Absurd and Amusing Airport Anecdotes

“Laugh at yourself, so that you will be able to laugh at the challenges of life.” Savitha Hosamane

On June 17th I began my journey from Canada to Lesotho.  I consider myself to be well travelled.  Maybe not as much as some, but I know my way around airports.  I’ve also on occasion travelled on my own, so I wasn’t worried about getting to Maseru by myself.  To me it was going to be a piece of cake.  The hardest thing would be how long it took, but that wasn’t even that big a deal.

So, after 20 hours (this includes flights and layovers) I was in Johannesburg.  The flight arrived about 30 mins late, so my hour and 40 minute layover was actually just a little over an hour.  Good news right?  Less time waiting before I start my final journey to Maseru.  WRONG!!

See, as the plane finally stopped at the walkway bridge, or jetbridge, or whatever that tunnel thing is called, the flight crew made an announcement:  “All passengers travelling on domestic flights must pick up their bags at baggage claim as they will not be checked through”  I heard this, without dissecting what was actually said, and panicked.  I looked at my watch and saw that it was 8:30 am.  My flight to Maseru was boarding at 9:00 am.  How in the world was I going to get my luggage, get it checked in to the Maseru flight and still make my boarding time of 9:00am.  I started freaking out in my head at this point.  I looked at my seat mate, and she had the same understanding of the message that I had.  In fact she said to me that she thought her bags had been checked in all the way to her final destination.  That’s what I thought I had done as well…

As it turns out, that is what I had done, I just didn’t know it at the time.  You see the message was for domestic flights.  My flight to Maseru was international, as Lesotho is a separate country from South Africa.  That message didn’t apply to me.  I was just too tired to fully process that.  So thinking maybe I misunderstood, I went up to one of the flight attendants, showed her my boarding pass to Maseru, and said do I really need to pick up my bags before my connecting flight?  She looked at my boarding pass, but as I look back at this in hindsight, I don’t think heard what I was asking.  She said to me, that I needed to hurry to make my flight, and to look for someone from the ground crew to help me.  That to me solidified that my bags were indeed not checked through.

At this point I began madly powerwalking through the airport, following the signs for baggage claim.  I get to customs and there’s a long line ahead of me.  So, I go up to every single person in front of me, showing them my boarding pass, and asking them if I can go ahead of them as my flight boards in 30 mins.  Every single person said yes.  My faith in humanity had been restored by that small gesture of kindness from complete strangers.  I make it to the customs official, who looks at my boarding pass, and asks me why I hadn’t checked my luggage through.  He said there was no way I was going to make my flight.  I responded to him by saying I thought I had done that.  He let me go through and I again began to madly powerwalk to the luggage carousel, freaking out even more.

As I’m walking, I keep repeating the same thing over, and over, and over again “Please God let me get my bags quickly and make my flight”.  I made it to the carousel and saw bags had begun making their way around.  I was looking for my bags and hoping they would come quickly, otherwise I was sunk.  As I was looking for my bags on the carousel, I saw a gentleman who worked for the airport standing there.  I don’t know what possessed my to go up to him.  Maybe it was all of the praying I had done as I was walking to collect my bags.  But I did go to him to ask about my bags.  I don’t even know what I was going to ask but I figured if I could talk to someone, I could maybe figure out where to go next.  This man asked to see my luggage tags.  As soon as he saw them, he told me that my bags had indeed been checked through to Maseru and they were definitely not going to be offloaded on this carousel.  Then he gave me directions as to where I needed to go next.  I thanked him up and down and then began walking towards the direction he pointed me in.

I then saw a South African Airways (SAA) counter with no line, and an attendant.  I went to that person to ask her where exactly I needed to go in order to catch my connecting flight.  She told me I had to go back downstairs and do something with baggage check and then come back.  I tried to explain to her that my bags were checked through and I just needed to get to the gate where my connecting flight was taking off, but there was some kind of communication breakdown between the two of us.  Luckily, a colleague of hers arrived.  She talked to her colleague, and her colleague gave her the information that I needed.  It was that my connecting flight was going to board at gate A29.  At this point I had about 15 mins to get to that gate.  The SAA attendant gave me directions to the gate and I was off, again.

