Drugs in Costa Rica? Nigeria? Saudi Arabia? 15


Marijuana is illegal in Costa Rica. It’s illegal, but decriminalized. So … smoke ’em if you got ’em. You probably won’t get into trouble if you have some pot for personal use. I don’t, but I don’t care if you do! I found a fabulous video done by the guys at “Doin’ Costa Rica”: http://doingcostarica.blogspot.com

Watch this entertaining video for Costa Rica information:

Marijuana is definitely illegal in Saudi Arabia. I’m pretty sure it is also illegal in Nigeria. When I flew for TIA (Trans International Airlines) these questions never entered my mind until … the Loaded Brownie Caper…

3 Stews in a Jet

3 Stews in a Jet

“Loaded Brownies”

“Flight attendants prepare for arrival,” the Captain announced. Translation: disengage the escape slide and push the U-shaped metal lever up, which sets the hydraulic door in motion. The sleek silver fuselage would then morph into a portal to another world in Saudi Arabia. All I was supposed to do was twist the quick release dial on my safety harness, open the door, greet the local representatives on the jet-way and step aside. The ground officials would enter the aircraft. The senior flight attendant, otherwise known as, the head stew, would then hand them documents. Easy.  I had done this hundreds of times.

But one little marijuana-laced brownie changed everything. Looking down the aisle from my jump-seat, I saw the rear of the plane undulating like the tail of a huge fish lazily closing in on its prey making wide sweeping arcs from left to right, right to left. Whaeo, whaeo, whaeo!

It took all my focus to keep my head stone still, my eyes steadily trained on the lighted exit sign in the aft cabin. Over and over again I recited in my head: Flight attendants prepare for arrival. Flight attendants prepare for arrival. I visualized jumping off the seat, stepping to the doorway, bending down to reach the metal bar, removing it from its brackets, and moving to the side.

I was working a trip known as the Hadj, an annual event which entailed flying Muslim pilgrims from Kano, Nigeria to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to gather for the trek to Mecca. The charter airline, Trans International, was based in Oakland, California. We flew all over the world, taking assignments ranging from Las Vegas gambling junkets to military airlifts out of coup-ridden countries in Africa. Hadj duty was voluntary with a minimum of one month out on the line (airline-speak for being on a trip). The crew was based in Kano at a first class European hotel unless they were fully booked, in which case the alternative was a dirt-floor hut. From Kano, crews flew four hours to Jeddah twice a week, over-nighted, then ferried the empty plane back to Kano the next day.

Our DC10 crew of sixteen – captain, co-captain, flight engineer, eleven flight attendants, and two alternates got lucky. We were booked into the fancy hotel, the first class Intercontinental. As the Nigerian bellboy accompanied us to our room, he asked me and my roommate what size bag of ganja we wanted – small, medium, or large? There was an awkward moment of shocked silence as Judy and I exchanged glances. Not wanting to offend our delightful, child-like host I blurted: “Small!”. I wasn’t really a pot-smoker, and neither was my straight-laced roommate, Judy Haynes, but we got the feeling we were expected to buy some whether we wanted it or not. We agreed on a price of $8.00 American. I was happy to learn later we did the right thing in supporting the economy. This was how the under-paid staff made their money.

We settled into our room giggling about the check-in and started unpacking. Fifteen minutes later, there was a light tap on the door. Our ebony friend stood with a mega-watt smile holding up a bag of leafy greens the size of a pillow case. This was the small? He even threw in a pack of zigzag rolling papers. Oh well, when in Rome . . . I still remembered how to roll a joint even though it had been years since my pot-smoking college days.

Due to the unusual nature of these trips, adjustments were made. Instead of our fine tailored, navy blue gabardine suits worn on normal flights, we would be sporting utilitarian pants and work shirts of durable fabric. In addition, we were issued rubber gloves, a bottle of Hexol disinfectant, a mop, pail and a sanitary breathing mask. The reason for these items became clear on my first flight out of Kano.

Our passengers were bush people who lived their entire lives without ever seeing a car, an airplane or a toilet. These people were used to doing their personal business in a roadside ditch. Both men and women wore multi-layered robes, making it impossible to monitor anything happening underneath. I was warned that live chicken smuggling would be attempted. We were to be on the look-out for smudge pots that, if not discovered and confiscated pre-boarding, would be lit in the aisles of the aircraft while underway.

I had eagerly volunteered for this special assignment in 1976 in spite of many complaints of my colleagues, most threatening to quit if assigned to the Hadj again. This intrigued me, making me want the job all the more. I was always up for an adventure.

And sometimes – it was more than even I bargained for … remember, this is a country  where you get your hand chopped off for stealing … (to be continued)


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