Ken had been a civil servant for some years in California and was a “people person.” None of us knew much about Africans, but he had the good sense to stand at that desk and talk to that agent whenever he got a chance for the better part of four hours. The agent was from the English-speaking part of Cameroon, so communication was not a problem. Ken learned all about his family and how long he had worked there, and the agent learned we were in Cameroon to take a course and more. Finally, as other travelers got boarding cards for this flight and we did not, the agent said to Ken, “There are five people in your family?”
Ken answered, “Yes.”
The agent said, “If you hold one child on your lap, I can get you on this flight.”
Ken agreed and handed him their five tickets. In a few minutes, he got back the five tickets and four boarding passes. He thanked the agent, and then handed him the other ten tickets. The agent nearly fainted at this unspoken request, but because of the relationship established with Ken, he returned the tickets with ten boarding passes. We all hastened to the plane.
At this point, I learned another valuable lesson for traveling in Africa: Don’t be the last person to board the plane! I held a boarding pass, but no seat! When this became clear, Ken’s wife held another of their children in her lap for the one-hour flight so I could have the last seat.
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