Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Founder, Project C.U.R.E.
Author, The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist

Douala, Cameroon, Africa: February, 2004: So, there I was in a big pickle. Vincent had driven for seven hours to get me to the Douala airport to catch my late flight back to Paris. I climbed out of the Toyota truck and headed for the terminal. Vincent took off into the African night. At the desk I was told that the flight had been canceled. There were no phones to get hold of Vincent and I had no Cameroon money. I pleaded with the African ticket attendant explaining to her that I had to make it to Paris in order to meet all the rest of my connections through to Washington, D.C. and on to Denver. She really couldn’t have cared less. She told me to “go away and come back tomorrow night.” I probably could go then to Paris.

I noticed as I walked down the stretch of empty counters that Swiss Air had a flight going to Europe. I worked my way up through their line where I could ask the lady if Swiss Air had room for me to get out of Douala. She said maybe, but that I would have to go back to Air France and have them rework my ticket. I returned to the Air France desk and the woman said, “You are not flying tonight. Come back tomorrow night.” But I was stranded in Africa with no way to get back in touch with Vincent.

“Look,” I said. “I just went down to Swiss Air and they might have a seat left, but the lady said I needed the approval of Air France in order to switch airlines.” “She didn’t say that. That flight to Zurich, Switzerland, was sold out long ago,” said the snippy Air France woman.

I had flown regularly on international flights beginning in 1979, and I knew that airlines loved to cancel flights that were only partially sold and simply say that there had been some equipment problems. Then you would have to return the next day or the next flight when they could combine you with another partially full flight. That way they could fly the route only once with a full revenue load. But, what the airlines didn’t like to do in that strategy was to start losing their paid customers to other airlines in between the flights they were trying to consolidate. That defeated their purpose; they lost revenue rather than gained it.

“Please,” I continued, “allow me to at least talk with someone in charge of allowing me to make the switch, then we can find out for sure if Swiss Air has room.” “Well,” replied the woman, “you can go back behind that wall and talk to someone in the Air France office, but it’s not going to do you any good.”

I hurriedly left and as I rounded the corner, my heart sunk. There was a crowd of at least 20 people pushing and shoving their way to the office door. They had even placed a security person at the door. I thought, “Oooh, these are some pretty desperate people.” I didn’t have a ghost of a chance, but I staked out my territory in the line and waited to see what would happen. I knew that my only other option would be to try to locate a hotel in Douala, Cameroon, at midnight. If I could find one I would have to stay there until the next night and make my way back out to the airport.

After about 30 minutes of going nowhere, I spotted an official-looking man with a tie and a plastic badge from Air France on his lapel. I chanced stepping out of line and put my hand on his arm, “Could you please help me, sir?” I asked. “It really is necessary for me to travel to Europe tonight so that I can make a very crucial connection from Paris to Washington, D.C.” I gave him my business card and said, “Swiss Air told me they might have room for me but to check with you for your approval.”

“Quite impossible,” said the Frenchman, “every seat is gone.” I thanked him and stepped back into my place in the line and continued to wait as I watched the continual pushing and shoving. I really didn’t want to spend another night in Africa. My only chance was the Swiss Air flight.

Suddenly, the Frenchman appeared, put his hand on my arm and motioned for me to follow him as he knifed through the waiting line at the Air France office door. “I don’t know if we can make this work. Two scheduled passengers for the Swiss Air flight showed up late for the check-in. If we can hurry and get a boarding pass issued, Swiss Air will let you on in their place because they are late.” I could hardly believe my ears. Could it be that I was not going delusional from the hot night and sweaty crowd? Was I hearing correctly?

God had just dispatched another legion of guardian angels to help me. We ran very fast to the Swiss Air counter. I shoved my check-in bag to them, collected my luggage receipt, and we scurried through customs and security with the Frenchman telling them all to hurry up. I got the seat. Not one I would have chosen under normal circumstances, but the circumstances we had going were not normal.

It had all happened so fast that as I pulled my seat belt tightly around me I was feeling overwhelmed. God knew all along where I was and he did that just for me. I quietly thanked him for his goodness. When I traveled I always wore a dark blue sport jacket and a tie. But I was convinced that night in dark Africa that it had nothing to do with my tie or my dress jacket. Nothing else had made a difference in taking me out of that line and placing me in the seat of that Swiss Air flight headed for Zurich. It had everything to do with God and God alone . . . But I wasn’t done yet!

Next Week: I still Need to Get Home

© Dr. James W. Jackson   
Permissions granted by Winston-Crown Publishing House

Dr. James W. Jackson often describes himself as "The Happiest Man in the World." A successful businessman, award-winning author and humanitarian, Jackson is also a renowned Cultural Economist and international consultant, helping organizations and governments to apply sound economic principals to the transformation of culture so that everyone is "better off."

As the founder of Project C.U.R.E., Dr. Jackson traveled to more than one hundred fifty countries assessing healthcare facilities, meeting with government leaders and "delivering health and hope" in the form of medical supplies and equipment to the world's most needy people. Literally thousands of people are alive today as a direct result of the tireless efforts of Project C.U.R.E.'s staff, volunteers and Dr. Jackson. 

To contact Dr. Jackson, or to book him for an interview or speaking engagement: press@winstoncrown.com

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