Fin and the (almost) International Incident
posted Fri, 20 May 2005 11:51:22 -0700
Because I was going to go for an 'E Ticket' ride in this [here should be a picture of me with a jet supersonic trainer; actually, there is one further down the page]
while I was in Capetown, I decided to wear this:
[here belongs a photo of a flight jacket with several military patches on it, including a four engine prop plane].
and thereby came involved in something which had a lot more people than just me smiling
The hotel where I was staying in Capetown was a lovely old one dating back to the time when Winston Churchill stayed there as a young reporter, and a famous teevee celeb had stayed there the month before my visit. Since my decision to go for the supersonic ride had only been made the day before I left NY, permission and waiver slips had been faxed to the hotel for me to sign, and as a consequence, basically, the entire lobby staff of the hotel knew what I was doing there. The jacket was, I thought, appropriate for the momentous occasion and I wore it without a second thought.
Upon my return from the visit to the top of Cable Mountain (and McDonalds) that afternoon, two buses loaded with very well dressed Orientals arrived, together with another bus full of luggage. I gave it not a thought, having seen it before (the last time, in Papeete, it turned out to be a Japanese spear fishing tournament). Somewhat gradually, however, I began to become aware of constant rather hostile glares from many of the new arrivals, but this bothered me not a whit, since most of them only came up to my chin. It is relevant to the story that this occurred in April 2001.
A short while later, one of the workers at the hotel came up to me and said “We think it’s very funny what you are doing, especially since they made us take down the American flag in front of the hotel”. I admitted my total puzzlement over the remark, and she said ‘the jacket – we think it is hysterical’. The mystery still not being remotely close to being solved, I queried whatever was she on about, and she said “Don’t you know who these people are?” “Nope”.
Well, it turns out it was the Premier of China and all of his top aids and generals. Further relevance, for those not inclined to google the date, was that the Chinese at that time in history had possession of an American military plane and crew which bore a strong resemblance to the plane on the breast pocket – a four engine propeller driven P-3 Orion spy plane. The staff thought I should go to the hotel manager and demand that the American flag be flown. I opined that perhaps I could have a ladder and some paint and write “Give us back our airplane” on their flag, but I did not. Which is probably just as well, one supposes