I write this blog entry from West Africa. Indeed, I had anticipated that I would write of my arrival to Ghana much sooner than this.
But I have only just begun to recover from the ardous journey that brought me over 4000 miles from home and all the drama that happened in between.
I was booked on a flight that was scheduled to leave Johannesburg on the 11th of July 2010 at close to midnight.
I missed that flight.
I missed it because there was no one at the check-in counter when I arrived approximately 90minutes before the plane took off.
My arrival at the airport coincided with the height of fever-pitch World Cup madness.
All I know was that one second everything was normal except of course for the unusually high number of people huddling around TV screens at every shop and in every lobby.
Then in the next second it seemed as if everyone had suddenly gone crazy.
There were shouts, screams and the most thunderous noise erupted – creating an immediate stampede towards the monitors and screens by everyone in the vicinity.
In a split second workstations were deserted, professionalism gave way to euphoria and various flight personnel and cabin crews raced from the counters to catch a glimpse of the pinnacle of World Cup action – the winning goal.
It seemed to me that I was heading in the wrong direction because everyone seemed to frenziedly rush to where I was coming from – towards the screen.
Drawn almost as if by magnet, most people did not stop to think of what they were doing – they simply forgot that they were on duty (or so it appeared to me).
But I was not fazed. Not fazed at all.
Until I came to the 3 Air Namibia check-in points at the Terminal A Departure – A29 to A31 and found… no one.
But still I was not fazed, concluding that they too, must have rushed to see whatever goal had been scored – and in the spirit of the moment; I felt charitable enough not to begrudge them the moment – it was Africa’s first World Cup and it was the final so naturally; concessions must be made. Or so I thought.
In any event I waited, and waited and waited. Time ticked on inexorably, for unlike me, the clock was oblivious to the momentous occasion.
But as other check-in attendants found their way back to their posts, I started to get very worried about the Air Namibia personnel who did not follow suit.
I went to the Air Nambia office cubicle to find out what martians had abducted the entire check-in crew.
What I found was a heavy-built light woman whose only contribution to my tale is that she had the singular honor of completely wasting my time.
Her unhelpful response to my predicament was that I should go back to the check-in counter and wait some more.
Despite my painstaking explanations that I had already been waiting for a while and there was no one forthcoming and that time was ticking – that woman (for whom I entertain no kind thoughts) proceeded to stand up and march purposefully to her hand bag where she returned brandishing a small mirror and a tube of pink lipstick.
After making a huge show of smearing her lips with a fresh layer of garish pink lipstick (all the better to inform me that she was now knocking off) the lady unceremoniously dismissed me insisting that I should reschedule my flight.
I resisted the urge to afford this silly woman more of my invaluable and fast dissipating tie by arguing with her and so I approached the Client Services Manager of the Airport who very helpfully called the Air Namibia Crew who had proceeded to the boarding gate without bothering to return to the check-in counters.
They apologized profusely and insisted that no one was on hand to return all the way back to the check-in counter and so I should approach the British Airways offices who were handling the Accra flights (this bit of information I could have easily received from the Air Namibia offices had that pink-lipped lady bothered to use her head).
And so there I was – with that Client Service Manager at my side, banging on the British Airways office cubicle for all I was worth and got rewarded with the appearance of another lady who was cooperative, helpful and appreciative of the urgency of the situation.
And so she called, yet again – and insisted that one of the crew members return to the terminal and check me in – to no avail.
She was put on hold interminably and then was informed that the last passenger had already boarded.
So much for not being fazed.
In short, I did everything I could to get on that flight and exhausted every avenue but nothing came of it.
I left the airport in the wee hours of the morning because the British Airways lady had informed me that the Air Namibia crew would be returning to their cubicle and they could rebook me.
I waited and waited and waited some more but none of them returned.
The World Cup ended with a bang, the flight left at midnight and I missed it because 116 minutes into the match Andres Iniesta scored a golden goal for Spain which led them to deafeat Netherlands in the final.
That goal cost me my flight… and yes, so did the unprofessional conduct of the Air Namibia check-in crew.
For the record, I found my way to Accra 48 hours later, much to the relief and delight of those who had invited me.
Needless to say, it is an annoying experience I hope to never have to repeat.
I felt it – it was here… the 2010 FIFA World Cup… on African soil. And I was there.