Myth: a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation;
Superstition: a credulous belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge.
A lot of us grew up with one, the other, or a mix of both. It is easy to write them off as “old wives’ tales” now that we are grown up, but back in the day some of these myths and superstitions ruled our lives!
I remember Mama threatening to slap me if I whistled one more time in the evening, did I not know whistling at dusk was an invitation for snakes to visit us?
Then there was my cousin warning me never to look in a mirror at night because I would see a masquerade. There was also my Grandma screaming at me for daring to put a foot on a tuber of yam – the King of food; did I want my wife to be baren?
My particular favourite was the promise of an inverted belly button, if I rubbed my current protruding one with a Kobo coin (and later 10kobo) and bought something from a pregnant woman with it – her yet to be born child would trade belly buttons with me!
How dare I forget the one about pulling out an eyelash and whispering to it when I offended, if I wanted my offence forgotten. Whoever I had offended was supposed to develop partial amnesia and forget my transgression, but that one never worked with Mama because if she forgot once, the next time she flogged me, which was usually not too long after, she usually had a total recall and the past was remembered!
I have a female friend who will not let you walk over her outstretched legs because she believes her first child will come out looking like you.
While some of these may sound strange, far fetched and silly to some people, it was Gospel to others – still is.
As for me, considering that I fly at all hours, I have had to look into mirrors even in the wee hours of the morning and the only thing I see looking back at me is my face. The same goes for all the superstitious beliefs I heard, and had growing up.
These, however, have been replaced by others; not mine, but my passengers’; and just like those Myths and Superstitions of my childhood, a lot of these are nothing more than Old Wives’ Tales or, in their case, Weary Travellers’ Fancies.
#Cabin Crew will catch a Grenade for You.
It is the belief of the average traveller that Cabin Crew do no more than serve tea and coffee, smile and generally do their bidding. I have no problems with that as they usually do not know any better; The seasoned traveller knows the Crew are on board for their comfort, safety and security – not necessarily in that order, still I have no problems with it, as these passengers actually do appreciate the value of these functions; The regular traveller, and I use this term loosely, know about these functions and set out to interprete as they choose.
I will leave ‘Comfort’ and ‘Security’ for another day. My concern here is ‘Safety’.
On a flight from Lagos to Abuja, while securing the cabin before take off, I noticed how one of two girls seated at an emergency exit had her hand bag under the seat in front of her.
Bags, shawls, loose around these areas constitute trip hazards in the event of an emergency evacuation. The sad part is they sometimes will not impede the culprits, but some innocent person.
I leaned across and quietly asked her for her bag so that I could stow it properly for her. Come and see attitude o! I eventually collected and stowed the bag, and then on second thought decided to explain to her personally the danger her bag posed.
“I know,” she told me with a smile so big, it was at odds with the person I had just dealt with. “I just wanted to stress u a bit.” Shuo!
I just squatted there so that what I said would be between the pair of them and me, “Do you work ma’am?” I asked her.
“Yes, I do.” She giggled. “I am with…”
“Have you ever seen me at your office trying to stress you a bit?” I asked her with the oiliest smile I could manage. Then I got up and walked away, leaving her with an almost perfect, bright red, “O” for a mouth.
Like seriously?! In an emergency my team and I are expected to get everybody off that aircraft in ninety seconds; one minute and thirty seconds and she wants to “stress me a bit”, keep me on board longer than necessary sorting out tangled bag straps and human limbs?
I am sure I speak for most Crew when I say, I am trained to almost catch a grenade for you, but I would rather not do that.
There are a lot of things passengers do that I cannot begin to pretend to understand.
In my experience, Nigerians have never been a ‘listening’ lot. This seems to have become worse as the years have passed.
So many times I have seen people run from a scene without knowing why they ran – they saw a crowd running and followed suit; Or stood with people who listened to announcements without hearing what was said; Too many times I have started the safety demonstration brief and seen passengers choose that time to pull out newspapers or magazines to read, or start conversations with their neighbours – usually in a not-so-quiet voice.
The other day on a flight from Kano to Lagos with a transit stop in Abuja, I had announced that as part of transit procedures passengers were required to physically identify their cabin baggage and that any unidentified item(s) would be taken off the aircraft in Abuja. This was purely a security exercise just in case some dubious passenger had left a ‘parcel’ on board and disembarked, a fairly common practice all over the world.
When my colleague came to me to say there was an unclaimed bag on board, I made an announcement describing the bag and asked passengers to check that it was not theirs. I repeated the announcement four times, and made my crew walk through the cabin with the bag twice. When it returned unclaimed, I handed it off to the ground staff in Abuja and we continued on our way to Lagos.
