Those acquainted with me even in passing know I am an idiot. I can’t help it. My parents aren’t idiots, my siblings aren’t idiots, and my kids aren’t idiots, so it doesn’t appear to be genetic. My wife isn’t an idiot, and most of my friends aren’t idiots, so it doesn’t appear to be contagious. Whatever its source, what I have is bone deep – it infiltrates my marrow, as I have proven time and time again.
As demonstrated below, I provided further evidence of my imbecility yesterday here in Kampala, Uganda where I had arrived on Saturday evening on my 20th trip in the past seven years. And this, after I was so proud of myself for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat just before I departed on Friday.
As I searched for the elusive balance between price and sanity in scheduling the body-punishing, soul-denting trip from Los Angeles to Uganda, I had settled on an itinerary that took me from LA to Portland to Amsterdam to Kigali (Rwanda) to Entebbe (Uganda). It was “only” 28 hours of travel time (32, when measuring door to door) and shaved about $400 off a (slightly) more direct route, which would have been 23 hours. The problem is that if either of the first two legs were delayed, I’d be hosed and lose an entire day.
Well, you guessed it. A “ping” on my cell phone while I waited in the frequent flyer lounge (membership has its privileges) notified me that LA to Portland had been delayed 40 minutes. Because my layover time was only scheduled to be 65 minutes, I knew I was done unless I acted quickly. Having previously exhaustively researched the various alternatives, I convinced the nice lady at the computer in the lounge to route me through Salt Lake to Amsterdam where I could resume my original itinerary, assuming nothing else went wrong. A little hustle between planes in both Salt Lake and Amsterdam got it done. To top it off, I snuggled up with my Ambien BFF (magic sleeping dust conveniently packaged in a little white pill) at all the right times and arrived without feeling like I had been hit by Brian Bosworth (like when he played for OU . . . not like when Bo Jackson made him his girlfriend).
I felt so smart. So I decided to stick with the good decision making and got up five hours later on Sunday morning to go to church with Justice Kiryabwire and his family, including grabbing lunch at their place and playing with my God son Mark and his siblings Kirabo and Matthew.
A couple hours later, I had the privilege of attending a birthday party for Andrew Khaukha’s two-year old. (Andrew is the Ugandan project manager on the Memorandum of Understanding with Pepperdine).
I went to bed feeling good, and things went quite well on Monday. I met with our Pepperdine Nootbaar Fellow, Joanna Brooks, at her mediation chambers and had several other productive meetings about ongoing and upcoming projects.
Tuesday morning started off swimmingly. Andrew and I made it from Kampala to the Entebbe Airport in 90 minutes – unusually quick for the morning rush hour. We arrived at 9:30 for our 11:50 departure to Rwanda, where we were scheduled to spend the day with Rwandan justice sector leaders and Uganda’s IJM country director, Shawn Kohl.
As we walked from the parking lot to the terminal, I developed an uneasy feeling that something was terribly wrong, but I couldn’t place what it was. I slowed my stride and eventually came to a frozen halt. My blood pressure spiked into the danger zone as my metaphorical head emerged from my metaphorical tailpipe with what had to be an audible suction “pop.”
“You have got to be kidding me . . .” I gasped as I stared at the back of Andrew’s head.
“Yes, Jim? What is the problem?” he replied.
“Yes, Jim? What about it?”
“Um, it’s in the safe in my hotel room . . .”
“That is a problem, Jim.”
I quickly glanced at the fitbit on my wrist (the function of which, as my belly can attest, is only to tell time) – 9:47. Two hours and three minutes until the scheduled departure of the ONLY flight to Rwanda that day that would arrive in time to attend our meetings. And Rwandair is never late.
Let’s see . . . 90 minutes each way, five minutes to run to my room, and twenty minutes to get through security, check-in, and immigration. If I started right now, I could get to the departure gate just under two hours after my flight left. I might have mumbled something that rhymes with “spit.” I might have.
As he is want to do, Andrew sprung into action. “Now, Jim. You call your friend Tango and have him go the hotel straightaway. I will call my friend who can help us.”
As I am want to do, I stared back at him blankly, then finally said, “We don’t have time. Even if Tango could get my passport, he will never make it in time.”
“He will make it. I have an idea. Just call him and tell him to go to the hotel.”
I did as instructed. Fortunately, Tango has been driving me for seven years now and is a good friend. He happily did as I requested. Meanwhile, Andrew had tracked down one of his friends (he knows virtually everyone in the country) who worked at the hotel where I was staying. She was off duty, but she agreed to call one of her friends who was working. After several conversations and an e-mail to the hotel authorizing them to go into my room and retrieve my passport, Tango had it in hand at 10:15.
Rather than getting into his car and driving the 90 minutes (at best) to the airport, he hopped on the back of a motorcycle taxi and sped away from the hotel, weaving in and out of traffic. In the midst of the frenetics, Shawn arrived at the airport and jumped into the planning, calling his friend to meet Tango at a gas station near the airport where he would dismount the motorcycle and jump into a taxi because motorcycles aren’t allowed near the airport. At 11:00, we were still waiting and getting increasingly nervous. Tango was close, but still hadn’t yet transitioned from two wheels to four. Shawn then had the idea of going ahead of us with the plan of delaying the flight through some charming fast-talking.
Ten minutes later, Shawn had convinced them to wait a few more minutes for us before the check-in process shut down (which is normally one hour before boarding on Rwandair). They would give us five minutes. At 11:10, Tango came running up the road from the parking lot and thrust my passport into my hand. I almost gave him a wet kiss, but settled for showering him with Ugandan Shillings. When Andrew and I finally arrived at the check-in desk, Shawn was sharing family stories with his new best friend behind the ticket counter. When the plane pulled away from the gate and onto the tarmac, we were on it, with about five minutes to spare. I think I aged four years during the process.
Had we not made the flight, we never would have had such an encouraging set of meetings in Rwanda.