I’m not quite sure this story belongs here but my friends keep saying I should post it and I think this subreddit is the closest that fits, so here goes.
It was the summer of 2010, I was 27 (m) and I was galivanting about the Middle East after doing some volunteer work for a few weeks in a Refugee Camp in Palestine. I had flown into Jordan initially (I’m Australian so an 18-hour flight) but I had just spent the last few weeks having fun border-hopping and exploring the region.
I had 4×4’d across Wadi Rum to see Petra, and then hired a Bedouin to take me to the coast where I spent a week scuba diving the Red Sea. After, I caught a Ferry to Egypt where I did the usual time-honoured tourist things of ancient ruins, camel riding, buying useless junk and haggling over everything. Since I was flying out of Amman, I had to take a flight from Cairo to Amman airport to make my long journey back to the land down under.
I was walking from one end of Amman airport to the other to find my departing flight back home (a flight which didn’t leave for four hours) when I found a thin Jordanian man running towards me, trying to get my attention. He wasn’t dressed in any particular uniform – he looked like any sort of normal Jordanian – perhaps a guide or translator I thought. He had been shouting at me apparently for the last few minutes from a distance, but I had my headphones in and had screened out the bustle of the busy airport.
“Mr, Mr, I’ve been looking for you. Come quickly!” – he said with pretty decent English. I was slightly taken aback that he knew who I was, but he grabbed me by the arm and started to lead me to somewhere in the airport. “What’s wrong, is it my flight?” I asked confused.
“Yes! yes, they’re all waiting for you” was the reply. Now this made me even more confused as again, my flight wasn’t for another four hours. I queried this but the man responded with “Your flight is leaving right now!”. We were basically jogging now, the man guiding me through the airport crowd, and we had covered a decent amount of ground, but as far as I could tell, going in the wrong direction to my flight.
The more I thought about it, this didn’t make any sense at all, so I stopped in my tracks. “My flight isn’t supposed to leave for another four hours, has it been changed?”. The man also stopped and looked at me confused. “No, it’s waiting for you now, everyone else is aboard.” This convinced me. “That can’t be my flight. Are you sure you’ve got the right person?” The man stopped and seemed to size me up as he looked at me. “Of course, you’re going to Afghanistan, yes?”
So, one thing – I’m actually ex-army (reservist) and was using my old army backpack and boots, which I hung off the back of my backpack when I was wearing non-hiking boots, say like when in airports. The thing is, I was pretty dirty. I had just spent the last few weeks in the desert and even though I myself was relatively clean, my clothes and backpack were looking pretty well used.
Realisation hit me. He thinks I’m running late to deploy to a warzone.
“Oh no, I’m not a soldier, I’m going home to Australia”. The man gave me an incredulous look and gestured to my backpack. “You’re not Army?” he asked. I shook my head and said “Ex-army, just on holiday.” He pointed at me “American?” I shook my head “No, Australian. Civilian”. He and I looked at each other for a moment and both burst out laughing. He explained there was a US army unit already on the tarmac and awaiting the arrival of one very late member. Upon seeing my appearance, he just assumed this clueless Aussie was his very tardy lost infantryman. Upon realising I wasn’t his missing soldier he excused himself and rushed off to continue his search.
I must admit a small mischievous part of me wishes I had said yes and wandered off to join whatever this unit that was deploying to Afghanistan. My ex unit was actually deployed in the region at the time so it might have made for a hilarious reunion, albeit a dangerous one. But luckily for me my sensible part of my brain kicked in and had decided sleeping for 18-hours on my fight back to Oz was a much smarter choice.
Edit – There is a little bit of an extra bonus story that I’ll put in the comments as it’s not really “Idontworkherelady” but it happened directly after this.