I’m a little jealous of my suitcase, my well-traveled bag. Not just because it has wheels and moves more smoothly than I do, but because it has traveled more and goes on adventures without me.
This past Monday I set out from New York to Lomé, Togo, for a work trip. My bag and I are both well-traveled, but I haven’t been on a work trip in years. I’ve worked, and I’ve traveled, but I haven’t traveled for work since late 2011 so it took my brain some readjusting to get back into the swing of things.
The thing about traveling for work is that although it may seem glamorous and exciting, it is really just work and often stressful. For example, if I’m on a trip for pleasure, it doesn’t matter if my flight is late. I don’t want to cut into my fun time and sit in an airport instead, but it doesn’t matter much when I show up.
For work, however, time is money and being late is not a good thing. Being late cuts into the time you need to be rested for the job, it cuts into the time to prepare for the work and it cuts into the time you actually get to do your work. For me, of course, the worst of these three is the cutting into my sleep time, but that’s mostly because I’m old and lazy, but that is perhaps another story.
In any case, my first flight was delayed which set off a whole chain of challenging events. Because my flight from New York to Paris was delayed, I missed my connection to Lomé. Once in Paris, the Air France folks did everything they could to re-book me because, apparently, they had no accommodation to offer because of a conference in town. Now, personally, I would have loved an unscheduled stopover in Paris – I love Paris, who doesn’t? – but in this case I was in support of her efforts.
Had I taken the same flight the next day, I would have missed the main meeting I was going to Lomé for in the first place, the one I was supposed to facilitate. So I was delighted when she found another booking for me. It got me into Togo twelve hours later than planned (many of those hours which I’d imagined I’d have spent sleeping) but at least I’d get there in time for my meeting.
And so off I went, running through the airport to an adjacent terminal. Calling a colleague to have her alert my contact in Togo about the change in plans as I went through security again, the strap on my bag breaking as I juggled my phone and untied my shoes and, well, you get the picture. I arrived at the gate for the flight from Paris to Casablanca, which would get me half way to Togo to find that it was also delayed but this time because a woman was fighting with security about how much luggage she could take in the plane. It was actually pretty funny to watch and served me well so I didn’t miss that flight as well.
The flight boarded and I was happy for my middle seat and the continuation of my journey. Once in Casablanca, the woman at the transfer desk gave me my boarding pass for my connecting flight to Lomé and confirmed that my luggage had arrived with me and off I went, through security yet again, to wait…for seven hours.
As I waited, I alternated sitting and trying to rest a little with walking around the departure area and looking at the things for sale in their shops. I saw beautiful ceramic tagines and pointy-toed shoes, Moroccan spices and clothing and endless rows of souvenirs. The Victoria’s Secret store, however, took me by surprise; that is not a store I’d expected to find in an airport in Morocco. I didn’t either expect to find a Hudson News shop, which I’d somehow thought were only found in New York airports. Who knew?!?
But it was all interesting to look at and I enjoyed imagining what Casablanca might be like if I could have stayed and enjoyed a vacation. I’ve loved visiting other countries in North Africa and Morocco is high on my list of places I’d like to visit, but I was traveling onward so those thoughts would have to stay in my mind for now.
Around 10:30pm they announced my departure gate and only then did I realize that my flight to Lomé would also be stopping in Cotonou, Benin. This was not surprising since Benin is next to Togo, but somehow it caught me by surprise; another country to transit before reaching my destination.
After what felt like far more than seven hours, I boarded the new flight and was lucky enough to get a window seat so I could rest a bit on the short four-hour flight to Cotonou. We landed in Benin and some people got off the plane and other passengers got on and a half an hour or so later, we were back in the air and, eventually, we landed in Togo.
Upon arrival, before entering the terminal, we were all obligated to put sanitizer on our hands and each person had their temperature read before proceeding to immigration. This, I suppose, is now becoming standard procedure following the Ebola crisis, but it was new to me. Without fever, I was allowed through and filled out several forms for my visa.
An immigration officer tried flirting with me and I did my best to balance the fine edge of discouraging him while not offending him since I still needed a visa to enter the country. I’m pleased to say I succeeded because he got bored with me and left me to deal with other immigration folks for my visa, which was granted.
At long last on Wednesday, a day and a half after leaving home, I was safely in Togo and waiting at the luggage carousel, which brings me back to the story of my well-traveled bag. Despite my seven-hour layover in Casablanca, my bag apparently didn’t make the trip. And, of course, that flight is not daily, because that would be too simple. And so another two days later, my bag finally joined me in Togo.
During lunch break on Friday, a driver from the organization hosting the meetings took me to the airport and waited while I filled out yet more forms and eventually retrieved my bag. We returned to the meeting and he kept the bag in his vehicle for safekeeping. After the meeting was over at the end of the day, his vehicle, of course, was not there as he’d gone to take someone to their hotel. But eventually we found him, and my bag, and four and a half days after leaving home, my bag and I were reunited and comfortably resting in my hotel and all was right in the world of my travels.
At the end of this little adventure, there were two things that struck me; 1) when I didn’t have my luggage and had gone straight to my meeting, it was only that evening, I realized, that I hadn’t taken off my shoes for two days. I can now confirm that they are extremely comfortable – Converse sneakers – because I hadn’t even thought about them until that moment. And 2) the other thing was that out of everything in my bag, I was most happy to have my pajamas – strange, but there you have it.
My bag isn’t talking, but I’m pretty sure it had some adventures in Casablanca. Probably it went for a drink at Rick’s Café, as a friend suggested, because it came back wrapped in plastic which I can only assume means it had a hangover since I’ve never seen it dressed like that. I’ll never know what really happened, and I’m not one to embarrass a friend with probing questions, so I’ll just wonder and imagine my bag wheeling it’s way through the medina and wearing a fez on its extended handle, sipping mint tea and sleeping in a shady spot under a palm tree. I’m glad it is back and hope it didn’t have too much fun without me.