricing system. Even if that is a foolish thought.


Yalla Bye