We've had some bad travel juju lately. Actually, the only really bad travel experiences seem to be related to Abuja. You may recall our midnight roadtrip from Des Moines to DC to get to Abuja on time. The melee that was trying to catch our flight to Stockholm is case in point #2.
I have an issue with punctuality. And procrastination. Since one usually leads to the other, if you know me you would assume I made us late to the airport and this is why we almost missed our flight. Well you're wrong. You had better believe that I was packed and ready to go on time for this trip. Hadn't left Nigeria in five months. Trip to Europe. Yeah, I was ready.
So we went to the airport, went through metal detector #1 (I seriously need to remember to wear socks the next time I go to the Abuja airport), waited in line at Air Ethiopia for our boarding passes, waited in line at emigration (the Nigerian personal space bubble is significantly smaller than mine. And seeing as I'd just had to go barefoot in the Abuja airport, it's not air-conditioned and I really like my personal space, when some guy stepped on my shoe because he was all up in my shit in line, I might have told him to back off. Fervently.), stopped at customs, went through metal detector #2 at the gate, and then had the entire contents of my bag searched by airline personnel while they told me that I need to give my husband a child.
So we're finally in the waiting area to board. It's hot (seriously why would you air-condition your international airport in Africa?), I'm crabby, my Marie Claire is boring me and I really need some water. Do you think in a space where you're cordoned off as "secure" before you get on a plane where you can't bring water they would sell water? Ha. Joey tells me to chill out - we'll be off to Stockholm soon and we can get water on the plane.
That's when they make the annoucement. Now mind you, there's probably 250 people in this boarding area and they're all talking. Loudly. And this announcement is made by a man without a microphone. "There has been a problem with the plane. We have another one coming right now from Ouagadougou that should be here in about 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the plane is smaller than this one and so only the business class passengers and 88 others will be able to take this flight. We will ensure everyone makes their connection."
Now what would happen at any other airport is the passengers would orderly line up at the airline desk and be reassigned based on their connecting flight. This is not what happened. Mass chaos ensued. People rushed Mr. Announcement to get their spot on the new flight - other people's connecting flights be damned. So Mr. Announcement tries organizing people by their final destination - that doesn't work - it has become a giant clusterfuck and my husband has disappeared somewhere to get water. At this point it's about an hour and a half past our original departure time - we're still okay to catch our flight to Stockholm as long as we get on the plane that's coming. But that's looking less and less likely.
Finally the plane arrives and they have everyone who will be taking that flight get in line. I'm pretty sure that all of the original passengers decided they were taking this flight. And "line" is already a very loosely held term in Nigeria, so when you add to that the urgency of catching your plane it gets ugly. I'm left in high heels (I really don't know why I had this ridiculous notion of arriving in Europe in my gorgeous shoes) with two gigantic bags that I cannot carry, freaking out that if we don't get on this plane we are not going to Stockholm, trying to scurry into line with everyone else and Joey is still nowhere in sight.
The line disbursed and reformed several times in the next 45 minutes since Mr. Announcement seemed be to the only person who actually knew what was going on, but eventually, Joey pulled me just beyond the "secure area" to drink some water and people started getting on the plane. (If you are confused, don't worry. I was there and I still don't know wtf happened). Joey told me that he'd managed to get us on the flight manifest but we still had to elbow our way onto the plane. And even once we were on the plane, seating was a free-for-all and we somehow got wedged in the middle of the last row on the plane - row 40 - right next to the bathrooms. It still was another hour til we took off and we barely made our connection in Addis Ababa (we originally had a 4 hour layover), but we made it. Almost exactly 24 hours after leaving Abuja, we arrived in beautiful, clean, crisp, wonderful Stockholm and it was worth every minute.