Easy as pie

The nice Air France people at the Niamey airport shifted me one class up from the back of the bus to the mini B-class that the French call Premium Class. It is not B-class but it is nice enough, with slightly more space than the cramped coach seats.

I sat next a man from Texas who was on his way home.  He has a job with a USG contractor that has him on a rotation of two months in Niger and one month home. He was a pilot but he didn’t fly in an aircraft. This made me conclude that he was a drone pilot. He did not respond enthusiastically to my curious questioning and so I stopped.

From the size of the enormous US embassy that is being constructed out of unassailable materials on the banks of the Niger River, I gathered that the American Government is not planning to leave Niger any time soon. The Saudis, the French, the Algerians, the Malians and the Chinese, in a kind of Embassy armed concrete race, are also building, expanding or reinforcing their enormous fortresses, on prime real estate spots in the same area.  Being a construction company with influence and access must be a goldmine.

The four American servicemen who died here – widely reported in the international media here, but apparently not in the US – and the subsequent spats between Kelly, Trump and McCain, have put Niger and our operations on the map.  For Americans, awakened to this news, over a week after it happened,  what the men were doing there in that far away spot, was apparently a surprise. It is hard to imagine that the Head of the Armed Services Committee knew less than the guy downstairs selling souvenirs in the hotel’s lobby.

I had a feeling that my Premium Classe neighbor was not too keen on talking and so I stopped asking questions. We each pulled our eye shades down and went to sleep, it was after midnight anyways.

I slept a few hours. The flight is short and one ends up missing a night no matter what one does. That I was tired became clear when I couldn’t find my passport and boarding pass after spending a few hours in the AF lounge. As it turned out I had left both in the shower. At least I knew I had them when I entered the shower. I got a lecture from the stern looking lady at the desk when she handed me my passport – as if I didn’t know that I should keep my passport with me at all time. I felt a bit sheepish, looking at my toes during the lecture.

I had used the last of my four international upgrades that Delta hands to its very frequent flyers. This made the final leg of the trip very pleasant. I finished my audiobook on Seeds, caught up on coaching class homework, read a bit (Sue Monk), and tackled a 1024 piece puzzle on my iPad.

Delta now lets its passengers use a text app, like WhatsApp or Viber, during the flight for free. I was able to chat with Axel while in the air. I was also able to announce my arrival to the US Customs and Border Patrol using the handy Mobile Passport App, also from the air. It took less than 5 minutes from getting off the plane into the arms of Axel. Boston’s Logan Airport is the best and only airport in the world where arrival is easy as pie.

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