the aeroplane journey from hell (a cautionary tale of how humans set “standards”

About seven years ago when I was still stuck in Athlone, I met a Zambian guy that was the funniest, nicest guy I had met in a very long time. His favourite thing was taking the piss (ahem) taking the mickey out of me. Yes, it was funny and sometimes I’d be nearly peeing myself laughing, but now I know from my studies that every joke is based just a little bit, or according to Freud, a lot in reality. Anyone who has an interest should really read his book “Jokes and their relation to the unconscious” – fascinating stuff.

Anyway, we once had a conversation about going to Zambia on holiday and D asked me how often I went and who I flew with. Puffing out my chest, I very proudly told him that I went to Zambia without fail, at least once a year. He gave the expected impressed look. I then told him I always flew with British Airways, to which he burst out laughing and said,

“Still lining your colonial masters’ pockets, ey?”

I, of course, grew very defensive and pointed out that they were the most direct route, least waiting time, the flight entertainment was great, yada, yada, yada… To which D cocked his head, smiled impishly and said,

“Hey! It was just a comment. did I touch a nerve”

I told him that of course he hadn’t, which obviously meant he had, but ah well, such is life.

It did get me thinking though, and from then on, each time I booked my flight with BA, an echo would go through my head about colonial masters and references to pocket lining would plague me for days.

Yes BA has great in flight entertainment and they are the most direct route into Lusaka, but was I missing out n something? after all, he who has never travels thinks his mother’s cooking is the best, right? so how could I in all honesty say they were really good when I’d never flown with anyone else?

so this year, when the whole gang of us in Ireland decided to go over to Zambia and BA was waaaaay more expensive than we had bargained for, I couldn’t help feeling a frisson of excitement at researching other airlines, and the possibility that I might be going to Zambia via Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Jo’Burg…the possibilities seemed endless!

It took us weeks to tie down a combination of what we considered acceptable waiting times in airports (a six twelve hour wait in Dubai with two babies under two was a no-go!) and what was affordable given the packed itinerary we had for Zambia.

Two weeks before our allocated optimum departure date (straddling the Easter break for my seven year old nephew, and annual leave for the adults) w got plane tickets! we saw the price over the Internet, the airport waits were doable, the arrival time in Lusaka was a very lovely midday, which far outdid BA’s six a.m. nightmarish arrival time.

Everything about it sounded perfect. which in hindsight, had I been thinking straight and not getting carried away with holiday fever, I would have questioned and the next day, we had our e-tickets and were chomping at the bit to be let loose on our holiday!

I can’t describe how frustrating the time in between was. When you can see the ticket ad you are counting down the hours in each day before holi – day dawns. ARGH! I vaguely remember Ted from the travel agency calling e a few times to check something or other and to inform me of something…or the other…but I was way too excited to be paying too much attention. I told him to confirm by e-mail and he said yes, of course he would. And that settled that really.

And then, just like that, it was the night before our departure date.

I picked Roz up from the childminder and rushed to my sister’s home so we could complete the web check-in. all seven passports were lined up on the computer in front of me. I had a steaming mug of coffee within reach, everyone else was digging into their drinks and laughing at the huge pile of luggage stacked up in the middle of Yolanthe’s living room floor.

I logged on, entered the reference number, ticked the gender boxes, entered all the passport details of all the adults and the one child, then BAM!

The two babies didn’t exist on the airline’s system.

O joy.

(to be continued….)

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