Airplane travel- you either love it or hate it. In the States, I feel most passengers default to the small victories like free check-in luggage or unexpected packets of blue corn chips. It easy to forget that the rest of the world has higher* standards. I was kindly reminded of this fact during a two hour flight between Durban and Cape Town back in 2010.
We had just finished off a week of FIFA World Cup Madness in Durban with my favorite South African family- the Rajoos and Ramadans. We were exhausted from five days of Grandma’s unbelievably delicious cooking and winter time brais on the patio, hoarse from yelling during the qualifying matches, and genuinely sad from having to leave our family who overwhelms us every time with their hospitality, kindness and good cheer. Mom and Dad, who started the trip with an all-nighter while I cuddled into my comforter, instantly fell asleep before the plane took off. I get distracted with an intense but ultimately unsuccessful game of Angry Birds.
We had just reached cruising altitude when the main cabin attendant announces that the meal service will begin shortly.
Darn it. I have no rands (south African currency) and dad is currently curled into an envious deep sleep. I can’t wake him for a toastie.
Or Can I?
No. I can’t. I love my parents. I can wait an hour.
Stomach growling, I watch as the attendant comes closer and closer. Finally she approaches my seat and asks whether I would like a cheese and spinach toastie or curry sandwich.
Oh man. I love toasties.
Cautiously I ask how much it would cost to get a sandwich?
She stares at me and then starts to laugh. Loudly.
“Oh, you must be American. Don’t worry you don’t have to pay. The toasties are always free. Here, I’ll give you a couple of extra ones for your mum and dad.
Ouch. I should have known. South Africa is one of the nicest countries to visit, where the people genuinely go out of their way to make you feel at home. Of course the meals would be free. Must remember to raise my expectations for next time.
Outside Moses Mabhida Stadium
Gearing Up for Germany V. Australia
Spain V. Switzerland
The Netherlands V. Japan
(Nothing to do with World Cup..and yet)
* I don’t mean to insult all American commercial airlines. I frequently took the Southwest commuter flight between Philadelphia and Providence and was always entertained by the impromptu musical/comedic acts, and the genuinely nice air attendants. However I do believe that we now live in an age where we expect so little customer service that we cling to the smaller victories.