I really enjoy traveling. Really. There’s just something about being in totally unfamiliar surroundings, surrounded by totally unfamiliar people speaking an unfamiliar language that just appeals to me.
Being unknown in unknown surroundings is pretty much equivalent to a blank cheque. You can, for instance, enjoy yourself thoroughly by speaking with an accent. Don’t be boring by using an American or a British accent. If you want to cause much puzzlement and head scratching, nothing beats the sight of an African speaking with an Indian accent.
But I digress.
Much as I love traveling, I HATE AIRPORTS, and especially JKIA. I had to use that establishment’s services for a couple of times last year and I assure you that there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. I wept.
JKIA is big, poorly designed, stuffy and as comfortable as sand filled y-fronts. The broken, uncomfortable chairs in the departure lounges have to be seen (and sat on) to be believed. The facilities generally smell like a certain substance chemical symbol NH3, better known as Ammonia. The one time circumstances forced me to make use of the same (a litre of Coke, ladies and gentlemen, will eventually demand an exit) I went in a black haired man and emerged platinum blonde from the fumes. The security guards at the entrance are overzealous and have delusions of grandeur.
But despite this doom and gloom much merriment can be derived from the insanity.
Travelers by and large treat the 2 hour check-in period as an unnecessary and malicious complication. I freely confess to being one of these until a few flights have cured me of this foolishness. Kenyans will show up for a 7:30 flight at 7:20, fully laden with 3 bags, a ruck-sack, golf clubs, a baby and two teddy bears and expect to make it on time. Those two hours are for
- Allowing you to queue with the other 100 people on the flight, fill in nonsense forms and check in your crap
- Correcting the many issues that the airport/travel agent/airline/you have screwed up (no, dammit the flight is to Niger, not Nigeria!)
Travelers additionally have a strange habit of dressing to the nines to travel. I remember a flight some years back where there were four of us traveling to Uganda for some reason I forget at this juncture. There was an uncomfortable silence when I showed up at the airport in my faded t-shirt, track suit bottoms and battered sandals to find my other colleagues in suit and tie, complete wit briefcases. Needless to say I was taken aback and inquired if there had been a change of plan from our itinerary that was to travel to Entebbe, take a cab to Kampala and check in to the hotel and proceed to get a night’s sleep. I was assured there was none. Todate I am mystified why some of us insist on suit and tie to travel. Or perhaps I am playing roulette with the latex glove?
Travelers additionally carry large amounts of crap in and on their persons when traveling. Again I freely confess I used to be one of these. Last year I was with a fellow Kenyan on a return flight from South Africa and at the metal detector she filled two trays with the contents of her pockets, items ranging from money, sweets, biscuits, tulcum powder to sanitary pads and tampons. The male security guard did not shy away from examining the latter items in great detail.
The metal detector is another item that still mystifies. A typical scenario is a feller, call him Bill, walks through the detector. It beeps. Guard asks Bill if he’s carrying or wearing anything metallic. Bill denies both counts and walks through again. It beeps Bill then empties the coins in his pocket into a tray and tries again. It beeps. Bill then takes the guard’s suggestion and removes his belt. Bill then walks through the detector with his belt in hand. Unsurprisingly, it beeps. Finally after removing belt, gold teeth, suspenders and assorted rings and putting them in the tray, Bill finally goes through, after wasting 5 minutes of everyone’s time.
What is the point of those ridiculous entry and exit forms? I don’t get it. They are a colossal waste of time. After all, the same information is scanned from your passport to why force us to fill them? I make sure I use my worst handwriting and if I can find one, a luminous green biro. If I have time some Morse code on the back in dots, dashes and pluses will keep immigration officers busy. Let their immigration and intelligence services earn their money trying to break my code.
Anyway, happy new year my friends. Here’s to 2009!