“It’s 8:15, and that’s the time that it’s always been. We got your message on the radio, conditions normal and you’re coming home”. The joyful sound of OMD in my ears encouraging me to dance as I waited for a bus on a drizzly evening. I thought back to the chat I had with Meagan on Saturday, I realised it had been a few weeks since we last saw each other and I wanted to check in. Time has flown and I find myself saying I hope to make plans before I leave…
My long anticipated holiday is fast approaching. The excitement is effervescent and undeniable. I clap like a happy seal at every mention…almost.
Back to Meags, I rang her whilst on the way to the post office so had half the conversation standing on the pavement watching the other locals coming in to collect their parcels.
Discussing flights and journey disasters, one we discovered we shared of separate yet harrowing experiences flying long haul on an African country’s national airline – both agreeing that being able to hear and feel the landing gear engage after take-off is not comforting. Neither is Meagan’s experience of having Polar Express as your only film of choice on a screen rolled down at the front of the cabin, nor mine of the film (Meet the Robinsons) only being available in German.
I was reminded of one of my trips home via another country on their national airline. All seemed well at Heathrow, proceeding through umpteen checks and gates, removing shoes and belt and flashing my passport at all and sundry (all the while grateful I remembered to check my socks for holes before departing) only to be told our initial flight was delayed. Realising my connecting flight was taking off about two hours after this delayed plane originally intended to land, my heart started to beat a little faster.
Half an hour later I went to the information desk to ask about making my connection and I was non-chalantly informed (to my dismay) that I mustn’t worry because if I missed my flight they would put me in a hotel and get me on the next available plane to Cape Town. No, no, no. I do not wish to spend the first however many days of my holiday alone in a hotel room with only one spare pair of knickers.
We finally boarded and I was sat next to a large chap with no English who insisted on enthusiastically passing me his complimentary nut packets, and all of his friends’ packets too. I couldn’t help but think, as he continued to smile and nod and gesture towards my newly acquired nut fortune that he was trying to fatten me up for his harem. He was perfectly friendly, albeit a little sweaty, but had a look of creepy Santa about him. Imagine Mohammed Al Fayed in the jolly man’s red suit…
As the plane started making its descent a steward walked down the aisle announcing those with connecting flights to make should collect their hand luggage and be prepared to make their way to the doors. The pilot then proudly announced he had made time up in the air and as we touched down there was a round of applause. Hmmm.
The doors opened and the amazing race was on. At least that’s what I expected. There was transport waiting on the deserted dark tarmac, but the driver didn’t appear to have anything better to do since we sat there for quite a few minutes. The tension was palpable, the other Saffers I had heard on the plane were nowhere to be seen and I was having paranoid ideas that signor nut-man was close behind.
Finally at the terminal there was a uniformed man calling ‘Cape Town’ repeatedly into the darkness. I don’t remember my feet touching the ground as I hurried over to him, my knight in maroon waist coat. I recognised a few faces in the hustle, called them over to our guide and he escorted our group of rag tag stress monkeys over to the correct desk and evaporated like an airport angel.
Feeling the adrenaline in my system but grateful to be almost on my way I flash my passport and go through all the shoe and belt rig-moral again. Only this time the man behind the desk looked at me a couple of times and then stepped away from his lectern of judgement and disappeared around a corner, with my passport in his hand. Now I wished I was back climbing my nut mountain. He thankfully returned very quickly and I tried not to snatch my passport back and made my way quickly to my gate.
I have never been so relieved to be so uncomfortable for eight hours in my life. This time it’s straight to Joburg, much less complicated, but I’m still packing more than one change of clothing in my hand luggage.