Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Another First Class and Business Lounge

Again I am in the First and (this time) Business class lounge waiting for a flight.

Oh yes. Received my boarding pass, just about now. I am apparently a business class traveler, as of now.

Does feel good. And no, this time I am not so elated. Just the arrogance of the rich catching up with me? Maybe.

Fact is, getting here has been a bit of a hustle.

I was supposed to leave yesterday, and packed to leave the hotel, and checked out and got to the airport, only to be told. Wait a minute. Your visa to the final destination is expired.

I could not believe it. I argued. I begged, asked for a check on the documents that I had supporting it. But no way. I got it in November, and it had just expired. No, I will not tell you how I felt.

I tried ringing the hotel. Contact person not there. I had a total of 20 dollars in my pocket. The US variety.
So, I turn them, (expensively) into phone calls and then a taxi ride to the hotel.

I was down. In the dumps. Feeling sorry for myself. Didnt know what to do. I sat in the lounge of the hotel that I had checked out of just earlier that day, praying that someone I knew would come in, that the guy I had been trying to contact would materialise.

A guy that I knew came in. I broke my sob story. Asked him to look at the visa himself.
Oh, you are asking why I did not know that it is expired? Couldnt read the language of the visa!
Anyway, guy cannot read the language too, but can read an approximate one. Tells me, sorry, seems like it is so.

Then he ask what I am going to do. I say, I am just waiting for the other guy.

He tells me to pull up, and do something. The other guy had been having a hard time, and would panic, when he got to know of my predicament. So, I should find out when the next flight was, and whether I could get on it, and where the nearest embassy was.

Activity did pull me out of the dumps. But some of the results were dissapointing, to say the least. The nearest embassy for the country, happens to be on the other side of the continent. I am not lying. The next flight was the next day. Today. But I did not have a visa.

So, I had the idea to pour my troubles into another ear.

Increadibly, the person on the other side started working with me. We went through the whole thing. The person told me to hang on, phoned around, emailed, and as I was despairing, told me to hang on there.

The visa was valid. A whoop of joy!

And at that particular time, here comes in my supposed saviour. Wondering why I am still here. Not on a flight to another continent. I gave him the sob story, now with some laughs. He arranged for a room for me, and got me some more internet time, which after an hour of chatting had seriously diminished.

I needed to confirm that the visa was valid. I desperately needed to. And the Business Center was closing, because it was very late. The person the other end told me to hold on, and on, and on. Till I had to tell the good people in the business centre that it seemed I would have to leave without the expected good news.

Went to sleep. Woke up early, read a poem, and listened to the glowing reports on the American Primaries. What is the difference between a primary and a caucus? Have not yet worked it out. Sure will.

To the business centre. Closed.

To breakfast. Tense stomach. Not very hungry.

Then to airport. Wait a bit, the business centre is open, and I opened my email, and there was the letter, the email confirming that my visa, faxed to the end of nowhere, was valid. And still valid.

I was livid with anger.

Used my last dollars for a taxi ride to the airline offices. What happened there is not something I am proud of. But I was not happy that a person insists on not taking responsibility for his actions.

And something amused me. The person who read the visa, and told me that it could not possibly be valid, now with evidence that it was, could not own up, and lost his temper.
A cultural aside. He was very angry. He shouted at me, oh, I am not sure that my voice was low. But he was angered most by the fact that I looked aside when he was shouting at me. Apparently, that was insulting.
I guess cultures differ. I did not do it intentionally, but looking an elder (a senior, any seniour is an elder, at least in my culture), looking an elder in the eye in the midst of an argument is supposedly very bad form. But to this one, I insulted him by looking aside!

I was thrown out of the office.

Correction. Went out, under protest, speechless in self righteous anger.

I decided to walk to the hotel where I have been staying. Asked for directions from Accrans. They did understand my English, and almost all would insist that it was too far. I had to take a vehicle of some sort.

A man of my looks and means, with a bag, apparently cannot walk that far.

I did, for necessity, and just to be able to do it. I have not seen much of Accra. And there is no better way to see that than on foot.

My temper simmered down. I did walk for a good couple of hours.

At the hotel, found that I had to check out, again. And after a shower, did exactly that. And looked to my transport back to the airport.

Luckily, this had been arranged. Didnt want another walk.

Got to the airport very early. Very, very early.

Immediately, I realised my reputation had spread, embellished, maybe. The first security guard asked what I was doing there. I answered, and he asked me whether I expected to pass. I told him to watch me.

Got to the desk that stumbled me yesterday. The guy recognised me. Wanted my document. I handed them over. Cheekily holding back the letter which said the visa was valid.
The guy laughed at me. I produced the letter.
The laughter was cut short.
I was told I would have to wait for the supervisor. I agreed. And waited.
After about 15 minutes, I was asked to move away from the desk. That I was making them unconfortable. I moved to the side. They asked me to sit down further away from the desk. I declined. I wanted to wait there.

Oh, I have left out the part when I decided to take notes of what was happening. Took out my clipboard and started, with the time of arrival, and what was happening. The guy noted me staring at his name badge. I swear he tore the paper out of my hands. And trashed it.

Apparently, I needed to ask his permission to take down his name.

I politely asked his permission to write down his name and position. He declined, less politely. I asked whether he minded me continuing to write. Apparently, that was my right. I took the liberty.

20 minutes into the wait, why dont I sit down? Thanks, says I, but I am going to be seated for the next few hours. And I hell did not mind standing there near their desk.

I take out my poetry book, and start reading. And incidentally doing some static leg muscle streatches. Read standing up and down on my toes. I was an irritant. A good irritant!

A chair is offered, where I am. Sorry, I decline.

30 minutes after the waiting started, the supervisor arrives.

The visa is examined. Eyes apparently are not enough. The letter is re-read. I say nothing. A lens is pulled out, to see the details. 5 tense minutes of examination. I note down all the antiqs. Wondering what the hell was wrong with the bloody visa.

At last it was passed to the guy who chased me away yesterday, telling me that it was expired. He handed me my tickets and passport. Wordlessly motioned me to the counter.

I moved away from him.

Frankly, I was too relieved to be on the plane to ask for a word of apology. Maybe I should bless the airline with some of my spite. Would work wonders for my ego, and hopefully line my pocket.

Well, has done me good to write down the whole incident here. Most likely I will be able to enjoy the travel, when the plane comes.
Yet the lounge did not look so good, when I walked in at first, despite the invitations to wine and fruit and foods. Just an apple crunching in my teeth. To hell with conventional labels.

But I am cooling down now.

I have an 8 hour journey. To where?

I will update...



Anonymous said...

That is just SO pathetic. You should write an official letter of complaint. If nothing else, it would help give you some closure!

("Basketcase continent, basketcase continent...").

gayuganda said...

Wow Anonymous dijo

Thanks for your comment. I guess.

Will try to complain of course. For closure, as you say.

Basketcase continent? Oh, you mean Mother Africa?

Dont you dare abuse someones parent here, dude. I dont take kindly to that!


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