Getting There: Aero Talvez

On Marcial’s insistence, I left for the airport a full three hours ahead. I located the counter of PAWA Dominicana, only to find no one there. Eventually a man in a white Oxford bearing PAWA's red and blue checkered logo appeared and asked, “Thompson”? 

I wasn’t sure was a good sign or not that he knew my name. He told me to come back in an hour. I returned at the appointed hour to find the nice man ready to check me and the two other passengers in (explaining his deductive skills – I was the only gringa of the three). He asked me my weight so as to balance the plane properly, a detail I appreciated. We were set to take off at 1pm.

I came to the gate to find one of my fellow passengers, a Dominican military man of some sort who spoke Haitian Creole, there, shaking his head. 4 o clock, he said. What!? I’d just suffered through an hour wait already. Three more hours for a one-hour flight? As my friend Melanie would say, “That is just unacceptable.” What was truly unacceptable was that there wasn’t even anyone on hand to inform us of this fact, or help square away any continuing plans that might have been disturbed by this late departure. I had to pay a cleaning guy to borrow his cell phone to call Haiti, as I had a friend of a friend waiting to pick me up from the airport.

When all else fails, get drunk. Especially when you get all of eight vacation days a year, and one of them will be spent in an overpriced airport bar. No matter what the hour, or what the locale, there are always people in the airport bar willing to share this sentiment and some slosh with you. And I peeled the hours away with several of them: A Sudanese guy from DC here on a solo vacation – a young Black Chicagoan coming off a three-week bender on the Dominican beaches, and a Cubano-Americano island-hopping in search of a cheap place to retire (and perhaps a lady travel companion – but no wife or girlfriend, he’d retired from that, too).

My Cubano became my patron of the vino, part flirtation, part pity when he learned a) what airline I took (PAWA Dominicana--  “once and never again”), and b) where I was going (Haiti -- “once and never again”).   “Sweetheart, I wouldn’t touch Haiti with a ten-foot pole,” he said in his charming accent. “Place make you cry.”

I was the well-heeled third-world traveler, specializing in travel to places orphaned by tourism. But the virtual unanimity of my Cuban friend’s sentiment made me wonder – what was I in for?

So the joke was on us, but come 4pm, we were ready to get en route. 3:2 passenger to pilot ratio, 3:1 hours delayed to hours in air ratio, it was clear the ROI on this venture wasn’t getting off the ground any faster than its fleet. I was as much sorry for the miserable agents who had to be the punching bags of the angry customers as I was angry about the mismanagement and ineptitude.

Once in the air, flying over the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean, it was all behind me. Haiti lay ahead.


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