I was making my way, according to the directions I was given, when I came to this huge area of the airport that had many different directions to go through.  I was trying to figure out which way to go.  I must have had an expression of complete and utter helplessness on my face, as an airport worker approached me, and asked me if I needed help.  I said yes, I needed to get to gate A29 but I wasn’t sure where that was.  Fortunately he knew that I needed to go through security first, before I could even start making my way to the gate.  He told me to follow him, and he was able to get me to security quickly.  You see, it still hadn’t dawned on me at that point, that I had exited the secure area of the airport when I went to baggage claim and I had to go through security again, before I could even get to gate A29.  Had that man not approached me, and asked me if I needed help, I may not have made my flight on time.

Luckily there was only one other couple ahead of me in the line, but they told me I could go ahead of them.  They must have been in the customs line with me earlier.  Anyway I went through security, unpacked my laptop from my carry-on, re-packed it, then went through customs again, luckily there was no line, and I was cleared quickly.  Now I was finally on my way to gate A29.  I had about 7 minutes left at this point before the flight started boarding.

As I’m walking to the gate, I’m seeing the signs for it so I know where I’m heading.  I must still have had a crazy expression on my face though, as someone from the airport saw me, and asked me if I needed help.  At this point I was good and said no thank you.  I finally made it to gate A29 with 2 minutes to spare!  I don’t think I can possibly explain how relieved I was that I had not missed my connecting flight.  I wouldn’t have to explain to CHAI that I was going to be extremely late getting in.  I wouldn’t have to figure out how to get on to the second flight out to Maseru.  Everything was going to be ok.  I even had time to buy some water.  My throat was so dry from the stress, nerves, and running around, that it was painful.  I gulped down that water bottle in almost one shot.

It wasn’t until I was on the flight to Maseru and had a minute to think, that I realized what my mistake had been.  I hadn’t processed the word domestic.  I can’t believe I did something that foolish.  I’m going to blame that on 20 hours of travelling, and no sleep, and I’m sticking with that, even as a I slap my hand to my forehead and shake my head at myself…at least everything worked out in the end.

An hour later I land in Maseru.  Even though I know my luggage was checked through, I’m still a little nervous that just maybe, my bags were sitting in the Johannesburg airport waiting for me to pick them up.  But here’s the thing about distinctive luggage, you can spot it from a mile away.  As I’m disembarking onto the tarmac in Maseru, I turn my head to the left and I see my luggage being offloaded from the plane.  I was doing quite the internal happy dance.  Not only did I arrive safe and sound, and on time, but so did all my stuff. YAY!!!!

OmbreSunset_set_large

Now, Maseru airport is really, really, small.  I walked ten steps from the tarmac to the airport.  Ten steps to one, of two customs control agents, then I walked another ten steps to get to the baggage carousel.  The airport staff didn’t even use it.  They just brought all passengers bags in and set them to the side.  I picked up my luggage and walked another ten steps to the x-ray machine.  Apparently I had something in my bags that needed to be checked out further, so I walked another ten steps to secondary screening.  Turns out my manicure scissors, which are allowed, made me look suspicious.  But again, it all turned out fine.  I walked another ten steps to exit the secure part of the airport and saw Lebohang waiting for me.  Lebohang works for CHAI and was kind enough to come and pick me up from the airport.

Lebohang not only picked me up, but also took me on a quick grocery run, so I would have the basics at the CHAI house.  He then helped get me sorted with an international SIM card for my phone, and showed me around the CHAI house.  I then quickly got ready for my lunch with CHAI Country Director Emily.  I’m so impressed with how nice, open and welcoming everyone at CHAI is.  They really know how to make someone feel welcome.  I feel incredibly lucky to be working with everyone here.

At lunch, Emily told me that on Tuesday, I would be heading up to the mountains with my Nutrition team for a couple of days, to observe the World Food Program (WFP) volunteers distributing the Supercereal Plus.  This is the cereal that I am writing an investment case for.  I was really excited about this, but also realized that I would need a pair of boots, if I was going to the mountains.

