Recently I find that when people want to talk about me, they talk about someone who always seems to have something to say, always has the right thing to say without much thought.
While not soliciting cheap validation, sometimes I actually look over my shoulders, right and left, to confirm those are directed at me.
Frankly, there was a time when I could never think of a comeback to anything that was said to me immediately, or I will think of something really brilliant minutes, hours or days later. I still get those times, though not as regular. Let me be quick to say there is a HUGE difference between having what to say and having the right thing to say.
#Franque is my name
When I misplaced my passport in the UK (see Lost in London), my brother’s friend took me in kindly and she quickly went from acquaintance to family. Then there was her flatmate. She came through for me big time and, as it happens when two people of opposite sex are thrown together constantly – I felt it was the beginning of something.
It was one of those things everybody around you claim to see clear as crystal, but for you it is hazy, at best.
After the passport episode, everytime I was in London I went to visit them and when on her birthday the opportunity presented itself, I found myself opening and closing my mouth without emitting a single sound – despite having practiced that night as I rode the train and bus connections from Gatwick to Ealing broadway.
Once I helped her bring stuff back to Nigeria for her sister but because of the timing, I was unable to see her in person. Soon after, she was on my .
As soon as I checked her boarding pass and saw the name, I looked up to see an older version; tall confident and beautiful. Looking at that eerily familiar face, I felt my heart skip a beat and in that instant my mouth dried up. Licking my lips, I managed to croak a welcome with directions to her seat, and as she walked away I blurted out “Franque is my name.” As soon as those reached my ears, I wanted to kick myself. Franque is my name indeed. Of all introductions, I had to choose a lame “Franque is my name”.
She turned and her lips curved slightly, a smile that said “I understand”, and I felt the heat creep up the back of my neck to my ears.
There I stood feeling really silly, wishing the floor would open and swallow me up, or at least my colleague who was boarding with me would stop looking at me funny and just dial 911.
#How do I say…
I read a long time ago that women are attracted by what they hear, and my experience has taught me that a compliment or show of concern tells her more than so many other can.
While I rarely compliment women, when I do pay a compliment, it is genuine, and honestly meant as that – a compliment.
I was once on a that had been delayed out of Abuja because we had arrived Abuja pretty late the previous evening and were required, by regulation, to have minimum rest before we could operate. We were continuing to Accra, and that was so delayed, even I was irked.
Putting a cheery face over my true emotions, I would try and say something nice or empathetic to passengers as they came through.
When I saw her I looked at the finger of the left hand holding the strap of her handbag – married. It did not stop me admiring her good looks, and it was with the warm feeling she engendered that I flashed her one of my brighter smiles before asking “And how are you today, ma’am?”
Without even looking at me, she went ahead to tell me how inconsiderate we were at the airline. How badly run things were, how stupid the staff were and how exceptionally annoying and clueless the ground staff were. On and on she went, not letting me get in any apologies. When she ran out of steam, she snatched her boarding pass from my hand and, with a huff, walked off.
“Why did I bother to ask?” I muttered under my breath, as I took the boarding pass off the young lady behind her. A look at her name and I realised she was the woman’s daughter! She did not even let me wonder if she had heard as the smile she gave me told me I had been loud enough for her to hear.
Another day, I was boarding a flight from Monrovia to Lagos with a transit stop in Accra. I had everyone on board wait for two passengers and I was beginning to get irritated as I was on an ‘on time departure’ bound schedule. Then I saw them and my irritation did a moonwalk to the back burner.
Let me just say they were a vision to behold: slim figures in tank tops and shorts short enough to qualify as bum shorts. One had a pair of sunglasses on and the other had her glasses stuck in her hair, and the hair was long and flowing.
As they came aboard, my mumu pushed me to ask a question which was supposed to be the opening line for a compliment. “Wow! Is that really your hair?”
“Didn’t yo mamma teach you not to ask about a gurl’s hair?” She answered in an accent with the twang I have come to associate with Liberians.
I just stood there like a freshly landed fish, opening and closing my mouth.
Recently, I flew with my line manager on an assessment flight. For some reason it was our ‘early bird’ service to Abuja with a 06:05 departure. When she came on board I was taking inventory of service items in the back galley, so I went over the PA system to say hi and asked how her night went.
She walked to the back to meet me then said “I had a fight with my boyfriend last night, he gave me a red eye from crying most of the night. Right now I hate men.”
Whether she meant it or was joking was lost on me. I just stood there mouth half open without any hope of a comeback or recovery.
These events do not happen to me a lot these days, but whenever it does, I just stand there with my foot stuck so far in my mouth I usually need paramedics. Problem though is, I have never been able to ascertain Nigeria’s equivalent of the better known 911, 119, 199s of this world.
#Which is the way (shock therapy)
Exactly ten years ago today, the world witnessed one of the most dastardly acts in recent times – the hijack of four passenger planes in the United States of America, and the subsequent crashing of these planes: two into the World Trade Centre, one into the Pentagon Building and the fourth into a field as the hijack was foiled by some brave passengers.
We wailed, we lamented, we sermonised and then we forgot. Just like we let ourselves forget all other acts of terror all over the world: “it’s in the far away Middle East”, “it’s America jare”, “it’s Iraq jor” or “Iran”.
When of the attempted bombing of a passenger plane by broke in December 2009, after decrying the seeming senselessness of the act, we looked to lay the blame at any and every doorstep we could find, except ours, and we carried on; business as usual.
Well, not anymore.
The bombing of the Police headquarters, Abuja on the 16th of June, 2011 brought it closer home. And on Friday the 26th of August, 2011, the bombing of the UN House, Abuja simply screamed out: “We are not Ostriches!”
There is no more room for burying our heads in the sand.
We have heard different opinions as to why these acts of terror are being carried out. From political, through religious to ecomonic; from forces internal, forces external, forces extraterrestrial too.
We daily blame and then exhort the Government and Security agencies to wake up to their responsibilities in protecting us, most of it lip service. I even read somewhere, someone saying this is being orchestrated by “fifth columnists” to unsettle the government and force us into spending heavily on security instead of other sectors like education, health and power.
Whatever the case, we are not altogether helpless. We elected the government to work for us, we can make them truly work for us. Better than that, we can help them in their work of securing us.
Recently, we were asked to register our SIMs and it was considered an inconvenience; at airports we are asked to put our bags through for screening and we are irritated; liquids in clear bags, we grumble; switch phones off inflight, we remind the crew how we have been flying since before they were born; when asked to subject ourselves to electronic screening and manual frisking, we raise hell and take it to the senate; a passenger changes her mind about travelling after boarding a flight, and we give the crew hell for suggesting a security search of the entire cabin; we arrive at a transit stop and the crew asks for our boarding passes to confirm people are getting off where they should, and we remind them how we can read and know where you are going to; when asked to identify cabin baggage, we are too lazy to get up and physically confirm it yet we want to be safe and secure.
I could go on and on, but the truth is brains will begin to switch off – it would sound like teaching grown-ups to suck eggs. And as to why I have chosen aviation related examples, terror attacks involving aviation is usually very high profile. Plus this is the industry I know.
So family, let us do our little bit to help nip this not-so-new menace in the bud. If you see anything suspicious, do not touch it, do not investigate it, just dial 911 – or whatever the Nigerian equivalent is.
PS: The numerous fights in Jos, the flooding in Ibadan, the road accidents nationwide, kerosene and petrol stampedes, kidnappings – all the incidents in Nigeria’s current edition of “A of Problems” are no less painful or real, and my heart goes out to those who have lost people or property, or have been affected however indirectly by these.
God will help us, but we have to position ourselves for His help and blessings.