Leaving Cairo

After the longest hotel lobby wait I have ever experienced we finally boarded our shuttle to the airport. I lost my temper towards the end of our trip. It’s not necessarily something I’m proud of. I was hungry, and exhausted, and upset. 

Our driver arrived 10 minutes late and talking on the phone. He momentarily glanced at us and said “let’s go”. And walked on ignoring the pile of luggage sitting nearby. But then we didn’t go. Instead he continued to talk on the phone. Three of us waited in the lobby for the shuttle. The third girl, from Argentina, had two friends who came to wish her goodbye. This threw the driver into some weird frenzy. He asked to see all of our passports, read our names to the person on the phone mutiple times. He also demanded the passports and names of the well wishers no matter how many times we tried to explain it was just the three of us that would travel in the car. Then he walked to the other side of the lobby and continued to talk while we just stood there not understanding what was going on. 25 minutes after our shuttle was supposed to have left I snapped, literally my fingers, and yelled “hey!” And walked over to interrupt the phone call. My patience with the unorganized way things are handled here had ultimately grown very thin. When I addressed him he ignored me so I spoke louder, and he finally spoke loudly back “excuse me, I am on the phone with a customer”. A lie. Unless he just gave a customer my first and last name multiple times for the fun of it. I said “I don’t care. Our shuttle was supposed to leave nearly half an hour ago. The three of us will miss our flights.” He balked at me and angrily said “undestand me. I will get you to your flight.” I sternly said “you have five minutes, figure it out.” And walked away.

This is not an interaction I wish I’d had. Being this way with anyone exhausts me. But although I had the most beautiful moments on this trip there have also been many like this. We are blatantly ignored or not told the whole situation, our problems are our problems not the customer service agency no matter how much you are paying for the said service (the situation inevitably results in yet another fee). I’ve found unless you stand up for yourself firmly the situation will continue to unravel into chaos. I try to do it in a way that is strong but not raging inexcusable angry person, but it still is difficut. You find yourself asking If this treatment is because you are a foreigner or a woman or if this is what everyone experiences. Regardless I’d had my fill of this particular brand of customer service.

He didn’t bother to load our bags when he hung up the phone, instead a humble bellhop from inside saw us struggling to lift them and rushed out to assist. I was ever so grateful and also reminded the attitude of the driver is not the attitude of all people. So please don’t take my message as such. I tipped the bell boy and shook his hand and climbed into the bus.

As we drove back through the city, I forced myself to stay away and see the last of cairo, the good and the bad. Still the same trash blowing along the street and scattered among crowds of people socializing on the grass, but still the same sense of majesty in many ways of this interesting beautifully messy place. The neon lights of cars and late night businesses illuminated the fabric of the laundry hanging outside of the apartments above them. I tried to imagine a life here, a home here so very different than my own. What it must be like for this to be your waking reality. The full reality of your life. It will take many more trips here to understand and unravel the mystery. I do truly want to come back, even if I feel the need for a little space now.

After the airport process where our bags were scanned and checked, and our IDs read no less than 6 times throughout the airport and again after security and customs we finally boarded our flight to Amsterdam. And I finally slept.


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