Jan 14 2007

Confusion In Cape Town

Published by MsQ at 12:45 pm under South Africa, Tales From The Road

In a few short hours I’d be seeing Laverne and Shirley!

Or not. If you’ve stuck it out, you know that my tale started many days ago with my arrival in Cape Town and not seeing my friends.

I was on the final leg of my convoluted itinerary: the U.S. to Seoul to Singapore to Johannesburg to Cape Town.

We had a short layover in Jo’burg (as the local call Johannesburg) and I was up in the air again. I wasn’t even allowed to deplane. I figured that this was because of having to go through customs and my final destination in South Africa was Cape Town.

I’m glad I was able to sit next to a window – as we neared the airport I caught my first sight of Table Mountain, one of the defining characteristics of Cape Town.

The day was a bit hazy as you can see from the photo.

Aerial View of Table Mountain

We land and wait. I was last here in 1998 and while the airport has had many improvements, it seems that jetways aren’t one of them.

I finally climb down the canopied stairs, into the bright light, and take my first breath of fresh air in over 30 hours. It’s windy and in the mid-60s F. I write F as South Africa uses the metric system and being an American, I can’t do metric.

I take a short shuttle ride to customs and queue up again. The area is open, glassy and modern. There are very professional booths lined up. I don’t recall things being so modern back in 1998. If you’ve ever had to go through customs, you know that they break up the lines into 2 types: Visitors and Citizens. I am queued in the Visitors line and people watch. The man ahead of me looms red and large and his accent, level of comfort and lack of curiosity make me wonder. Why is he in my line? A passing thought. His waves his arm to his wife and tells her to join him in the queue. She shakes her head, points, and moves in another direction. He waves his arm more forcefully in a “come here” gesture. She pauses, looks at the other line and then joins him ahead of me.

I’m enjoying the little pantomime. They look to be a long-married couple. The wife then questions the 2 women ahead of her. She then slaps her husband across his chest and says, “See! I told you!” and both get out of line and move to the Citizens queue. Some things never change and having a spouse say, “I told you!” is one of them.

I’m shuffle pausing in the queue and wondering if Laverne and Shirley are outside and waiting. My flight landed on time and it’s now about 20 minutes later. My last exchange with Laverne was an email giving her assurances that while she would no longer be online, she had my itinerary and she’d be waiting for me at the airport.

I clear customs, pick up my luggage and scan for my friends. It’s now about an hour after my scheduled arrival. I don’t see them. I’m a bit surprised, but not worried. I wander around the Arrivals area to see if I can spot either one and … nothing. Experience has taught me that when 2 people are searching for each other, generally it’s best when one stays put. I plant myself near the Arrivals area and face towards the door.

Ms. Q in Cape Town. Where is everyone?

I wasn’t worried. As I mentioned, I get a bit Zen when it comes to traveling – it’s all out of my hands so why worry? I plan for what I can plan for and then let go. I waited. I looked around.

I felt no stress. I had their cell phone numbers. If I felt they weren’t going to show up, I’d figure out a way to call them.

Laverne is tall – perhaps 5′8″ tall – I feel she looms over me but I usually feel that way about people. As soon as she and Shirley entered the doors, I spotted them and shouted out their names. Hugging, apologies and breathless explanations are exchanged – Shirley looking at Laverne and saying, “I told you!” and then looking at me and saying, “I told her it must be the International terminal.”

Then Laverne saying, “But you were coming from Jo’Burg so I figured Domestic!” and me watching with laughter and love in my heart it was so good to see them after all these years.

Visitors and Citizens, International and Domestic. It was so great to see Laverne and Shirley and I told them so.

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