After arriving at the New York University Abhu Dhabi campus, I was given a number of coupons to use for food at the different areas for eating scattered around the campus and do some shopping in the campus supermarket in case I needed some extra items. All in all, the vouchers were worth the equivalent of about Ugx 200k. I had only used about 50k of that by the time I left for Dubai and on the way back to the Abu Dhabi airport, I asked the driver if he could pass by the university so I could do some extra shopping with the remaining coupons and exhaust them. I’d been told if I didn’t use them, the expense would still be counted in the university accounts and this wastage seemed unacceptable. Also, I’m a dedicated member of #TeamFreeThings. The driver couldn’t take me though because the university was not on the route to the airport and it would raise flags because the cars had trackers. He’d end up paying for that detour. Still that wastage and yet I was going back to an empty house in Uganda, no way.
So, after he dropped me, I figured I could pull it off since I had 2 hours to kill before my flight. All I needed was 1 hour, 1.30 minutes at most to do it. I got a free bus from the airport which dropped me near the university within 20 minutes. Nice. But, there was a problem. It dropped me in some neighbourhood and it’d have taken me 30 minutes to walk to the university from where I was. There was some money on my transport card left though so I got a cab to the university which exhausted the card. I could recharge from there though so no biggie. Going back to the airport on the free airport bus was out of the question now because taking a cab back to the stage where they’d dropped me would cost more than if I used public transport to the city centre and got an airport bus from the park. Time was still on my side.
I did my shopping and got enough items to clear the vouchers. After they had been packed, I went to the transport card machine at the reception desk some money from the ATM to recharge my card. The systems failed on me and the panic started kicking in. The guy manning the university reception desk was a Ugandan I had been chatting with during my stay there and he took pity on me and used his money to recharge my card with enough to get me to town and the airport by bus. Luckily for me, a bus going to town pulled up right then and I jumped on it while still promising my saviour to buy him beers when he came back to Uganda.
The bus got to the park and I run with my luggage and shopping to look for the one connecting to the airport. My 1 hour 30 minutes had been used up at this point and if I missed the airport bus, I was definitely missing my flight. Imagine just because of shopping of Ugx 150,000. Free things can be bad people. Guess what, by the time I figured out which buses were going to the airport, the next one had just filled up and I found it driving out of the park. Now the panic properly kicked in.
The guys there told me the next one would be full in 10 minutes but after 15 minutes of waiting, I threw my extreme budgeting out of the window, rushed to the nearest ATM and lo and behold, it managed to spit out some cash this time around. I scattered to the cabs parked outside, jumped into the first one and asked the driver, another Ugandan, to floor it. But the UAE runs on fines. If any of their high-tech cameras catch you going over any speed limit, you’ll get an invoice with your fine in the mail without fail. But my guy tried his best and I made it to the airport a few minutes past check-in time. My bill for that cab ride was even more than the shopping that was causing all this. The powers that be were teaching me a very lesson on the downside of being cheap here.
I run into the airport movie-style, all disorganised and dragging my luggage behind me while crossing my fingers they also observed African time here and I would be able to get in since I was only very slightly late. Bambi they don’t observe African time and the check-in queue for my flight was empty and the staff gone. I asked the staff of the flight next door and they told me to maybe try the help desk. There they just gave me sad eyes and told me if the airline staff had gone, there wasn’t much I could do. Maybe I should try the airline office which, when we peeked around the corner, was also closed. Wow, I really was about to miss my flight because of some free shopping. How would I even explain this to anyone? The university definitely wasn’t going to foot my ticket because their guy had dropped me off with two hours to spare. Roland, you idiot.
‘But why didn’t you check-in online?’, one of the help desk staff asked me. ‘If you had checked in online you would have been able to proceed to the flight waiting area without having to check-in from here’.
I took out my phone, looked through my emails for my ticket details and, to my immense relief, the logistics guys at the University had already checked me in. May all their dreams come true in this life and the next. I made a dash for the passenger area, scanned the ticket on my phone and run till my boarding area while promising all my ancestors I would never try this stupidity again. I reached just as the boarding call was being announced and went straight to the security check-in where, guess what, some of the shopped items that had almost caused me to miss my flight were put to the side because they were under the security risk category. But I wasn’t even mad coz I was just happy not to be missing my flight back to Uganda.
That’s the end of my UAE adventures folks. Thanks for coming along for the ride.