Recently, I was stuck in Dakar for three days and I was going to write about the experience, but on my flight back to Lagos something happened which pushed those days’ experience(s) to the back burner.
We had boarded the aircraft and I had changed out of my uniform since I was travelling as a passenger. I had taken over the last row of seats so that after take-off I would put up the arm rests dividing the individual seats to leave me with a ‘flat bed’ to sleep on. I was feeling unwell so I really needed the rest.
She walked all the way to the back, stopped right next to where I was sitting, then turned and walked all the way to the front of the aircraft. She was wearing a boubou of a fuschia coloured material. It stayed with me because only recently I had had a conversation with a friend who believed that only women and artists, a word I am sure he was using loosely, are supposed to know more than the primary colours and black. I would have quickly forgotten about her, but then she walked right back down peering at faces as she came.
When she reached my seat this time, I got up and asked her if everything was okay.
“There is a passenger I am looking for, I gave her a bag to carry for me. She is wearing black…”
A wave of déja vu washed over me. I had heard those words before. Not once, not even twice. The thing is, it never got old.
“Please, I am looking for a passenger that should be on this flight but I can’t find him.”
“Well, boarding is still in progress so hopefully he’ll be with the next set of passengers coming on. I hope everything is alright though,” I said to the lady standing in front of me, dressed in a bomber jacket over a polo necked shirt and a pair of jeans.
“Nothing much, thank you.” And she returned to her seat and I promptly forgot about her. When boarding was completed, she came back to the door.
“Do you have a name for this passenger, ma’am?” My Cabin Service Supervisor asked her.
“Yes actually, I do.” She gave his name and my supervisor paged the passenger. The Flight Service Manager called from her door and when the CSS hung up, she turned to the passenger and asked her if she was travelling together with the man. “Yes we are travelling together,” she answered.
“Well, he has been offloaded from the flight for misorderly conduct.”
“Ehn? And I just met him o.”
It turned out the lady had only just met the man at check-in and, having more bags than she was entitled to and not wanting to pay for excess, she had befriended him and pleaded with him to let her check-in the bags in his name. No problem.
Problem was, not a huge fan of flying, he often needed a drink or two for Dutch courage to help him cope with his fear of flying. On this occasion though, he went over his personal limit and this loosened his tongue. So not only did he reek of alcohol, which sometimes was enough to get one bumped off a flight, he also threw a few choice words at my Manager, words that caused her to blush a deep crimson and call airport security.
He was taken off, kicking and screaming, to a holding cell to cool off. He and the bags tagged in his name.
She was distraught as she had trade goods in the bags, but then that sometimes, is the price one pays for trusting strangers.
So as soon this woman opened her mouth to describe the person she gave her bag to, I was once again thrown by human nature. What was more, she did not even know the woman’s name!
Funny thing was, on that day, we had two flights out of Darkar: one through Cotonou, and the one I was on through Banjul and Accra.
She just saw someone holding an airline boarding pass and handed her the bag. My bet was, the woman in black was on the other flight.
In my line of work I have met really resourceful Nigerians, but the most resourceful for me are the women I have met on the Dubail route. The ones that deal in fabric.
My first encounter shocked me beyond words, and I spent the entire flight marveling at them.
They come on board looking rotund and ready to burst. I am talking ample women, usually dressed in boubou or big caftans. Then they go into the toilets and spend almost an eternity there. When they come out though, the transformation is something else: they are slimmer, dressed in t-shirts and jeans, and looking almost pretty. They however have a bundle with them you do not remember them going into the toilet with. Even the will have to give it to these women.
What they do (and I still can’t say how they accomplish it) is, they wrap some of the fabric around themselves and hold them in place before draping the boubou over themselves. The toilet is the discharge-and-reassemble centre.
After all, as Mama has been known to say, “Nobody ever became king by throwing good money away.”
PS: On Sunday, I was at a ‘Twitter-based’ social gathering: The Naked Convos #TNC2.
I skipped a family gathering and said “No” when the office called me out for a flight. If you know anything about me, it probably will be that work comes first for me – right after family. So if I skipped a family gathering, work did not stand a chance!
I arrived at the venue a little before 4pm and as soon as I walked in, I knew we could not possibly start at 4pm as ‘advertised’. Shoot! I had set up a date for 6:30pm and I was hoping I would be able to accommodate both in the time I had. The forming of attendees na DIE, it took twitter handles to break the ice for a lot of people. Maybe we should wear handle tags next time.
It opened with Ese Peters’ accoustic rendition of Wande Cole’s “Taboo” and it got interesting from that point on. Sadly, I had to leave for my date; I heard it got wild after I left, my loss.
So now, I am sitting on this slightly warm aircraft to Monrovia, and I am thinking how the ’ember’ months have been kind to this son of the Mbas – so far. Hopefully, November will have a whole lot more for me – it has to! Afterall, it is my birth month.