Missionary Max

Max Moment: Airport Woes

The Max Moment is a weekly series designed to give the reader more insight into the Missionary Max adventures.

If you have read The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max, you will remember that our hero has a rather unpleasant surprise waiting for him as soon as he arrives at the airport. (If you haven’t read it yet, parts one and two are available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.) Faithful followers of this blog will be perhaps unsurprised to learn that this episode has, as it’s inspiration, a real life event from my very first day in Brazil. What follows is an account of my own airport adventure (one of them, there’s more):
Visitor’s to Fortaleza, Brazil are usually impressed with the Pinto Martins International Airport. It is a thoroughly modern facility; clean, attractive, well-staffed. One of it’s more salient features is a large observation deck overlooking the runway, where flights can be observed landing and taking off.

Source: google.com via Andrew on Pinterest

The Pinto Martins International Airport in Fortaleza
But if, between flights, you happen to gaze across the runway you will see an unimpressive, low-lying somewhat run-down structure that has clearly seen better days. Nearby are by the carcases of defunct airplanes. That was the Fortaleza airport of 1989. Back in those days the passenger would disembark, walk across the tarmac, past the customs agent, and to the baggage claim. From there he would walk straight out onto the sidewalk and hopefully meet his ride.

Source: google.com via Andrew on Pinterest

The old airport in Fortaleza, scene of this adventure
I say hopefully because, on that balmy November night in 1989, my ride was nowhere in sight. I was 17, had barely been out NY, and had never gotten past the “a’s” in the list of Portuguese names that began the Berlitz Portuguese LP (!) I had borrowed from the library in preparation for my great Brazilian adventure. So even if I met anybody named Alberto, Alfredo, Ana, or Antônio, I wouldn’t be able to get past initial introductions.
But that was cool, because my missionary friend had assured me that my ride would be waiting for me–a colleague of his with bright red hair. “You can’t miss him,” I had been assured.
As I came into the airport I scanned the gathered crowd, looking for a man with bright red hair. There were exactly zero redheads.
Not overly concerned, I proceeded to the baggage claim and picked up my suitcases. Then I sat down on a bench where the airport opened up to the road, and waited.
And waited.
And waited some more.
At one point I saw a man whose hair was mostly white, but that looked like it might have been red at one time. I went up to him and asked him if he was my ride. I didn’t understand his response, which was a good indication that he was not the American missionary.
After a couple hours had passed, the airport was completely deserted save for a few soldiers who seemed to constitute the airport security. From the color of their uniform and the insignia they were wearing, I deduced (correctly, it turned out) that they were with the Brazilian air force.
Finally, with nothing to lose, I walked up to one of them and explained my situation. Of course he understood nothing of what I had just said to him, but he motioned for me to follow. Lugging my baggage behind me, I followed him to a cramped office, where sat another soldier, this one a young man, but with more decorations than his companion.
Words…in English! I was overjoyed, and poured out my story to him. He waited politely for me to finish, smiling all the time. When I was done he said, “Can you repeat, please?”
Once again, slowly, and using motions, I explained my situation. Somehow I managed to communicate that I had a friend in Bahia, in the city of Casa Nova. The officer reached under his desk and produced a rather thick book, which turned out to contain the phone numbers of everybody in the state of Bahia. (The fact that all those numbers would fit in one book is a good indicator of what a luxury item phones were back in those days.) The officer thumbed through the pages until he found Casa Nova, and then ran his fingers down the list until he found the name of my missionary friend.
The end of my airport adventure was somewhat anticlimactic. My friend contacted his red-headed colleague, who showed up shortly thereafter, very apologetic for having forgotten all about the arrival of the American kid. I said goodby to the airmen, and was soon on my way to my next adventure–which I have already written about here.
Of course, all this pales in comparison to what happened to me at the São Paulo airport just a few hours before, but that is a story for another post.

Thumbnail image for max.jpg

The Astonishing Adventures of Missionary Max, Parts 1 and 2 are now available for Kindle and Nook!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *