SANTA FE — “Be careful what you wish.” It’s a popular warning these days because one never knows the form in which one’s wish might come true.
When we planned a cruise through the Middle East many months ago, friends and loved ones cautioned us to be mindful of the dangers before we made a final decision. Some even pled with us not to go.
My usual response was that it might be exciting to be captured and held hostage for awhile. Think of the book I could write.
The big fear was the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passage between Iran and Oman, where Iranian gunboats had harassed a U.S. Navy warship last summer. And then there was the matter of our docking in Iran and taking a tour.
We knew that Iran was trying to attract tourists and that the Silversea Cruise Line wouldn’t take us anywhere we would be in peril. In fact, we were pleased the company was willing to take us to such exciting ports.
As it turned out, we passed through the Strait of Hormuz without incident. There wasn’t another ship in sight, although my sight being what it is, we may have been surrounded. But there were no incidents as we passed through the Strait to journey up the Persian Gulf to Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain before looping back down to Bandar Abbas, Iran.
But we didn’t get to set foot in Iran. While docked at Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, my wife fell and broke her femur near the hip and had to be rushed off the ship to a hospital, where we remained for 17 days.
It was a cutting-edge medical facility, built by the government to convince all the oil-rich sheikhs to stay in the country for treatment instead of flying to a foreign hospital.
The only problem was that the hospital had only recently been opened to foreigners and few, if any, of those foreigners had been tourists with no local business or family connections.
Tourists don’t go to Abu Dhabi. It doesn’t encourage tourists. Abu Dhabi’s business is oil. That’s it. Dubai, just 90 minutes away, doesn’t have much oil so its interests are trade and tourism.
But we were in Abu Dhabi. It was the first time the cruise line had docked there. The hospital staff had trouble believing it had happened. What were all those suitcases doing in our room, they asked. Abu Dhabi wasn’t ready for us.
Because we knew no one within about 5,000 miles in any direction, we had great need to call home and let someone know of our predicament. But this beautiful hospital, staffed with nice people, had no way of allowing that to happen.
We could make all the local calls we wanted but there was no way we could call outside the emirate. We couldn’t reverse the charges. We couldn’t use an American credit card. And I couldn’t get on the Internet.
I could have gone to the Hilton Hotel, but it was across town and there were enough unexpected happenings with my wife’s care that I didn’t want to leave the hospital for that long.
Let me interject at this time that the hospital did arrange for a private room for Jeanette and allowed me to stay there with her. Since we were in such an unfamiliar situation, we wanted to stay as close to each other as possible.
Thank goodness for the U.S. Embassy. That was a local call. They weren’t particularly surprised at our situation and agreed to make any long distance calls to anyone we needed to contact. And we could receive long distance calls in our hospital room.
At about that time, it occurred to me how much this was like my idle wish to be held captive in an Arab country. What we hoped to be a quick stay kept getting lengthened.
Six days lapsed while tests were run prior to surgery because the medical staff wouldn’t communicate with Jeanette’s doctors back home. That lengthened rehabilitation after the surgery. And thank goodness for travel insurance, which paid for the trip home but Jeanette’s medical needs required extra time for the company to make arrangements.
We began to feel trapped in a tiny room with only a view of a wall.
Jay Miller is a syndicated columnist in Santa Fe. He may be reached by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.