Nothing evokes the image of Muscat, Oman more than 10% off 2x1L bottles of Jameson ($40.76!) It’s why I love airports so much, even when only staying for a few hours in transit, you really get such a feel for the country.
From the security gate, which resembled every other security gate I’ve ever walked through, I made my way across the high-gloss granite floor, past an ATM machine and money exchange, and headed straight for the bookshop in front of me. I perused a random assortment of books for dummies, learning snipets about global warming, motivating employees, Blackberry Storm, neuro-linguistic programming, and quality control.
Note on neuro-linguistic programming: I had no idea what this meant, and the cover image of a glass of water didn’t help. I opened the book to a Sufi tale of a man being eaten by a tiger and lost interest.
A bit peckish, I walked to the food court where I confronted the same difficult decision I have faced at so many lunch hours before. Do I want a cookie or chips with my 6” Subway sandwich and Pepsi? The cookies look so delicious, but they are consistently a bit dry and the chips just seem more substantial. And they are those nice Baked Lays. After lunch, I headed to the gift shop to see if I could pick up something Omani. There was a great set of Greeting Cards heralding back to the classic year. Ooh! The Classic Years! The Umayyads? The Abbasids perhaps? Perhaps Portuguese colonization? No, alas, none of these. The greeting cards were from a much more recent time – Liz Taylor graced 1958, Tony Curtis 1959, and Burt Lancaster 1960. Nothing says Oman like Burt Lancaster. There were a few vestiges of culture that had been implanted from non-airport Oman. An ironic t-shirt that read “If you can read this I have lost my caravan!” and what appeared to be camel wearing burka post-it notes. In one corner there was some decontextualized frankincense and myrrh. It was unclear if it was meant to be burned, bathed with, smoked, or offered to baby Jesus.
With four hours until my flight, I made my way to the oversized magazine display. One thing that always blows my mind at airports, Barnes & Noble, and doctor’s offices is just how many completely esoteric magazines there are. There was an entire section of rack dedicated to yachting. Yachting. How many people even own a yacht let alone care to catch up on the latest yachting news once a quarter? 4x4ing, selling baseball cards, parenting, gardening, and losing weight were all thoroughly overrepresented. I have to wonder, if we just did away with all of this, and magazine racks only sold Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and porn, would anybody notice what had gone missing? I was surprised to see that they still make Archie comics. Come to think of it, that was probably the biggest surprise of my time in Oman. That they still make Archie comics.
After this, I wanted to do a little sleuthing around the duty free. I have always been captivated by the perfumey aroma that fills each duty free. The aggregate scent of myriad sprays and samples throughout the day seems to be identical in every airport I’ve ever been in. I wanted to see if there was one particular scent that smelled similar to the sum of all of the smells, so I made my way through the women’s fragrance section, receiving a few odd looks. After 20 minutes or so, I stumbled upon Chanel No. 19 and was thrilled to have found a match. So, if you are ever looking to mimic the smell of an airport, don’t bother mixing all your perfumes together, you can just buy No. 19.
After this resounding success, I began making my way to the gate. Writing about the uniformity of airports, I had to laugh when I came across the pinnacle of airport clichés (and I can’t believe I almost forgot about this) – the car raffle. Needless to say, it was a Mercedez Benz ML350 SUV in a color that I jotted down as ‘smoke’ but which Mercedez Benz’s website refers to as ‘Palladium Silver Metallic’. Should have known.
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