The Current Adventure

The Current Adventure

Nigeria – The Trip Begins

The day starts out with a typical, not really stressed, but what if something goes wrong, trip to the airport and then hitting the longest security line I’ve ever seen in Denver. But it’s boring to talk about waiting in line. I was early, and everything went fine.

I was fortunate enough this time to have the client spring for business class, and by “fortunate,” I mean, “It’s never happened before.”  It sure was nice, the first leg to Houston on a 737. Now, Houston provided its own stress, with just 45 minutes to make connections. But again, boring to talk about. When you’re in business class, you get out fast. I went from arrival gate to departure gate in about 10 minutes. No problem. Then on board the Boeing 787. This time, business first class for the haul from Houston to Lagos.

Well. Business first class on that plane is sure comfortable. Especially if you like to drink. It should be subtitled “alcoholic enablement class.” Now, I do like to drink, but I also don’t like to succumb to temptation, so I stuck to wine with the dinner. Still, they kept offering to refill the wine glass. It seems that they have an endless supply of booze in the bowels of the Boeing.

If you’re used to getting herded around in coach, like I am, that doesn’t happen in first class. Back in Denver, when I tried to stuff my carry-on bag into overhead, I’d filled it just a LITTLE too full, and it wasn’t happening. You know, when you’re in coach, they say, “Move out of the way. You’ll have to gate-check it.” In first class, they say, “Can I get you a plastic bag to put some things in so it’ll fit?” And you can only say, “Yes, please. Thank you,” while you wonder when an actual enjoyment of flying suddenly reentered to civilization. Apparently, if you pay enough.

In first class, you’re not offered paper napkins, paper cups, or plastic plates. It’s all linen and metal and ceramic. When they brought the pre-meal hot wet towel, again, I did not succumb to temptation to use the towel to rub down my feet. They even spread out a little tablecloth for the tray table.

The food was fine, with one exception. The appetizer of salmon over greens with wasabi mayo was outstanding, just delectable. I would’ve spent good money in a restaurant for it.

You get your own TV, and not a little one on the seatback in front of you, but a good-sized one in your little nook, with TV shows and movies on demand and all that stuff. And you don’t jam your bag under the seat in front. You have shelves and cubbyholes for all your stuff.

And then, ah, the resting part. The little reclining icon (see headline photo) on the controls by the seat shows a bed option, and you don’t believe it can lie down flat, but it really does, and you can assume a reclined sleeping position that, given the circumstances, is Not Terrible. And having flown coach about 99% of my traveling time, sleeping in coach ranks somewhere between Pretty Terrible and Downright Awful.

After waking up and day breaking, I was hoping to see some cool African landscape at the coast, but that was not to be. Clouds covered everything. The clouds broke up as we came closer, and it was odd not to see roads, grids of towns, or any sign of civilization. It’s sort of like flying over western Alaska, except this looks flat the whole way.

From the plane’s-eye view, Lagos is not terribly attractive, with the streets and building rows looking like trails that have been improved to dirt roads with buildings squashed into the available land. From the air, it looks like two drunk guys had each dragged a comb several different ways.

I’d been warned that Nigeria is “anarchy.” The airport wasn’t anarchy, merely low-level chaos. We weren’t given immigration cards to fill out on the plane, and a bunch of us were crouching around the immigration stations, trying to fill them out. Good thing we all were carrying pens.

After going through some baffling procedures, we met a chaperone, assigned by the client to pick up the travelers coming in. One of those travelers was on the same flight with me, and the chaperone guided us out. Three different guys tried to shake us down, with one military-uniformed guy looking at me and saying, “You got something for me?” I acted like I didn’t know what he was talking about, and we finally got through without having to pay anyone.

The bus ride to the compound was interesting. The main roads are paved, and all the side roads dirt. Stated baldly, Lagos is not a pretty town. Lots of trash, lots of frenzied, aggressive driving. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way. “Street vendors” walk down between cars that are stalled in traffic or moving slowly, pushing various wares.

We got to the compound, an island of cushiness in a sea of chaos. The setup here is really attractive, and I’ll talk about that in another posting. The house that I, a colleague, and my client from the plane are assigned to is done very nicely indeed, even if the furnishings are somewhat austere. And the meetings for Monday are right here in the same house! Shortest commute ever.

Next: Impressions of Lagos

— Grandpa

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