Saturday, March 7, 2009

March 5, 2009; Johannesburg, South Africa; Gaborone, Botswana.

I arrived in Johannesburg, or Joburg, as the South African ex pat visiting home from his home in England called it, to leaden skies and an immediate shunting through an interminable line ups. First, one line up to get my boarding pass to Gaborone and then another even longer to get the passport stamped. It's interesting to watch the ways people jump the queue. One seemingly local woman came running up seemingly in a dither, flapping her boarding pass about and just ran by the long line up to the security X-ray machine. No one paid her any attention, so she just walked through without putting her huge fashionable bag on the X-ray machine. She was sent back, but she flung her bag on to the rollers and dramatically strode through the X-ray port again. She did it – just walked by over a hundred people, who were patiently lining up and waiting their turn.

Another young guy, also apparently local, was having none of waiting in the long passport stamping line up either. He just walked up to the kiosk and presented his passport. The agent waved him back and refused to take his passport. He waited until a few people had gone through and then presented himself again. He got through and also did not wait like the other plebs like me

This, of course goes totally against my Dutch / Virgo sense of order and my view of the world that we are all equal and everyone needs to stand in the line up just like everyone else. But I guess this is what being culturally aware and sensitive is all about as recommended in the preparatory training I had two months ago! I was cool. I did not get my nose out of joint and went with the flow!!

But I was not yet done with my lessons in non judgement and acceptance for the day.
I dozed off in a quiet corner of the airport lobby for a bit as I was tired, having sat next to a couple of guys who were drinking a fair bit during the middle of the night during the almost twelve hour flight from London, when pretty much everyone else was asleep. They were aware of their tendency to raise their voices, but lost their intent to be good as the booze went down and every so often there was a loud exclamation or expletive whenever they got to a good part of their stories. And being the lousy sleeper that I am, I only dozed a bit here and there for the second night in a row.
At about 1:30 pm I left my quiet airport corner and made my way to the departure gate for the scheduled boarding at 1:45. Nothing happened and the departure time passed. Some folk were starting to mill a bit, but not much. Then the flight announcement board took our flight and re-listed it as 'Cancelled'. No explanation, no staff to be seen not, not a thing. It was quiet and nobody seemed too put out. An old timer, who had spent his life in Zimbabwe and Botswana, muttered something like: "This happens all the time. This is Africa, you know."

Someone finally went over to an agent at another kiosk and asked. Everyone seemed non- plussed. Operational reasons were offered in way of explanation. Eventually a couple of the pretty twenty something airline staff came up to us and said they had boarding passes for all the people for the next flight in two hours. Then somebody said. "Operational !, There were not enough people for the flight and they just cancelled it".

The next boarding time came and went. Did they cancel another? This time the explanation was that the plane had not yet arrived and they would let us know as soon as it did I stayed cool and calm mostly I think because I was too tired to do anything having been up pretty much for 52 hours except for a bit of mediation and a doze off here and there. but I could sure understand why some of the people were getting a bit ticked, especially a businessman who had now missed a meeting where he was going to bid on a $5,000,000 development contract. Another man really lost it and said he had diplomatic status and was going to sue the company. Talk about going after the messenger.

Finally, the plane arrived just as a third flight destined for Gaborone was loading and departed before we were, who had now been waiting for 3 hours. Finally we loaded on the bus to shuttle us over the runway to the local prop job that local runs everywhere are relegated to, sat there and waited in it for 15 minutes more while they went to find the guy who had threatened to sue. We were off and arrived in Gaborone 4 hours after the scheduled time and I had not lost my cool – imagine that! In hind sight I think I was to tired to react in any way.

I was lucky I had the telephone number of the person, Fortune, who was to meet me. A man lent me his cell phone, they're ubiquitous here, and I caught Fortune just as he was driving off after his third time to the airport All my luggage had managed to follow me through all the delay histrionics and Fortune was there in 5 minutes. He dropped me off at my nice room so I could shower and then get taken for a great dinner at the five star The Grand Palms, that could have been on the beach in Puerto Vallarta or the Mexican Riviera.

Now ---to catch upon some lost sleep

1 comment:

  1. Geez, quite the trip! Loved how you kept your cool thru it all!