The Comfort Seat

I never have been able to sleep on long flights - a doze here and there, but mostly just a stiff neck and back.

We had about six hours in the Amsterdam airport, which is like most European airports - faint, stale cigarette smoke; yellow and green neon signs; cold, non-descript tile floors; black, stiff-backed leather chairs.

We did follow the signs to the "Comfort Seats", which are slightly more forgiving black leather chairs. With arms entwined in carry-on luggage, we did manage a decent power nap or two along with travelers of all shapes and sizes (and denominations, apparently).

As we arrived at our departure gate, I noticed the gathering group. There were a handful of Westerners, but the rest were Iranians. I was particularly struck by the fact that none but a few of the older women had any head covering. The rest were in Western dress. As for the men, other than me, only one had a beard.

When we arrived in Tehran, as the plane landed, the physical transformation began as women donned their headscarves (but with plenty of hair showing) and overcoats. It felt like we were all part of an open conspiracy to live as independently as possible as long as possible. It struck me that this was either a sign of the Iranian character, or of at least those who would be traveling through Amsterdam. In any case, it brought my lingering anxieties down to near zero.

Our arrival in Tehran was unremarkable, if long. We nodded through a three hour wait, being fingerprinted, our passports passed from one bureacrat to another in the Repetitive Department of Redundancy. This would not have been so tedious if we hadn't had arrived at 1 am already.

My head hit the hotel pillow at 4:30; but I think I was actually asleep by 4:28.