a matter of personal importance

I’m a nobody.  Not important.  A mere mortal.  I got a serious reminder of this ego-bursting fact today.

It was supposed to be the start of  another trip down to Yaoundé – flying down for monitoring and evaluation meetings with VSO Cameroon.  As we speak, however, I remain baking in Maroua’s 40C+ heat.

The powers that be got in the way.

I arrived at the airport the prescribed 3 hours before departure – the airline and security staff didn’t start doing anything for 1.5 hours.  Despite this early arrival, I didn’t make the flight!  Ticket in hand, I, and 40 others, waited for our boarding cards.

We didn’t get them.

Blaring sirens suddenly filled the air 45 minutes before departure.  Into the heat-distorted air of the airport parking lot a convoy of fancy cars materialised.

Inside were 5 Cameroonian government ministers and their 30 “essential” delegation members.  Despite the flight being already overbooked, they commandeered the plane.

High-ranking government officials routinely bump other passengers off flights.  As a result, a lot of people don’t bother with the plane.  With only 6 spots for 41 mere mortals, I’m pretty sure that those lucky nobodies who got on board ended up paying a hefty “motivation” to the airport staff.

VSO doesn’t do that.  I tried to convince them I was a somebody – a high-ranking VSO volunteer.  Didn’t work.

So, you’d think I’d be upset, right?  Well, of course I’m disappointed that I’ll miss some really interesting meetings.  But it’s not the end of the world.  Patience and acceptance is a much-needed virtue here.  Without it we wouldn’t last long here in Cameroon.  Without it locals wouldn’t be able to survive either.

It makes you wonder, though …  Just what does an extreme willingness to accept any government fiat cost society?  Big government patrons get whatever they want or else. However, how much business is lost due to ministerial muscle flexing?  How much of Cameroon’s tight budget goes to pay for 35-member official delegations?

In the end it really isn’t a big deal for me.  I didn’t have an international connection to catch.  Some of my fellow “nobodies” did.  Next week I’ll avoid the plane, and take the train down with Caroline and colleagues for the next round of meetings.

Supposedly, VSO will even get a refund on today’s ticket!  We’ll see.  Depends whether VSO is able to convince the airline that, while I’m not a minister, I am a “somebody”.


~ by Greg Spira on February 18, 2010.

One Response to “a matter of personal importance”

  1. Greg don’t feel bad, similar thing happen to me twice, but I was still allowed to fly. The first time it happen in Halifax dear Mister Jean Chretien and his group took all the first 6 rows of the plane and I was move to the last row (my seat was 3 A).
    The second time was in China in 1990, flying from Hong-Kong we had to stop on the way to change airplane and as we board the plane 2 officer from the military took our seat and no one from the crew want to tell them to move. In the back of the plane again. That was one of trhe roughest ride ever.
    Keep smiling……

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