Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It’s only a cliché because it’s true.

At the end of last year South Africa's world leading wheelchair athlete Ernst van Dyk took it into his head to compete in the New York Marathon. Rather him than me, you might quite rightly think.

Still, we’re not here to judge him. We’re here to find out what the freak happened to his not inexpensive racing wheelchair. You can more or less guess can’t you? The chair was loaded onto his direct SAA flight, but somehow rolled off to destinations unknown before the plane landed in New York. Apart from being something of a kick in the plums for this chap who lives for racing, it cost him the near certainty of the winnings for a race he was almost certain to win. Further, it was the second time something like this had happened to him and the sponsors he depends on for income don’t currently have a lot of results to base their decisions on. SAA aren’t much minded to compensate him for the near-incalculable loss of earnings you’ll be entirely unsurprised to hear.

Now, through no fault of my own I had to go to New York last October. Not for fun, you understand. I was acting as a representative for my esteemed employers, a major news and media corporation. Working on the basis that the airline might look kindly on a well-turned out journalist travelling alone I worse a suit to travel in, compromising on glamour only by wearing my oldest, comfiest black loafers that I thought might be most forgiving on the 3 hour flight.

No I didn't get an upgrade.

Yes of course American Airlines lost my bag.

Yes of course my faithful old shoes decided to give up the ghost while I was trudging around the airport looking for an AA representative.

And naturally my bankers were concerned when I eventually checked into a New York hotel using my debit card to pay the deposit and promptly declined the transaction even though I had a four-figure sum in my current account. Furthermore, to show they meant business they cancelled the card too.

So there I was, 3,000 odd miles from home, in a crumpled suit, with the sole detached from my shoes, trying to book into a hotel with $50 to my name.

It was about 3am on Sunday morning in the UK.

You can imagine how well it all went. You might also imagine that American Airlines promised to recompense me for failing to reunite me with my baggage. Good news! They did! Promise I mean. I’m still waiting for the actual cheque. It’s only been 4 months. They say they’ve been busy. Busy losing other people’s valuables it seems.