In my defence — and it is not much of a defence I admit — I was very drunk. The fact that I was at a karaoke bar singing Africa by Toto will testify to this point. Also in my defence — and it is not much of defence I admit — I was not the first one to take off their shirt. And the $412 debit on my credit card, it must be pointed out, was at least partially due to a complicated splitting of bills. I am also compelled to reiterate that it came as an extreme shock and surprise to wake up and realise I had missed my flight to Johannesburg.

There are people who miss planes and people who don’t. Despite the evidence to the contrary, I am not the guy who misses the plane. I am not even the guy who almost misses the plane. I am the one who takes the airlines literally when they advise that you should check in three hours before your flight. And then adds an extra hour just in case. And then leaves early to avoid the traffic. I am that guy. So as you can imagine, waking up on my friend’s couch, still drunk, twenty-five minutes before my flight, was a rather distressing experience.

So in order to avoid further hardship on my part we will leave aside for the moment memories of me running around the house in my underpants, swearing LOUDLY, waking up various housemates, demanding immediate lifts to the airport and calling up my wife in the middle of the night in Nairobi to beg for forgiveness. The less said about any of that the better. Let’s focus on the positive side of things. Let’s talk about Ian from the Qantas call centre.

Qantas have been getting quite a lot of bad press lately, but Ian at least deserves some very major shout-outs on my part. Ian is my hero. When you call an airline at 7:10am to tell them that you have missed your 7:30am flight you don’t expect a great deal of sympathy. Especially when you are travelling on frequent flyer points on the last day of an off-peak period. But Ian handled my panic with an uncalled for degree of calmness and reassurance. More to the point he organised me another flight the same day — via Perth instead of Sydney — which would still get me to Johannesburg in time for my connecting flight.

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“There will be a small fee I’m afraid.” Ian told me sympathetically.

“OK. I can deal with that, hit me with your worst.”

“It will be, ummm, three dollars and thirteen cents.”

“Three bucks?”

“That’s right Mr Copeland. Three dollars and thirteen cents. Would you like to pay that on credit card right now?”

Ian you are a godsend. What is more, due to the reduced flying distance I actually got a refund of 4000 frequent flyer points. I actually wound up better off in the deal. And I can assure you this was an eventuality I did not deserve or expect.

So after 37 hours of travel time and an 11 hour layover in Perth, I made it to Nairobi as scheduled. And my wife has almost forgiven me as well. Now if I can just figure out a way to keep that $412 credit card bill a secret, everything should be fine.

Yes, he wasn’t home for long. Rafiq Copeland is living in Nairobi, Kenya for a year. Living overseas and travelling overseas are two similar but actually completely different things. Your understanding of a place changes completely once you stay there, rent a place, find a job, make local friends. The series Gentlemen of Leisure — nope we’re not being sexist, simply referencing Norman Lindsay’s iconic Magic Pudding — is stories of Australians living overseas. Got a post you’d like to pen? Email Amber Jamieson.

I subscribe to Crikey because I believe in a free, open and independent media where news and opinions can be published that I can both agree with and be challenged by.

As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.


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