More on queueing

Chaos at the airport this morning!

We were double the usual number for the Air Ivoire flight VU 821, as half of us had been booked on yesterday's cancelled flight. So when someone walked along the length of the queue with luggage tags, and told everyone very clearly exactly what information to write on them, it was clear to me that not all of the luggage - and perhaps not all of the people - were going to get on the plane.

The luggage wasn't a problem for me of course, as I don't have any... however I really needed to get on the flight myself.

I realised then that small groups of people were starting to leave their place in the queue and make their way towards somewhere at the front. I alerted the man next to me, who bustled off to investigate. Soon half the queue had gone to 'investigate', voices were raised, and the whole place descended into chaos as it became clear that people with 'friends' in the airport were queue-jumping.

Sensing problems, Air Ivoire opened a couple of counters, and whilst everyone else continued to shout at eachother I went quietly to the desk and checked in.

None of us were in a good mood by this stage. The previous day we had arrived at the airport at 05:00, but it wasn't until 10:00 that they finally admitted to us that the flight was cancelled due to a technical problem with the plane.

Then they had bussed us to various hotels. Mine was the 'Hotel Barcelone", complete with FC Barcelona sheets on the beds, and bathroom taps in the shape of a bird, the water spouting from the beak. However the room was hot and sticky, with no air conditioning, no window, a TV that didn't work, no electricity in my bathroom (meaning no hot water), lots of mosquitoes, and a cockroach in my bed. To cap it all, after a restless night being bitten by all the mozzies (my insect repellant being in my suitcase somewhere in West Africa but not here...), I braced myself for a cold shower only to find no water at all in the morning.

I was one of the lucky ones today who made it onto the plane. So I got to Abidjan. At that point, the 90% of us on the plane who had missed yesterday's onward connection needed to make new arrangements at the transit desk. Cue another session of pushing, shoving, cajoling and sneaking, in what ended up as an almighty scrum. Whilst I somehow got to the front in quite good time, the pressure of all those shouting people, thrusting their documents under the noses of the Air Ivoire staff, meant that quite a few mistakes were made. I suffered from one of them, as a result of which I am writing this from a hotel in Abidjan, awaiting another opportunity tomorrow afternoon to continue my journey to Ouagadougou.

The more I see of Africa the more attached I become to the British art of queueing. In fact I would go as far as to say that an orderly queue represents the height of civilisation, demonstrating respect both for rules and for fellow human beings. Unfortunately Africa has yet to develop these qualities.

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