17 February 2009

They do things a little differently here.

All it took was a nun.

The flight from New York City to Paris and on to Benin was about as uneventful as flights go; maybe half an hour of turbulence and two complimentary glasses of cognac rocked the entire sixteen hours of travel. Until I landed in Benin, the only thing eventful that had happened to me was that, despite my best efforts, I thoroughly and completely lost an armrest war to my left-hand neighbor, who seemed to consider that his window-seat ticket also bought him a controlling share in the adjacent aisle seat.

Given that he was approximately double my size (you will see...this promises to be a recurring theme), I'm surprised I lasted as long as I did—which, to be fair, was only about 27 minutes. I had little choice but to become intimately familiar with the contralateral armrest, and each passing, just-wide-enough-to-make-you-rue-elbows, duty-free-stocked beverage cart propelled by plastic smiles.

All this changed, though, on arrival at Cotonou's Cadjehoun airport. Miles more developed than Monrovia's airport, Cadjehoun has regimented lines with regimented passport agents sitting at actual, regimented desks behind actual, regimented plastic, with actual stamps, making actual, official, stamp-like sounds.

It's a thin veneer.

Evidently passport confiscations are de rigeur here; my kindly, smiling, official-sounding passport agent conveniently "couldn't find" my passport after she sent me aside to fill out an arrivals form (the first attempt being deemed subpar). She was sure she'd given it back to me. I must have just misplaced it.

My refusal to believe her led to a swift surrounding by three other very kindly and official-sounding passport agents, reminding me that—don't you know?—they were police officers and would be sure to deal with me as police officers do, merci beaucoup. Thankfully, the bluster didn't last long, and some well-placed obstreporousness aided the magical reappearance of my passport.

A little shaken, I got my hands on one of a number of freely-roaming luggage carts and settled into the throng of people waiting for suitcases. Apparently, I chose poorly, because, of all the passengers, with all their luggage carts, I was singled out.

"That's my cart," someone behind me said.

I saw no reason to believe him, and, admittedly, told him so.

"You use my cart, you pay me," he protested.

This went on for a few parries, just long enough to settle the matter peaceably, without the exchange of either money or fisticuffs.  But, unfortunately, also long enough to infuriate a thrice-as-large-as-me passenger from my flight (who, incidentally, happened to be friends with my armrest mate). He turned around, sheer anger on his face, took my two bags and proceeded to hurl them to the floor with as much force as he could muster (which was a lot).

As if this wasn't dramatic enough, he then began screaming at me, his words mostly drowned out in the shower of spittle I found myself under. When he started pushing—hard—a small British nun in a grey habit stepped between us.  For this, I'll one day get to thank her.  

After my erstwhile attacker had returned to his conversation with my erstwhile armrest antagonist, she turned to me, said, "They do things a little differently here," and quickly disappeared into the throng.



Meanwhile:  It is spectacular to be back on the ship, back among friends.  Our screening day is tomorrow, and surgeries start on the 24th.  Updates will be forthcoming.


dancingbunny said...

geez.....that's enough drama to fill a 15mins sitcom.

I just wonder what I will get when I fly off to washington

Sabrina said...

At least you are a live that’s all it matters and the great experience you had in the airport with the nun…

proonner paraphrases said...

i think i am waay too jaded to comment in a more positive/encouraging manner.. but i AM GLAD that you're safely back on the ship and that you're blogging again!!