Posted by: smithdavid | October 21, 2012

No Time for Precision

It’s only two in the afternoon and already dusk has seeped over the horizon and is now filling every crevice. But that doesn’t bother me – I’ve Matilda (in her new, internet bought bag) hanging from a shoulder and my cargo bag dragging behind me. I’m leaving the heart of winter behind and flying south. To the sun. For a whole month. Home.

Matilda draws a few looks when I get onto the platform at Ealing Broadway. You’re a long way from home kind of looks. Not for long.

There is a spring in my step as I walk towards check-in at Heathrow. These bags are not a burden.

Someone from SAA is standing where the queues begin. She takes a long look at Matilda.

‘How long is that surf board?’ she says, not unkindly.

My pulse quickens. ‘Ah, about seven foot…’ I say. 7’3” to be exact. But now is no time for precision.

‘What’s that in meters?’

‘About two…’ I say vaguely. I know exactly what 7’3” is in meters – 2.23.

She bites her bottom lip. ‘Oh…we can’t take it if it’s over 2m…we had the same problem yesterday…’

‘The bag is longer…’ I say hopefully.

the best of saa…

She brings me to the check-in desk. A colleague gets a tape measure. I’m shaking my head – if this where Aer Lingus (Ireland’s national airline) and not South African Airways, a smile, a wink and a chat about where the person is from and do you know so-and-so would do. But I know that the tape measure and some South African rigidity will soon be applied.

‘I’m really sorry, sir, but you’ll have to send it on air-freight.’

For a while I’m thinking that if I persist I might talk them into taking her. But also I think of this same scene on three internal flights.

It’ll cost £250 to send her air-freight. And it’ll take 7-10 days. I could probably buy a board in SA for £250 pounds. So I take her to Left Baggage, figuring I’ll get someone to pick her up.

Now I’m having a coffee within departures. The thought that Matilda might be jinxed crosses my consciousness. There’s the crack in her tail and now this. The incident has taken some of the sheen off the excitement of going home. And I’m fighting against it – I want the moment to be perfect.

where i need to get matilda

But then I think of being out in the ocean somewhere. A wave is forming and I do everything I can to get into the right position. But it jacks up quickly and then breaks. I’m caught – I can’t duck under and I can’t go over. I’m smashed down by the heavy froth. At first I thrash my arms to get to daylight, but the effort seems futile. Then I relax my body and let the current take me. Before long I’m sent to the surface and I’m laughing and ready for the next wave, whatever form it may take.


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