And then the dude said “I want to have a happy new year” (Part II)

On occasion, I write about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following (Part II) is about the conclusion of a trip I took with a friend several years ago. It is intentionally vague about what countries we visited:


During one of our stays with friends, Emma had fallen in love with their beautiful 4 foot tall metal silhouette of an African woman carrying water with a cattle horn as her dress. She managed to find a less expensive replica in the next city we visited, and insisted on buying it. I thought she was insane, since we were only 2/3 done with our trip and were constantly on the move. In defiance, I purchased a gorgeous hand-carved mahogany chair (No, not one of those silly ones with safari animals on it) in the next city. I was not going to be the only one of us with incredibly inconvenient, fragile, and cumbersome cargo.

By the grace of God, Emma’s horn statue and my carved chair made it – undamaged, through multiple flight legs – to our final destination on the continent, where we proceeded to prepare them to be checked baggage on our long journeys home. All the skirts, pants, t-shirts, etc that we’d been wearing for the past 3 weeks created a protective patchwork between our artwork and the layers of brown paper and tape that we’d purchased at the grocery. When we’d finished, our elaborately wrapped packages were impenetrable.

So we arrive at the airport and put the damn things through the x-ray machine at the entrance… but the security guard says he can’t see through all the packaging and we have to take everything apart. Not being the brightest crayon in the box, I completely fail to see what’s going on, so I stand up there, questioning how an x-ray machine could be unable to penetrate layers of paper, tape, and well, undergarments. The situation devolves into me arguing that the security guard is being illogical, and this diminutive guard insisting that we have to unpack the statue and the chair right there at the entrance to this airport. We reach an impasse, and I retreat to a corner to cool off while Emma tries her hand at resolving this conflict. After the haggling and the drama of the previous 3 weeks, I was done being pushed around.

A few minutes later, the guard comes back, smiling, and tells me everything’s okay. I ask Emma what happened, but she hustles us past the entrance and won’t speak of it until we’ve checked in for our flight, checked our precious cargo, and passed through another round of security.

Me: Why did that dude end up letting us go?

Emma: I gave him ten bucks.

Me: You did WHAT?!? (I’m against paying someone off purely based on our status as foreigners.)

Emma: Yeah, he said he ‘wanted to have a happy new year’ and I wanted to make our flight, so we went in the corner away from the cameras and I gave him ten bucks.

And there was I thinking my logic had worn down this guy’s resolve. Lesson learned, my friends.

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