You see, I had debated bringing my boots with me.  I knew Lesotho would be a little cold at this time of the year, and I also knew I would be coming back to Canada in the winter time.  However, I had multiple people’s voices in my head as I was packing saying: “Christina, you don’t need that many shoes”.  “Christina edit your shoe choices”.  So I didn’t bring my boots.  But that’s ok as I got to go shoe shopping within two days of arriving in Lesotho (that is a record for me), and I picked up a kick-ass pair of boots in the process.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.  Feel free to post in the comment section.  I’m still shaking my head at how dense I was, but laughing at the same time.  Sometimes these things just happen.  On the plus side, I got to see people be extremely nice to a stranger which was really cool.

My next blog post will be about my trip in the mountains.  Stay tuned….

21 comments

  1. WOW! I’m sure I would’ve missed my flight for sure. Good for you for keeping your sanity and making it through on time!!!!

  2. Oh Christina….. I wouldn’t have processed “domestic” either. I’m glad you arrived safe and sound. I’m sure this is just one of many grand adventures

  3. What an adventure Christina! I love the details that you shared – what was going through your mind, what actions you took and how others came up to you to help.

  4. I stand by my advice for you to not bring too many shoes 🙂 you can always buy stuff you need. Glad you got there ok!

    1. Haha. Thanks Kim. On the bright side I was able to buy a pair of boots from Lesotho so I guess I should thank you for that 😜

  5. Honest mistake for sure. You were resilient and made it through a stressful situation. Probably just one of many you’ll experience these next few months!! LOL! But seriously, it is in those moments that you grow. Embrace being scared and uncomfortable. On another note, one of my favorite things about reading these PULSE blogs is I get to learn geography (I am dreadful at it!). Now I know where Lesotho is and know that it is separate from South Africa!!

    1. Thanks Lo. I’m horrible at geography too. You should have seen how long it took me to find Lesotho on a map when I got my assignment. Yikes…

  6. Christina, I was praying too for you the whole time you were travelling and I thank God that helped you arrive at your destination with all your luggage safe and sound. Keep calm as you did in the airport and you will make it through any challenges you’re faced with. Love you, Mom. Xoxo

  7. Hi Christina

    Thanks for the entertaining post.

    I am based in Johannesburg with GSK and completed my PULSE assignment locally in December last year. I also happen to have grown up in Lesotho and still go there every 2 months or so as I have my parents living there – in a town south of Maseru, Mafeteng in a rural village: Ha-Moeketsi (close to Maputu).

    My cell number is: +27 82 325 9215, e-mail address: mpho.h.bokaba@gmail.com – please feel free to be in contact for anything. It would also be great to get together in Lesotho and or in Johannesburg if you would like to.

    I look forward to more posts and to meeting you.

    Enjoy your PULSE journey in the mountain kingdom (Lesotho)

    Mpho Bokaba

    1. Thank you so much Mpho. I will be making it over to Johannesburg in the next six months. I’ll let you know when I’ll be there. I’d love to meet up.

  8. Great Blog. A true test of the resilience required for PULSE! And a silver lining to see how awesomely kind people can be!

  9. Hey Christina, LMAO. I can’t imagine how stressful that was… So happy you made it safe and sound . Enjoy the mountains . Cant wait for your next blog

    1. Let’s put it this way, I’m surprised my hair’s not grey. Man my stylist did a great job with the colour 🤣

  10. Hi Christina, I utterly enjoyed it all! Laughed all the way and could picture you rushing about. And yes, those purple/indigo heels wont work in Mesura. During the read I wondered which shoes you were wearing and the rushing around. I could picture you in the black cross sandal. I am so proud of you and inspired by you. I don’t do blogs, but you have me hooked on your page. By the time I finished reading I too is also humbled by humanity and kindness, and the more I read I believe you were meant to go through this little episode. What you are doing is because of your profound believe in giving back, being kind, and being pleasant and courteous through it all, again your humanity. Also, what you are doing is serious stuff, but take the time to laugh along the way 🙂

    1. Dionne thank you so much for the lovely words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Also, I was wearing running shoes lol 😄

  11. Haha! So, I did check out your blog – to uncover what you did …and laughed my way through– you took me on a virtual tour to the airport …cant believe though that you made it in time though. Good job !! and happy touring the mountains in your new boots !

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