“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Colin Ford, who randomly recalled a conversation he had with a woman in a North American airport…
In my mind she was wearing dungarees and chewing on an ear of wheat. Her fried red hair told me she was not the type of person who wasted time or money on conditioner.
As airport queue etiquette dictates, I nodded. She nodded back. I smiled. She looked slightly surprised, nervous, and glanced quickly away in the hope that I was smiling at someone else. Awkwardly she re-engaged and – deciding I was not the Oklahoma City Bomber – broke into a broad grin, exposing overlapping teeth. We were now officially line-buddies.
“Where’re y’all headed?” she asked.
“New York,” I said.
“I ain’t never bin ta Noo Yahk,” she said. “Only ever go to Louisiana.” (Pronounced “Loooozianna”) “Ever year fer three weeks. It’s my vacation time.”
“Nice,” I said. “What’s in Louisiana?”
“Jess the swamps,” she said. “And my family. Y’ain’t from these parts.” Grin. (Genius!)
“No,” I confessed, “I’m from South Africa.”
“Africa?” she said. “I don’t never wanna gaw d’Africa.”
Now it was my turn to be surprised.
“No? Why not?”
“Always rainin’ in Africa.”
(“Ah,” I think, “rain makes some people’s hair unmanageable”… and then I realise the absurdity of the thought as the lyrics of a Toto song flash through my head.)
“It’s really not like that,” I said. “We have lovely weather all year round. Great for safaris, lying on the beach, visiting local communities. And even when it rains, there’s a lot to do. Museums, galleries, aquariums, shopping…”
“And spiders,” she cut in. “Too many spiders. I don’t like spiders.”
“No spiders in Louisiana, then?”
“Nope,” she said. “Never seen a one.”
“Oh yeah,” she said. “But they don’t come in the house.”
“Really?” I asked. “Because, you know, in Africa we have all kinds of animals in our homes and roaming in the streets. We ride elephants to work, you know. It’s really tough in the mating season. Try clearing THAT traffic jam!”
“I can imagine!” she said, through that unsettling grin.
“Especially when it rains – which it does all the time – because when an elephant slips in the rain, it’s a bitch to get it upright again. People are always late for work in Africa.”
“Must be ahhful,” she said, nodding and shaking her head simultaneously.
“Yes. And the rain is always dripping into our huts.” I demonstrated drops falling from above. Her eyes followed my hand, mesmerised. “You know the roofs are made of grass, right?” – nod (or maybe she was still imagining the raindrops) – “It’s really tough getting a tight seal.”
“The worst is when you’re in the middle of a big internet download and the rain leaks into your hut and shorts the electricity. Then you have to get the power back up again and start all over. It’s really time consuming.”
“Oh, that sounds…”
“Gosh, would you look at that, we’re at the front of the line already. Lovely meeting you. Have fun in Louisiana. Come to South Africa sometime.”