October 24, 2011

Weekend Planes

As I woke up on early Saturday and washed my face, this was the itinerary for the next 24 hours:

  1. Cape Town to Johannesburg (2h)
  2. Johannesburg to Hong Kong (13h)
  3. Hong Kong to Singapore (3,5h)

I have managed to get window seats on all flights, so the only thing on my mind was the somewhat tight connection time of 1:30 hours on both layovers.

But as long as I caught the flight to Hong Kong, the rest could be figured out along the way.

Trains That Don’t Arrive and Planes That Never Leave

I got on the bus that would take me from the terminal to the plane on Cape Town and allowed myself to relax. I put headphones on and started to listen to The Decemberist; everything was on time … now just enjoy getting there. 

For a second I closed my eyes and mumbled this is why fight” and thought to myself: man, what a great song! I opened my eyes, intoxicated with the coolness of my existence, life and everything, and a stocky ground services lady was in front of me moving her mouth.

“Pardon?” I stuttered. Seems this was the third time she had tried to find intelligent life between my headphones, and was not too pleased about the results until now: Sir, please return to the terminal, there is a slight delay”. 

In the words of some famous spanglish poet: el crapo

Twenty minutes later, the verdict is shared: flight cancelled. 

Dashing back to Counter 118, I was congratulating myself on the merits of light travel and its speed benefits, when out of the corner of my eye a business casual looking guy took a tight turn and beat me to the counter. 

Having already decided that I hated this speed walking freak, I settled behind him on the line. With only 10 days in South Africa I was ready for some disinformation galore, and Comair delivered almost immediately. 

A number of vague possible flight alternatives to Johannesburg where thrown around, and reschedule for tomorrow kept being added to random sentences.


Casually I hear that speed-walker tells one of the friendly (yet as useful as a headless chicken) attendants: I’m going to miss my connection to in Jo’burg, can you get me on the direct flight of Singapore Air leaving at 2? or the flight to Perth and connect me from there?”.

Clearly speed-walker knew what the heck he was talking about. With the subtleness that characterizes Venezuelan respect for private conversations, I barged in. 

“I’m also going to Singapore” I comment as casually as possible, while giving speed-walker an apologetic look that hopefully implied: sorry dude, but if you’re the only one with a parachute, I’m hanging on”.

Speed-walker (whose real name is Johnathan), didn’t even turn and kept pressing: I have no luggage” he said. I almost heard his thoughts: booyah sucker! Hang on to that!”, to which I squeaked Me neither”. 

The Comair person turned to another and said Can you check if we can get these gentlemen on the Singapore Air flight?” Bingo, these gentlemen.

The girl turned to leave saying I’ll check with them”, and Johnathan grabbed his carry-on uttering the most important travel phrase I’ve learned on this trip:  

I’ll go with you.

Being the independent, self-sufficient person that I am, I tagged along.

Turns out Johnathan is an American expat living Singapore with his family, and he travels a lot. We eventually got a flight 5 hours later through Dubai and Sri-Lanka, and I arrived at Singapore about 9 hours later than originally planned. 

During our conversation he emphasized to always tag along with whomever is dealing with you, that way you become his/her problem. I can safely say that without him being such a polite pain in the ass I would probably have been rescheduled for the next day.

So there you go, a final lesson in humanity from South Africa: turns out speed walkers are people too.


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Cape Town As often is the case in Africa, the confrontation turned into a joyous celebration. ~Helen Lieberman, on A Rainbow in the Night, by Dominique
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A Week in Singapore After a week in Singapore I came to the following conclusion: Singapore is what Southeast Asia looks like when imagined by a westerner. Not