I was asked to make my personal journey to South Africa by my employer in mid conversation while we had been speaking of our News Editor’s preparations to fly to the country from America. I had sent my boss, DiMarkco Chandler (co-owner and founder of the Las Vegas Guardian Express newspaper) an email a day or so earlier stating that despite my recent heart attack, that I would be happy to fly over and assist the editor if needed.
While we were discussing the exorbitant air fare, DiMarkco stopped and asked me, “How much would it cost for you to fly over to Johannesburg?”
“Probably about what it costs to send Graham,” I said. There was a short pause, and then DiMarkco said, “Find out for me how much it will cost and get back to me. I may send you instead.” I told him that I was on it and we ended the conversation.
I called one of the “cheaper” flights websites. Amazingly, it was half the cost of the American flight.
I rang DiMarkco back and passed the information over to him. He said, “That’s settled. You’re going…if you want to, that is.”
Before I could answer enthusiastically that I would go, he interjected, “Is there any reason why you can’t go?”
I assured him that I had nothing to prevent me from just packing a suitcase and jetting anywhere in the world.
That settled it. I was told to purchase the tickets while he acquired the funds and began transferring money into my account. I rang to book the flight and was immediately told that the first flight would include an 11 hour lay-over. This meant that I would lose an entire day. I had interviews starting the next day, so that flight would not do.
The entire time spent in South Africa was only to be four days. The article that we’re writing is time crucial so I could not afford to lose an entire day. I asked for another flight and, thankfully, the booking agent found one. An almost straight shot via Paris, with an hour and a half layover at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. The flight was booked and paid for.
In just 12 short hours, I would be on my way to South Africa in my first “live” assignment as a proper news journalist doing the “groundwork” for an investigative piece for my newspaper. In that short time, I needed to arrange to get inoculations for the trip and quickly gather together my laptop and iPad; clothes and passports; collect my “walking around” money and get to London Heathrow from the wilds of East Anglia.
Not too difficult, I thought, but it actually turned out to be much harder a task than I could have ever imagined. In fact, my own personal journey to South Africa started with one obstacle after another being thrown up by fate, or whatever you want to call it, that seemed determined to halt my trip before if ever got started.
The problems started with the one injection I required to visit the suburban and more urban areas that I would be visiting. Hepatitis A was the only shot I really needed and after hearing that I would be leaving that evening, the nurse “fit me in” and gave me the required injection.
I have had these type’s of injections before and never had any sort of “severe” reactions.
Not this time. The “Hep A” shot kicked my rear-end and the rest of me with big hob-nailed boots and it took me ages to finish packing and I ended up ringing the doctor’s office when I got “light-headed” and started feeling a bit disoriented.
The doctor could see me at five o’clock, I was informed. I explained that by that time, I would be on my way to London to fly out. Their concession was to change the appointment to four o’clock. Accepting that time, which was still cutting things too fine, I finished packing.
Then, as suddenly as they’d arrived, the symptoms disappeared and I jumped into high gear to finish packing. I rang for a taxi to the train station and purchased my ticket to London Heathrow. The travel time was expected to be a staggering two hours and 39 minutes to the airport and it was going to be very close; but it could be done.
So I thought.
I hadn’t allowed for “Sod’s Law” or Murphy’s Law.” On the way to London, an announcement over the train’s PA system informed passengers that some poor unfortunate person had fallen under one of the trains in London’s underground system (subway) and that apparently, British Rail was working on every underground train line in London.
I knew that I was in trouble when I boarded the tube train at Liverpool Street Station in London for the transfer to Paddington Station for the Heathrow Express Train. The underground trains were moving at a snail’s pace as time sped by, seemingly aided by anabolic steroids or speed.
I got on the wrong train at Paddington, although it was going in the right direction. A very helpful fellow passenger, explained that the train following was the right one. If I got off at the next station, I could catch that one and get to Heathrow.
I had “checked-in” on-line at home before I left that afternoon. My luggage check in time was to stop at 1930 (or seven-thirty p.m.) and when I checked the time after catching the right train, it was 1922. There was no way that I was going to get my luggage checked in.
Once I got to Heathrow, another helpful chap told me to put my “work” gear in my small suitcase and take it on board with me. I quickly combined the contents of the two bags and started running for the lift (elevator) that would allow me to check in. After the lift stopped at each of the four floors to the sign-in desk, I leapt out and, again, ran for the desk.
Two ladies stood talking to each other at the sign-in area. KLM employees who were relaxing after getting all the passengers on board the flight to Paris.
All the passengers, bar one.
They looked at my boarding pass and sadly shook their heads.
“No sir,” they said, “the plane is already closed for boarding and about to get into position for taxiing down the runway.
I’d missed my flight by mere minutes, despite my desperate running and sweating. Seeing my obvious dismay, one lovely lady said, “There is our ticket desk, they’ll be able to help you. You need to hurry though as they are about to close for the evening.”
I ran like the devil was chasing me and stood in front of a frosty looking older lady who was working busily on her computer terminal. I explained my situation and she made an immediate transformation from a slightly severe looking older woman, into an angel.
I had another flight with the same final destination that would begin loading in 15 minutes. She began the process of getting me set up on the only other flight heading out for South Africa that day. I paid the extra funds to secure my place and she told me that I would be flying into Holland’s Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. I would have a layover of 11 hours.
My personal journey to South Africa had made a complete circle. I was right back to where I’d started. Ending up on the first flight I had been offered by the booking agent, and rejected, and losing an entire interview filled day in my short fact-finding mission in South Africa.
To be continued…
- South Africa a Short Life Changing Journey Off the Beaten Path (mikesfilmtalk.com)