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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Baggage, the end (hopefully)

Today I left my children with Rere (Brandon made up a song today that goes something like 'I've got clean floors, I've got childcare, I've got Rere, who could ask for anything more?) and went to claim my $56 owed to me by Lufthansa for losing my box.

Before leaving, however, I made sure to pull out my Cairo maps book. My mother once commented that taxis would have a much better time if they would just get GPS units. The problem with a GPS is that there would have to be some sort of database that had 1. all of the streets mapped 2. all of the streets labeled correctly 3. and all of the street labels spelled properly. So until that mythical day, Cairo maps is as good as it gets.

I found the Lufthansa address, and looked up the street name in the index. It wasn't there. I looked on the map. It wasn't there. At the early hour of my departure, 8 am, I knew the office wouldn't be open, so I wrote down the number, and figured I would call them after finishing some errands at the Embassy.

After completing my errands, I called Lufthansa. 'You have reached Lufthansa in Cairo. All lines are busy. Please try back later.' I called again. And again. And again. And again. Fifteen minutes later, the lines were still busy, so I started walking to Zamalek. Five minutes into my hike, the lines were no longer busy.

me: 'Good morning, where is your office located?'
LL: 'We are at the back of the Marriot hotel, across from cafe Bealos.'

I breathed a sigh of relief as I hailed a cab. Everyone knows where the Marriott is, even the cab drivers. It would be simple; I'd have the cab drop me off at the Marriott and I would take a walk around the perimeter until I found the office. It would make sense that their office would be near a hotel; most airline offices are around here.

The cab dropped me off, he didn't argue with the fare (you are expected to know the fare and pay the cab driver accordingly. Often they will take my white skin as an invitation to try to rip me off), I walked into the Marriot with no questions asked (a plus side of white skin), and the weather was even pleasant. Things were looking good.

I started my walk along a tree-lined sidewalk on a quiet street. No Lufthansa office. I walked past tourists leaving for their day trips. No Lufthansa office. I left the quiet street. No office. I crossed a busy street and walked through a commercial area. No office. I wandered through back streets. Nothing. Thinking that perhaps the office was inside the Marriot complex, I took another stroll through the gardens. Just people. I asked an attendant, he knew nothing of Bealos.

And so I called Lufthansa. And called. And called. And walked. And called. And wandered. And called. And considered cursing. And called. And dodged cars. And called. And fought back tears. And called. And tripped over uneven streets. And somebody picked up.

me: 'Hello, where is your office?'
LL: 'We are at the back of the Marriot, across from the Bealos cafe. Everyone knows where it is. Just ask someone.'
me: 'I've been walking around the Marriot for the last half hour, and haven't seen it.'

A lengthy discussion ensued about my location vis a vis the location of the office which required some consultation with colleagues about where exactly the Vodafone office was that I was looking at. But eventually, I understood and she understood and I found the office. While walking towards it, I saw a cafe. Beano's.

After forms, paperwork, and waiting, I walked away with the three hundred and eight pounds of blood money.

Later I consulted the map book. The street, which had a street sign on it, wasn't labeled. Sigh.


PaulaJean said...

Well, at least the weather was pleasant. And you had no children with you.

PaulaJean said...

My friend, my friend, this is Cairo, center of the world, the ancient of ancients. If it makes no sense to you, then you do not understand. Understand?!

PaulaJean said...

Ooops! Sorry, that officious comment was actually me on mom's computer.
(I did not understand!)

Latter-Day Guy said...

What has become of all that fabled German efficiency? These folks can slaughter Untermenschen like it's going out of style (I suppose it has, in fact), but cannot give out cogent directions to their own office?! Perhaps it was just the way you were walking: did you remember to goose-step?