Wednesday, October 12, 2011


We arrived at Lusaka international airport by the morning flight from Ndola and sat for the last time in the airport lounge awaiting check-in for the evening flight to Bombay. We had lunch at the cafeteria, looked around the duty free shops and watched the arriving and departing passengers by the provincial flights. Our suitcases and hand luggage stood stacked up near our seats. There were still about three hours before the flight would take off. It was almost time to check-in.

Some of our Lusaka-based friends had come to see us off. They were discussing about their future plans and giving us some advices for a successful retired life. They brought us some parting gifts as well, which served only to increase my apprehension about the excess baggage we had been carrying. As a matter of fact, each passenger was supposed to carry only one piece of cabin baggage, but we already had five pieces in between the two of us. Moreover our baggage to be checked in exceeded the permissible weight by a few kilograms. Formerly, a lady's hand bag and a lap top computer bag were allowed in addition to the regular cabin baggage, but that was during the days when we were traveling by Zambia airways' D.C 10 flights. Now that Zambia airways no longer operated on the Lusaka - Bombay sector and we had to depend on Kenya airways' Boeing flights, cabin baggage was strictly limited to one piece per passenger. In spite of our best efforts, we could not limit our hand luggage to one piece per person as some of our friends brought us some last minute parting gifts which we could not refuse. Now we were really worried about the excess baggage fare we would have to pay at the check-in counter and therefore could not participate whole-heartedly in the conversation. Our friends realized our predicament and advised us not to rush to the check-in counter too soon but to wait until a long line is formed so that there would be some laxity in the procedure.

While we were waiting for the counters to open, I was watching idly people moving about in the main lounge and the adjoining passages. A group of three men, engrossed in conversation in the local dialect passed by. Two of them were in the uniform of the ground staff and the other one was in casual wear. They just passed us and then the one in the casual wear stopped in mid-stride, said something to the other two and retraced his steps. He came straight to me and asked "excuse me, are you Mr. G. John by any chance?"
When I answered in the affirmative, his next question was whether I was a teacher at Luwingu secondary school. I answered him "yes" and added that it was a long time ago, in the early seventies. He then smiled broadly and extended his hand saying, "I am Abraham Musonda, one of your former pupils". Even though I could not recall the name exactly, I grasped the proffered hand, said something like "glad to see you" and asked "how are you?" After the exchange of a few more pleasantries, he left and joined his waiting friends.

Before long, the counters were opened and quite a number of people lined up at the three economy class counters of the KQ (Kenya airways) flight. The executive class and first class counters also were opened but there were no passengers to check in immediately. The ground staff at the first class counter was beckoning to someone behind me, or so I thought. I turned around to see the person behind me, but there was no one. As I looked at the officer inquiringly, he told me that he was calling me to check in. Sitting where I was, I showed him my ticket and told that it was for economy class. He then told me it was alright and he would check me in. We scrambled to our feet and went to the counter with our baggage trolley and tickets. He asked us to put our baggage on the scales, checked their weight and noted down on the tickets. Then he counted out the required number of tags for our cabin baggage, tore off the airways' coupons from the ticket books and handed me back the remaining part of it along with the boarding pass. To our surprise, he did not mention anything about the excess weight or the additional pieces of hand luggage. As we were just leaving the counter, he said "the supervisor Mr. Abraham Musonda has asked me to convey his regards. Have a pleasant journey, Mr. and Mrs. John".

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