On ground in Lagos I noticed a disturbance in the aisle, like a whirlwind, a man came up to me panting. “Someone just carried my bag off.” He said.
“Where did you leave the bag, sir?” I asked.
He looked at me, his exasperation begining to show. “Someone just carried by bag off,” he repeated.
“Sir, when was the last time you saw your bag?” There was no point rushing off in pursuit of a bag if he checked it in and it was in the hold.
“I put it in the locker in Kano and now I cannot find it.” Lightbulb moment. “Is it a brown leather bag with tires?” I asked.
“Yes, that one.” He said surprised, “Do you know who took it?” He asked me.
“Actually, I do sir. I took it. And I left it in Abuja. Sir, that bag is in Abuja.” I finished.
His confusion was profound as he asked in a not too quiet tone, “Why? Why would you leave my bag behind? I am going to make trouble for you!” His voice rising with each word, and he finished at almost a shout. His eyes narrowed when he realised I had not said a word, and instead had a smile on my face that touched the corners of my eyes.
“Are you done sir?” I asked him. He was too stunned to nod or say a word. Just a noise in his throat that sounded like “huh?”
“Did you hear the announcements about a bag when we were on ground Abuja, sir?” I waited for his answer which came in the form of a hesitant nod. “You heard but did not identify and claim the bag?” I asked, enjoying myself thoroughly.
“I heard that a brown bag was announced, but my bag was in the locker nau, besides I was sleeping.”
“Well sir, that was your bag and since it did not get claimed, we dropped it off in Abuja.”
“No!” He snapped. It was my turn to do a “huh?” “Did your crew not see that I was sleeping? Since there was one unclaimed bag and one sleeping passenger, how could they not know it was my bag? This is just incompetence and outright wickedness.”
“If you will come with me sir,” I said signalling that we follow the last of the descending passengers. I handed him over to one of our ground personnel to deal with since he was too ten-years-old to realise his bag was his responsibility, and that when announcements are made it usually is for a reason other than disturbing and irritating passengers.
He eventually got the message and was assured his bag would get sent from Abuja on a later flight, which it did.
#You can beat the system
Of all the passenger antics I have seen, this one cracks me up the most. Recently on a Sokoto bound flight out of Lagos with a transit stop in Abuja, my colleagues took ring side seats at a play put up by a passenger. This one had a prologue which they were not aware of at the time, but it did not take away from the main act one bit.
On ground in Abuja, it was noticed that there was one passenger more on board than the expected transit figure.
An individual check of boarding passes revealed that a child on board had a pass valid only for the Lagos-Abuja leg and was still on board.
When the Purser asked who the child was travelling with, it ws discovered that the mother had a ticket through to Sokoto, but not the child. After much drama and protracted delay, a passenger on board paid the difference in the fare to validate the child’s ticket to Sokoto – and get the flight on it’s way as the woman had refused to disembark, and the airline could not offload a minor without the guardian.
It later came to light that this woman had earlier booked and paid for One Adult and One Infant (age 0-2years), but at check-in she was discovered to be with a Child of 5years. Same drama, and a passenger took pity and paid the difference – for a child going to Abuja!
For the life of me I still cannot decide if this was a deliberate attempt to beat the system, or just an agressive case of ‘fine bara’.
#Everything in the cabin is a souvenir
On one of my early flights as a Purser, I had served business class passengers their meals and was feeling really good with myself that I had completed in good time.
When I went back through the cabin to clear in, I noticed a passenger had not touched anything from her tray. I left her and carried on with other activities.
When the ‘fasten seatbelt’ signs came on for landing and I was securing the cabin, I noticed her table had been cleared. I made a mental note to thank my crew for teamwork and looking out for me, but when I did, they both looked at each other and looked back at me funny – neither of them had cleared in her tray. A quick count of the trays loaded confirmed what we had all started suspecting.
She had helped herself to the items on the tray, which was alright, and then she helped herself to the tray too!
This is not an isolated case. I have seen passengers come on board with just their cabin bags, and then leave the plane with extension seatbelts, trays, cutlery and crockery – some have even been known to try leaving with the Cabin Crew as well, or at least a phone number or BB pin!
While almost everything on board the aircraft is for ‘your pleasure’, it is usually an ‘eat in’ and not a ‘take away’ service.
As a child growing up, I had a lot of beliefs born of myths and superstitions; now I am grown, these have been replaced by others. The one thing I find though is that the beliefs of my childhood were scary; those of my grown passengers are just plain…
PS: Happy Birthday wishes to another one of our Family here on 360nobs, Lorlah AKA Miss Capable. Sha don’t let me ask you for my slice of cake, a little slice will do.