Monday, November 18, 2013

Day Eight: In which the Boss and I Run through the Casablanca Airport

Remember back on day five when our flight from Casa to Rabat kept being pushed back and so we decided to cancel that leg and take the train?

Well that came back to bite us in the ass.

The boss and I got up early Sunday morning and took a cab to the Rabat airport for our 9 am flight to Casa. After waiting in line to check-in for a ridiculously long time (something appeared to be going on with literally the only other people in the airport at the time we formed the freaking line. it took so long that whole other lines formed and dispersed around us), the boss was finally able to check in. I was next, but the lady seemed be having an issue with me. Apparently, we were no longer booked on that flight. The lady had tried to override the system to force my boss on the flight, but realized it was not going to work when she needed to do it for me too (the boss's boarding pass didn't include a seat number, so it hadn't worked too well for her either).

Apparently, cancelling our flight to Rabat had also cancelled our flight from Rabat. Awesome.

The lady at the counter was less than helpful. At first she sort of shrugged and told us we were shit out of luck (she did not use those exact words, of course). Then she decided that we would have to call some number (it took me like four tries just to get her to adequately explain where I could find said number, rather than just pointing vaguely in a direction). After the boss and I had tried the public pay phones, three locals' cell phones, and my Google Voice, we determined the number did not work. I went back to the lady, who once again shrugged and gave me the equivalent to "you're shit out of luck." Her only solution was to go talk to the people in the Casa office about the fact that I didn't have a seat to Casa. She didn't seem to get the irony of her telling me that I needed to get to Casa to complain about the fact that I couldn't get to Casa. She also didn't seem to have any way of contacting the offices in Casa herself. Much like the visa department in the Algerian embassy in New York, it appears this airline's offices in Casa did not have a phone. Or something.

So the boss and I got another taxi to the train station and caught the train to Casa. This was largely uneventful.

We arrived at the end of the line, in the Casa airport, 45 minutes before our flight to Tunis was scheduled to take off. We still needed to get through security, get boarding passes, get through customs, and make it to the gate. Everyone on the train formed a crush at the entrance to the airport, where one x-ray line was processing one person at a time. We inched forward.

Once we were through security, I ran to the check-in desk. There were long lines at all the active desks, but I ran up to a woman who was clearly not open and demanded she determine if the boss and I even still had seats on the flight. She complied and then said that we should cut the line of the woman on the end, who was a manager and who could get us through (since check-in for our flight had closed). I cut the line and the woman, thankfully, expedited our check-in and told us to hurry.

Next, I took off running for the gate. In my mind, I would get there and hold them up, bodily if necessary, so that both the boss and I could get on the plane. Except, oh shit, customs. So I scooted under a barrier and cut the line to get into the customs area. The security guard was more than willing to let me go through, except I hadn't filled out the debarkment card. I grabbed two, completed mine and filled in everything I knew about my boss and then searched for her in vain. As it turns out, she had already made it to the line and went all the way through to that same security guard before discovering she hadn't filled in the card yet either. Finally, we found each other, completed the cards and cut the line again.

Only, of course, to find ourselves faced with multiple long lines at document control. Once again, I ran to the front, interrupted an agent handling another passenger's documents, explained I was late for my flight, and asked what I could do quickly. She sent me to a small police office, where we were second in line and had our papers dealt with quickly.

Once again, I take of running for the gate. Once again, with plans to throw myself in front of the plane if necessary. Of course our gate was as far away as humanly possible and halfway there I slowed to speed walk. I rushed down the stairs to discover a gate that simply opens to the tarmac and buses to take you to the plane, as well as a crush of people. Worried this was the flight to Riyadh listed on the board, I desperately asked the man at the bottom of the stairs if he was going to Tunisia. He was. And I rejoiced.

As I determined we had not missed our flight, the boss joined me, equally winded from her speed walk to the gate. We proceeded to act a fool, huffing and puffing, and fanning ourselves, and exclaiming loudly about our fears of missing the flight. After a French announcement, another man in the crowd turned to tell us that the flight had been delayed. At least we had not missed it, but it also meant all that running was for naught.

When it was finally time to board the bus, it was pouring cold rain outside. Damp, I finally took my seat on the flight and watched through the window as the bags were brought out to the tarmac and loaded on to the plane completely uncovered. I wasn't surprised when we landed and our bags were soaking wet. Once the boss and I made it to our hotel, we turned our rooms into makeshift clothes lines, hoping to have dry, wrinkle free clothes to wear to our meetings the next day. I also treated myself to two tiny Heineken's from the mini-bar in my room. And a Twix.

That evening we met up with an executive from the program sponsor and one of the students from 2013 for dinner in Sidi Bou Said. It was wonderful and delicious.

Tune in next time when we meet an ambassador and have our final student dinner.

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