My favourite TV show at some point was ‘Kids Say’ hosted by Bill Cosby. If you ever saw an edition you would understand why.
Ever wondered what happened to those kids? Considering how long ago the show aired, I believe they grew up – they surely should.
In my line of work, everyday is an edition of what I like to think of as ‘People Say (and do)’.
The other day I was boarding a flight to Owerri. Now, it was around the Christmas holidays and it was a full flight with more than 65% of the passengers returning from ‘overseas’ – especially my brothers returning from Jo’burg (pronounced Joberg). In typical South-eastern fashion (pun intended) it was a very flashy and colourful flight.
The flight had been delayed a few hours due poor visibility. Delay announcements had been made at intervals with updates as they came through.
When we eventually commenced boarding more than a few were simply happy to be getting on board. There are always those, however, who feel the need to ‘show themselves’. At the door, passengers are required to show their boarding passes as they came on board – this usually takes 4 seconds within which I am supposed to have seen the name, date of travel, flight number and seat number of the passenger. Most passengers were happy to show theirs, but this one man refused. “I know my seat my friend!!” He shouted. “Besides how many people want to check this same boarding pass, ehn?” Seeing that I was not going to let him board without sighting the pass, he pulled it from his breast pocket and shoved it in my face. While for professional reasons I could not laugh out as I wanted, it was with a good helping of glee that I said to him “Sir, where did you plan on travelling to when you left home today?” “Portharcourt of course!” By this time, the people behind him were beginning to get impatient. “Well sir,” I said, “If you retrace your steps and ask at the gate, I am sure my colleagues will be happy to direct you to your aircraft. This one is headed to Owerri.” I flashed him a really bright smile, then turned my attention to the lady behind him and asked for her boarding pass.
On another flight, I had been working down the back, and passengers were boarding. The flight was booked full, and on such flights cabin space was always an issue. Given our penchant – as Nigerians – for shopping, it is almost considered a violation of our fundamental human rights to insist on one reasonably sized cabin bag per passenger. As a way around this, most airlines have adopted the ‘first come first stowed’ policy. This way when all hatrack spaces had been taken, the poor unfortunates would have no choice but take their bags out to be tagged and put in the hold. Inconvenient, right?
Well, this lady came on board with her wheelie. Her seat was at the rear, just close to me, but the hatrack space abover her had been taken. Without looking around her for space, she simply snapped her fingers at me, pointed to her bag, looked up at the hatrack above her seat and then shrugged her shoulders.
Wow! Double wow! I cooly locked eyes with her, looked over my shoulder behind me – to make sure she was ‘talking’ to someone behind me – looked back at her, making sure we still had eye contact, walked towards her, then past her towards the galley where I casually poured a cup of water, and leaning against the galley surface, proceeded to sip the water.
The look of shock on her face was the best sight I had seen that day. “Can’t you see that I am struggling with a bag?” She asked. At this I pushed myself off the cart I was leaning against. I walked into the cabin and moved a few bags around to make space for her case. “If you would bring the suitcase here ma’am, we should be able to fit it in.” I said to her. “What do you mean? Will you come and take the bag? After all it’s your job.” At that last one I actually smiled. “May I suggest that you hurry up ma’am before someone else takes the space?” “Insolent!” She screeched. “That is the problem with Nigerians, poor customer service. Do you know where I am coming from? Rubbish like this would not happen there!”
“Please shut up and let us hear word.” A man who had sat quietly observing everything could not take anymore. “You are holding people up, harrasing the young man and generally constituting a nuisance. Abeg, where are you coming from? Heaven? Like say no be Nanny work you dey do there. Do you even have a husband? I don’t think so, because with attitude like this no man will put you in his house.”
“How does this matter concern you?” She asked, only to be met with a chorus of “shut up” “betch” “ashewo”. She automatically became the trending topic – herself and ‘women of nowadays – and I made myself scarce. I bet she did not see the situation playing out like that.
From boarding to disembarking, most flights are a barrel of laughs for me, but some are just frustrating. The most ‘eventful’ part of a flight for me usually is during the meal service. During the meal service, my cart is set up so that all the drinks I have available on offer are displayed on the cart – in the hope that this visual form of merchandising will help people decide what they would like. Amazingly, seven out of ten times, this touch is lost on people.
Walking through the aisle on one flight from Portharcourt recently, I asked a gentleman “Would you like a muffin or meatpie?” “Meat.” Came his short reply. “And what would you like to drink, sir?” To which he replied, “What have you got?” I ran through my list of drinks. “Orange, apple and pineapple juices; coke, fanta, sprite and diet coke, and water.” He closed his eyes and tilted his head back a little. It was only the “Ummmm..” sound coming from him that told me he was still awake. After about fifteen seconds, his eyes flew open and he said “Give me water.” What?! You had to think about a glass of water like it was rocket science? I served him, then repeated the same questions to the lady seated next to him. She asked for a snack and when it came to her drink, she asked “So what do you have?” You’ve got to be kidding me! Did you not just hear the list I ran through for your neighbour?
A few rows down, I asked this lady if she would like a snack – making sure to mention both choices. Her pupils just rolled into her head. Now I have heard of a mental picture, but actually looking into your brain? When she parted her lips, it was to say “What is a muffin?” O-K-E-I!! I showed her the muffin – and the meatpie for good measure. “Pie please” she said. “And what drink for you ma’am?” “Kaiveerah and worah please,” she said pointing to a pack of fruit juice. I served her a glass of orange juice and another of water, but till I finished the service my mind kept returning to her choice of drink. It was not until the end of the flight, coming in to land, that it hit me! Chivita!!
Talking about the end of the flight brings to mind another part of flying that never ceases to amaze, and amuse, me – taxiing to the gate.
Nine times out of ten, after the wheels have touched the tarmac, and the aircraft stops for any reason at all, there are passengers who will rush to their feet, open the hatrack, bring down their bags and then stand in the aisle because they can not get off the aircraft. Making you wonder why they bother. I mean, you have been on board this aircraft for at least one hour, what is another three minutes?
On a particular flight out of Johannesburg, we had encountered turbulence and the fasten seat belt sign had come on. A man had given me grief when I asked him to fasten his seat belt. According to him, “At least I am sitting down, and you are standing over my head asking me to fasten my seat belt. Bros, na stand you stand o! Abeg free me jor.” I let him be. When we landed in Lagos, the aircraft had to stop short of the gate to be tugged to the bridge. As soon as the aircraft stopped, this same man got up and was walking towards the toilet when the aircraft was tugged forward. The man fell as if he had been poleaxed. Straight down he went, and banged his head against an arm rest on the way, narrowly missing a woman with her infant sitting there. Mercifully, he did not sustain any injury.
Following that, I modified my announcement to include: “Before you don your helmets, grab your armours and dash for the door like Spartans, please check that the seatbelt sign is switched off. They are those little lights above you, and there are over fifty of them on this aircraft.”
PS: I have striven not to laugh at human actions; not to weep for them; nor to hate them, but to understand them.