To the airport we took the Gau. That’s a very convenient way to travel to ORT and it’s not at all uncomfortable. Uneventful thus far. There was a strange guy at the airport who insisted on weighing our luggage. There was nothing about him to distinguish him as an airport worker. He was certainly not South African. Nigerian I’d say judging from his accent. He recognised me from the tv. Sweet. Perhaps I was beset by an attack of vanity. I allowed him to weigh my luggage. He said it was overweight. I’m travelling to darkest Africa to a theatre festival. It’s not where you need your glad rags so my bag is small. I left my glad rags at home. It did occur to me that if my little pieces of luggage were overweight, then everyone must be paying fortunes over the odds because our brothers and sisters from up the continent do not travel light. Will the plane even be taking off under the weight of what one sees being checked in? You see televisions and microwaves and all sorts, so I couldn’t help but wonder.
Anyway, so the guy weighed the luggage and told me it was overweight. He wanted me to head for the check in desk with him. He said he would talk to the girl there and get me a 50% discount. But, how could he do that? Who is he? He’s a scruffy individual with no official capacity and why do I need someone to fight my case when my gift of the gab is pretty unsurpassed? Where does he get the power to get me granted a 50% discount on my overweight luggage? I didn’t make any sense.
This guy spoke quite fast and was mostly unintelligible. In the end I had to say no. He mentioned something about us helping each other, but I don’t need his help. Who was he? No. I got to the check in desk. I told the woman seated there that that guy had told me my luggage was overweight. The supervisor type standing behind her heard me and paid attention. But she was very quick to jump in to tell him that it was nothing. It wasn’t nothing and I wasn’t going to let it go. I told the supervisor type my story, and I pointed out the guy. It’s a bit of an affront really, having some complete no one come and grab your luggage. I don’t know why I tolerated it, but there you go, for a little while I did. The supervisor type said that it was a constant problem, and they often had to call the police to remove these people. Well, the question is, why are they still there? This isn’t some banana republic airport, at least not yet. This is O R Tambo International. It’s one of the most beautiful airports in the world. It’s the pride of South Africa. Why are hustlers and grifters being allowed to function there? It’s wrong.
I think I know how this nobody of a grifter was going to persuade the lady at the check in to give me a 50% discount on my overweight luggage. She must be in cahoots with him. I reckon this is how it works. The grifter says the luggage is overweight, I pay the excess and they split the proceeds. Also I am, I’m sure, expected to give him a tip for having helped me. It’s a total scam. Is that what we want our airport to become? – a stomping ground for scammers and grifters? No! I have no doubt that there are many unsuspecting, confused travellers who get taken for a very nice ride. Unfortunately for him, I like to fight my own battles; or at least I want someone official to fight for me, if a fight is needed. What would I do with a grifter? Really? It’s not my style.
Well, that was the exciting part of the journey. The departure lounge bit was uneventful. I’m a seasoned traveller. I found the my way without trouble. Air Rwanda. The plane smells like a soup kitchen. The food, naturally, is inedible. The seats are tightly packed. There are no frills, no movies to watch. It’s a glorified bus, really, and a pretty uncomfortable one at that. Four hours. Thank God for the ipod.
I couldn’t suppress a little chuckle when the trolley dolly asked me if I would like chicken or beef. That is such a cliché and such a joke by now and has been for years. I wonder that the airlines don’t change the menu. Chicken or Beef? Ya gotta laff! Actually, now that I think of it, I haven’t heard that in a while, so obviously some airlines have evolved.
I didn’t bring anything to read. I think I’ll catch a couple of hours shut eye. I think I miss my Lavah already. There are so many little observations that I know he would appreciate, and we would laugh about together. I keep thinking about what he’s doing. He’s probably having a jol. I hope he’s missing me. I’ll call him when I land. I guess it’s good for me to have a little test drive of being without him before my big atlantic crossing. We have been pretty inseparable since the day we met. Maybe I should have brought him with me. I could have, I guess. I didn’t think of it until now; now that I face 13 days away from him. OMG is this that thing called Laahve?
Two hours and 45 minutes to go. This is really uncomfortable. Maybe I should have travelled business class, but one doesn’t want to travel business on one’s own budget, does one. Well, not when one faces NYC in just a couple of weeks time and the dollar rand exchange. Although, I think my wish is coming true. The dollar was at 6.3 today at the airport. 5 is what I wish for. By the 17th let it be 5 and I shall sweep up those dollars. And I shall be much better off in the US of A.
Well, this is life, and I’m living it. I’m glad I packed up the house and just decided to go. It’s going to be a wonderful ride. I can feel it.
I arrived at the accommodations and went into shock. I knew it would be humble, but damn.
When the car pulled up it was to the outside of a building that was basic brick with along badly lit corridor off which one could see wooden doors at regular intervals. The corridor was concrete. The doors wood. The light meagre, so meagre. It was dark. I asked the gentleman who had collected me from the airport if this was really the accommodation. I mean, really? He laughed and said, “No, this is still under construction, the accommodation is behind you”. I turned to look behind me. I confess that the building under construction and the building behind me looked terrifyingly similar. The Room. I was aghast.
I said “Is there a hotel”?