"Madame, it appears that you have already flown to Bamako."
Just as I am about to step on the plane, a thin young man with a pointy muskrat face snatches my boarding pass from my hands.
I am genuinely confused. "I don't understand...I can't have flown yet. I'm here."
"Sorry," he says briskly. "It says in le système that you have already flown. This ticket is no longer valid."
I must be missing something. I knew I should have brushed up on my French because suddenly I can't remember the words for "useless fucktard" which is the only thing that fully expresses my opinion of this haughty, power hungry...fucktard.
"I don't care about le système! Look at me! I am here! In Casablanca! And I have to be on that plane."
A man from Guinea is also getting the runaround. We are sent with a perfunctory little sniff to a woman downstairs, who promptly and rudely sends us back to the muskrat. He looks at us blankly, as though he cannot fathom why we are standing before him with pathetic, beseeching looks on our faces.
"Please," I croak, tears beginning to well up in my eyes. "The plane is going to leave without us!"
"I cannot help you. Le système..."
The man from Guinea begins to shout and gesticulate wildly. I retreat to my Happy Place, where I pulverize le système with a baseball bat before turning it on the muskrat's tiny pinched head.
And then, as if in an ascetic vision, a man in a fluorescent orange vest appears, meets my face with his and says, "Beeznis class?"
Why, yes. Business class will do quite nicely.
I saunter down the jetway shooting a smug look at the muskrat and take my place among the chosen people.
In business class (where I clearly belong) I eat tagine on a white napkin masquerading as a tablecloth and ask the man from Guinea why the hoi poloi in the back are punching each other and shouting. Perhaps they have not yet been served their tagine? He shrugs and points to the Moroccan flight attendant, who is attempting - unsuccessfully - to break up the fight. We watch as he gets caught in the crossfire and receives a resounding slap from one of the angry passengers.
"Il m'a frappé! He hit me!" bleats the flight attendant through the cockpit door. There is laughing and cheering and shouting behind us. Everyone is chiming in with an opinion, shouting it across the aisles to be heard above the clamor.
A minute later, the loudspeaker tunes up.
"THIS IS YOUR COMMANDANT," says a booming voice. "I WILL TURN THIS PLANE AROUND IF YOU DO NOT TAKE YOUR SEATS. IT IS VERY SIMPLE - SIT DOWN OR I WILL GO HOME AND LEAVE YOU ALL ON THE AIRPLANE."
The pilot sounds remarkably like my dad circa 1983, when my brothers and I spent five hours punching each other in the back seat of a rented Datsun Rabbit en route to Maine.
When the plane lands, the police arrest the hooligans, and a man in a white coat checks my yellow fever vaccination, I realize I am finally in Mali.
Without my bag.