Bellview Airlines and the Man Friday!
The only problem was that it was exactly 10 am, and there was no sign of the aircraft yet. To make matters worse, all the airline counters were closed and there was no one available to even inform us about the status. Of course, there were other passengers around me, and I counted eleven of them and told myself reassuringly,
“I am not the only one”.
I was not alone myself and was accompanied by my ‘Man Friday’ Martin (pronounced Martan in French). I have been told that Martin has left this world some years back, so may his soul rest in peace!
Martin was a man in his late fifties, although he hardly looked his age. He wasn’t one of those African men with their biceps and triceps bulging out. But Martin was a thorough gentleman. He was honest, humble, and soft spoken. He was hired to drive me around, but in that part of the world, this had to be the guy you should be able to trust the most. He was a safe driver, maybe a little slow, but he wouldn’t put me under any risk for sure.
Martin was so nice that I had promoted him to the position of Warehouse-in-charge some months back (since the in-charge had to be sacked suddenly). I figured, an honest man was more important, than a qualified one. That adventure couldn’t last long, since I noticed an increase in the warehouse stock one day, despite the fact that we had made deliveries that week, and had received no new stock. After some scrutiny, it occurred to me that Martin’s idea of stock in and out, was slightly different from what I was taught, so I decided to exchange the keys of the warehouse with the keys for my car.
Back to the airport scene, where Martin was calmly seated and was swinging his legs, while I was walking up and down with some anxiety, after glancing at my watch multiple times. I wasn’t really worried that the flight was late. I had enough time. However, I was terrified that I couldn’t find anyone, who could tell me that it was late. So I decided to chat up with a few of the other passengers and check out their plan of action.
My French was still pretty useless back then, and usually, only Martin seemed to understand what I said in French, but that might be because Martin was too nice to say “I didn’t understand” or “your French doesn’t make any sense”. Somebody had taught him that the safest way to deal with an Indian ‘patron’ was to nod his head in the affirmative, regardless of what sense he could make out of the words.
Anyway, the next twenty mins or so was a real struggle, as I tried to speak to the fellow passengers, all Gabonese, in my limited French, and tried to understand what is it that they were planning to do, if the flight was delayed beyond the usual. And what I gathered really freaked me out. There was not a single person there at the airport, who was waiting for the same flight as I was. Some of them were waiting for a different flight and some were not even traveling. So it was back to Martin, his ‘patron’ and an awful lot of helplessness!
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