Right now, the number one thing for which I am most grateful: I am not Edward Snowden.
I know whereof I speak. I only just returned from a trip which involved a nine-hour layover at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Which, I’m betting, is rather nicer than Sheremetyevo in Moscow. It is a very peculiar kind of torture.
Passenger Ricardo Schnibblevits, traveling to Tashkent, please report to Gate A9 for immediate boarding, or your baggage will be removed from the airplane, and your reservation cancelled.
The single most important thing that makes such an experience bearable is the knowledge that it is only temporary. Snowden is utterly bereft of this consolation. He may glance habitually at his watch, but it tells him nothing of interest. How many times can he walk from one end of the transit area to the other before he has it memorized? How many greasy shashliks can his stomach endure before he contemplates a hunger strike just for the novelty?
What is he using for money? Will his Starbucks card be accepted at Double Coffee? All the little irritants, horribly magnified. Like the armrest on the chair where he’s trying to sleep becoming a permanent part of his anatomy, or (shudder) Russian toilet paper.
Sheremetyevo Airport reminds you not to leave your bags unattended. Unattended bags will be immediately confiscated for security reasons.
What country in its right mind would grant asylum to Snowden, thereby holding him up as an example of sterling behavior to its citizens? Does anyone really believe a place exists among the nations of Earth that is not at least as bad as, if not worse than, the United States, in terms of secrets, of spying on its citizens, or of any one of hundreds of infringements, large and small, on dignity, not to say liberty? I’ll grant you, many are not as up to date technologically, but that would only make someone like Snowden all the more dangerous to them.
Hero or traitor, he’s in the land of the Undead for the foreseeable future. We’re not necessarily talking about days, or even weeks, here. The world record for this kind of thing is held by Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who endured the departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle for 18 years. That’s right, 18 years.
Passenger Rickky Platz, please return to the security check-in zone to reclaim your passport. Passenger Rickky Platz.
In the same clothes. The same underpants that drove him nuts riding up on the flight from Hong Kong. How many bags of stale peanuts can one man endure? I believe I would be on the phone to the US consul sooner rather than later. In prison, there is at least the exercise yard.
Passenger Edward Snowden, please make yourself as comfortable as you can. It will be awhile.