A lot of times, when my BBStatus changes to “iFly”, I get wishes for a safe trip, but not without the odd request or two for AIRtiquette stories. Problem is, most of my flights are just mundane and uneventful.
Take for example last Sunday:
I flew to Sokoto. The flight to Abuja, our first stop, went smoothly enough, and the Abuja to Sokoto leg was uneventful to say the least. I already had my mind set for home, thoughts of what to do with the rest of my day uppermost in my mind.
I called for passengers to board, and mentally sat back for that to be completed – passenger boarding in the Northern cities we fly to are usually done at a leisurely pace.
When there was a hold up at the foot of the stairs, I did not think much of it initially because an entourage of fifteen to see off one traveller was commonplace here, but closer inspection revealed it was more a dissent than anything else, and then I saw why.
Standing at no more than 2feet tall and sometimes dangling by the arm when his mother pulled him up, was my three year old dissenter. “No, no, no!” He wailed. There was a rapid exchange between him and his mother in Hausa too fast for me to follow, though I heard the word “turari” mentioned a few times. I asked my colleague who was more fluent in the language what that was about and she said his bottle of perfume had been confiscated, and that he was refusing to travel without it. To say I was shocked will be putting it mildly.
He was finally dragged up the steps and onto the aircraft, but still he cried and wailed like someone died. “Waiyo, waiyo,” followed by rapid Hausa spewed from him as he was dragged to his seat.
When there was a lull in boarding, I could still hear him crying in the cabin. He carried on so much that a passenger came to have a talk with me about it. That was when I learnt the bottle had actually been taken off him at the foot of the aircraft! I went and got it from the security personnel who said they had confiscated it because it was in a bottle. I returned the perfume to him with my apologies, and that was the last I heard from him for the remainder of the flight.
In Abuja, one passenger disembarking turned to me and asked “Are you a writer?” Ordinarily I would have said no, only because I do not even think about what I do, but today I wanted everybody off quickly so we could have as short a transit time as possible on ground. “Yes, I write for 360nobs” I told her with a smile and a scratch of the back of my neck – my nervous tic.
One of the first passengers to board was a well known rap artiste not acclaimed for the bars he spat, but his beats are banging and some phrases are catchy. He had been on a number of my flights and seemed cordial enough, but I never let myself feel too familiar before persin go take me shine.
A few passengers later I saw her. Like a galleon she floated up the steps, orange straw hat over a pair of three-quarter jean-shorts encasing her rotund figure. Her body language was loud and unmistakable “If you look for my trouble, I will give it to you double,” it was crystal. I smiled my wide smile as I welcomed her and the two people trailing in her wake on board, and was in the middle of pointing her to their seats when my hand fell. The rapper was sitting comfortably in one of them.
Hoping she had not noticed, I stepped back and made for her to pass. She poked her head around the wardrobe by the door and then said to me, “There seems to be someone in our seats, do you wanna sort that out please?” It was not a question, neither was it a request; I know an instruction when I hear one, and right then she was giving me marching orders.
“On it ma’am,” I said.
In two strides I was beside him. “May I see your boarding pass please, sir” I asked. “Wetin dey happen?” He asked me?
“Bros e be like say u siddon for persin chair. Which number dem geee you?” I asked, glad he was speaking my language.
“E be like say na 3A, or 3 sumtin sha. Na de madam be dat?” He asked pointing with his chin behind me.
“Bros na im o.”
He looked round the empty business class cabin, got up and returned to his assigned seat.
“Sorted ma’am. Terribly sorry about the inconvenience.” I said, almost meaning the last part.
I returned to boarding other passengers, and had just cleared up the queue that had formed as I sorted her seating, when I noticed her trying to force an obviously big bag into the hatrack close to me.
I try not to touch passenger bags as much as possible, plus my position at the door during boarding makes it almost impossible for me to get involved with anything happening in the cabin, short of an emergency. I could not leave the door unattended.
Seeing as the stream of boarding passengers had dried up at the time, I said to her “Ma’am if you’ll take your seat, I will sort the bag out for you.”
“That’s what you should have done when I came in.” I was too shocked to hold my tongue.
“Ma’am I was boarding passengers and signing of catering…”
“You should attend to your passengers too,” she cut me short. I just stood there thinking, last time I checked the people she held up at the door were passengers too.
After stowing the bag, I was walking back to my door when she called me back. “I don’t like my bag being too far from me.”
“The bag is just behind you here ma’am,” I said touching the hatrack above the rapper directly behind her.
“I don’t want to have to go back to get it when we land. Why not put it under the seat in front of me?”
“Ma’am, my fear is that it would not fit and then it would still end up in the hatrack.” I explained.
“Ma’am,” I said, exasperation creeping into my voice,“I will personally bring the bag to you when we land.”
“Before passengers get up and start rushing?” She asked.
“Yes ma’am.” I answered, with one word replaying itself in my head – and it wasn’t “witch”.
During meal service, she asked for two drinks for herself, which I poured her with a smile. And then she asked for two drinks for the younger of her brood. Again I poured. Just then a fly buzzed overhead.
“You people now carry flies on your aircraft?” I ignored her. “You people allow flies on your aircraft?”
I mentally rolled my eyes before saying, “The fly stowed away during boarding in Sokoto.” All in a bid to make light of the matter.
“Then you should have driven it off when you noticed it.”
Really?! I thought in my head. “Why don’t you open your window and shoo it out?” I really wanted to ask her, but instead I held my tongue.
Clearing in, I saw she only drank one of the two drinks she asked for and her daughter could not even finish one. Again that witch sounding word figure-skated through my mind tantalisingly close to my lips, but somehow I managed to show my teeth in a cross between a wince and a grimace and hoped it passed for a smile.
On ground Lagos, after landing procedures had been completed, I was waiting for the knock on the door to signal it was fine to open the door when I happened to glance in the cabin. “O my God, o my God” I kept muttering under my breath as I made my way through the already standing passengers to retrieve her bag. She just sat there, apparently hoping and praying that I would forget.
As a colleague Idong would say, “God pass dem.”
PS: So I lied. Everyday on the job is anything but mundane. It is the funny, the flattering and the downright frustrating that make me love my job more than I can ever express. Only sometimes it is all so disjointed, only when one steps back to view the bigger picture that it all becomes clearer.
Tomorrow we turn 51 as a nation, 48 as a republic. We will all agree that we have not lived up to the expectations and dreams of the founding fathers who fought for our Independence. However, it is not beyond us, we just have to look beyond tenure elongation, ban on same sex marriages, ban on attractive people, ban on people who speak with a ‘non-Nigerian’ accents.
Dear future of Nigeria, I know for a fact that every little bit we do helps. Be the change that you want to see.
Happy 51st Independence.
PPS: Today is the birthday of one of the coolest females I have ever known.
The delectable M.E. Nothing but love, Coz.