Patrick’s Storyworth Project: The “Famous People” Question
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Korongo co-founder Patrick Texier is testing the Storyworth.com memoir-writing platform with the help of his children and grandchildren: They pose the questions, he writes the answers. Today's question:
What famous or important people have you encountered in real life?
By Patrick Texier
One day in 1968, while I was working with the French airline UTA, I was on airport duty to make sure the disembarking of the passengers went smoothly. The first guy to come off the plane was the president of Cameroon. Nobody had told me he was onboard, and no official was there to greet him.
President Ahmadou Ahidjo went straight to me, as I was the only person at the bottom of the stairs, and shook my hand vigorously. Not knowing what to do, I took him to the VIP room. Fortunately, the official greeters soon arrived and took charge of the parcel; they had been delayed by a pileup on the road to the airport.
Ahidjo was my first president. My second one was President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Ivory Coast. In 1984, he called and asked me if I could come to his residence in the capital city of Yamoussoukro. I said of course and asked when and why. “I need a 100-kilowatt generator, and I would like to see you at my residence as soon as possible.”
I had the machine in stock; I just needed some time to type a proposal and get a quote for the shipping to Yamoussoukro. It could be done in half an hour and I told him so. He said he would expect me in a couple of hours.
Hopping in my car a half hour later, I drove to the house. Fortunately, the highway was operational. At the gate a couple of hours later, I was hurried inside, where a butler was waiting for me. He took me to a reception room and asked me if I needed anything. I asked for a glass of water.
A few minutes later, the president entered the room, greeted me, and asked me for my estimate. Anticipating some bargaining, as is the tradition in Africa, I had cranked up the price by some 30 percent. The president asked me to wait a bit and left the room. A few minutes later, he returned with a bag, a nice one. I found it much nicer when I discovered it was full of banknotes.
When I asked where to deliver the generator, he said it was a gift to the president of Burkina Faso, a neighboring country. “Just contact Mr. So-and-so at the railway company in Abidjan. He’ll take charge from there.” So I did.
One day in Sierra Leone, I was stranded on the side of the road with two flats. A big SUV stopped. I recognized the passenger; he was an army officer. I knew him as he was in charge of an army checkpoint, and we had a very good relationship. He offered to drop me and my two flats at a mechanic to get them repaired and then drive me back. On the way we were having small talks. I asked him what he was doing these days.
“You don’t know ? I am now the vice president.”
“Congratulations,” I said.
“Don’t worry. It won’t last.”
He dropped me back after the repair, and that was it. [See footnote]
I met some movie stars—no interest there. Some were nice people. Some were assholes.
One day in Vermont, I shook the hand of Senator Bernie Sanders before he was a candidate for the presidency of the U.S.A. I voted for the guy.
None of these encounters equals the one I did in Tanzania while on safari.
I welcomed two tourists from Norway at the airport—a French tour operator gave me the contract. I took them to their hotel in Arusha, we had dinner, and they went to sleep.
The following day we started the safari: a day in Arusha National Park, another day and half in Tarangire, another day in Manyara, followed by a couple of days in the Ngorongoro Crater. After a few days of being together 24/7, we were on a first-name basis: Patrick, Harald. That’s when, while enjoying a drink in the beautiful African night close to the bonfire, I asked, “By the way, what are you doing in life?
“I’m the king of Norway.”
My reaction was immediate. “Ho, shit, how should I address you?”
“We are Patrick and Harald. Let’s continue. It works fine.”
I then asked who was his companion, a giant close to six feet eight inches and 150 kilos, showing big muscles.
“Ho! He’s my bodyguard. It’s required that I travel with him, even to go on safari.”
We ended the safari as best buddies.
NOTE: So who was this mystery man, the self-purported "vice president" of Sierra Leone? At the time, Captain Valentine Strasser was president (appointed by the army, which ousted President Momoh in 1996) and his deputy was Solomon Musa. We're pretty sure Musa was NOT the guy Patrick knew. That guy was riding in a government car, a Nissan Patrol, and smoking a big joint. He sure the hell looked important, but whether he was a "real" vice president or not, we will never know for sure. —ST
How it works: The Storyworth formula is an exchange between the designated storyteller (in this case, Patrick) and family or friends, who can either formulate their own questions or select them from a bank compiled by Storyworth (we do some of both). The Storyworth fairy emails the questions to the storyteller, normally at the rate of one question per week. The storyteller writes a response and emails it back to the Storyworth fairy, whose minions compile the responses and, eventually, turn them into a book. The default setting of one question per week can be changed by the user, and Patrick has chosen to receive his questions at the rate of two per day.
The Korongo Story (video; 3 mins).