Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Perfect Setting for an Airport Mockumentary...

Today's blog post is titled "I was at the airport, and...".  Fitting for a 'blog calendar' geared towards expats, as frequent travel leads to airport mishaps. Many of you have heard about my missed flight fiascos over the past few years. Frustrating, and often comical for sure. But  this post is about...

...(CMN) Mohamed V International Airport of  Casablanca, Morocco. Anyone who has had to fly in and out of there more than once has a story of some sort. It's a 'hidden camera' hotspot of laughter waiting to happen. However, those little airport mishaps would require a daily journal. There are so many of them, that they all blend together and eventually become your 'normal'.

When I saw this post title on the blog calendar, I smiled. Aaah, the memories. Eventually, my mind went to my second to last trip to CMN last June. My wonderful friend Karen came all the way from Iowa to stay with me for my last 2 weeks in Morocco. Needless to say, her visit started off with an "only in Morocco" moment.

My trusty Honda, Sterling, and myself arrived at CMN a little late. But this was actually intentional, as nothing ever happens on time in Morocco. I figured I had given her plenty of time for: 1)the inevitable flight delay, 2)having the first passport guy check your passport and look you over several times...only to walk about 20 paces more to have the 2nd passport guy look you over and make sure the stamp that the first passport guy put in there is still there, 3)the Moroccans to all push you to the side on their way up to the baggage claim belt with their entire families and the man who will cart their luggage for them, and 4)for the slowest baggage belt (or baggage guys getting the stuff off of the plane) ever. Well, apparently she got through there quicker than anticipated. While she was breaking records from plane to gate, I had arrived and parked Sterling along the curb like I had done (or been a part of) at least a half-dozen times prior. I went inside and looked for Karen. Couldn't find her. Long story short, she was waiting outside on a bench next to a nice man who had 3G on his phone and let her call my Skype number to tell me she was out on the bench.  So, I find her and we are all huggy and happy and ready to be on our way back in to the city for the evening. We walk down a bit to where Sterling was supposed to be residing, but there was no Sterling. I thought I was losing my mind in end of the year madness and had forgotten where I'd parked. But I knew it had been right there. I turned and looked at Karen and said "my car is gone."  She, of course, laughed. (It's's what she does). I have no idea what to think or do. Did someone hot-wire it and steal it? Do people still hot-wire cars?
Karen then asks "What kind of car do you drive?"
I said, "A Honda CRV."
She says, "Is it silver with a bunch of stickers on it?"
"I think I saw it getting towed while I was sitting out here waiting for you." (more laughter from Karen)

This wasn't so funny to me, as I shudder at the thought of the potential crap that could ensue in our very near future. Some of the remaining details are a bit fuzzy, but I'll do my best.

I believe what happened next is I found a man in a police officer-looking uniform and told him that my car was gone and I am afraid it might have been towed. This man spoke very little English, and French and Arabic don't exactly roll off my tongue. He understood enough to realize 'car' and 'tow' I think and showed me to the little 'vehicle jail' that they have roped off in a section of the airport parking lot nearby - where I see my precious Sterling. He takes me to the car (not Karen though...she was sternly told to stay where she was. Which was funny because the 'vehicle jail' was cars parked and being secured there by putting saw-horses behind them. Not real official/threatening.) and I confirm that it is, indeed, mine. I try to ask him some questions, but again...the language barrier. So he leads me over to another man in a police officer-looking uniform who is sitting at a table underneath an umbrella, as jolly as can be. He knows enough English for us to converse. Again, some of the details are sketchy here, but the gist of this conversation is spot on.

Me: "My car is back there and I don't know why. Can I have it back please?"
Him: "Good afternoon Madam. Yes, you had an infraction and we take your car."
Me: "What was the infraction? I parked where all of these other cars (pointing, as there are plenty of parked cars along the same curb) are parking?"
Him: "Yes, infraction."
Me: "What is the infraction?"
Him: "Normally, you pay a fine for the infraction...
(at this point, I realize it is pointless to try to find out what my infraction is. He just keeps smiling.)
...but today you no pay the fine. Do you know why you no pay today?"
Me: "No, why?"
Him: (smiling like it's Christmas morning) "Because you are BEAUTIFUL!"
Me: (now able to smile and laugh a bit, knowing this is going to turn out ok) "Oh. Well thank you!"
Him: "You must pay 100 dirhams (about $12) to get car out."
Me: "But I thought you said I didn't have to pay the fine?"
Him: "You don't have to pay the fine for infraction, but you must pay to get car out."
Me: (still confused, but ready to just get the hell out of there) "Ok. Where do I pay? Can I go now?"
Him: "You pay on the way out. Go now and have a nice day."

So, we went to the car. The 'vehicle jail' guy moved the saw horse so I could back out, we paid the fine, and were on our way.

As with most stories like this, you truly had to be there to see it all play out. I know I will forever be able to see Karen laughing at me every time I would look at her throughout this process. And I'm sure it's a moment in time that she will never forget either.


(I don't have any pictures of the airport fiasco or Sterling in 'airport vehicle jail'. But, I do have a couple of pics of us from her visit. Love you Klinger!)

Essaouira - Seaside sunset dinner.

Camel ride along the beach. No big deal.
Last evening out in Essaouira (Karen MIGHT have figured out how to pronounce it by this point. Maybe.)


  1. My best Morocco car story is when we were at one of those cafés and the guy told us where to park and we gave him money. As we left he showed us the way out of the lot…the police stopped us because it was one way out of the lot…cost 400 dirhams. I am sure they split it (not evenly though). Randy

    1. Randy, that's a great story. Of course, I can totally see it happening. As you said, I'm sure the split of the money wasn't equal. ;)