TRAVAILS AT AN AIRPORT

Murtala Mohammed Airport was filled with people as usual checking in their luggage, people saying their goodbyes to loved ones, others going about their business selling airtime. It was my first time traveling from Lagos by air. The airline I booked for was a new one, according to my sister had all the good qualities of an airplane.

I was dropped off at the airport with my luggage and I cursed the cab man under my breath for not lending a helping hand with my luggage from the boot.

I dragged my luggage into the airport and asked the security guard who told me the airline was located at the local airport and told me I had to take a cab there. Luckily for me, the cab man who dropped me off was still calling out for passengers, I called out to him to take me to the local airport and as the first time he didn’t offer any help with my luggage.

We got to the local airport and I got out of the cab hoping that this time he would have a change of heart and help me with my luggage. He just sat down waiting for me to get out of his car and may be get the hell out of Lagos as well. I was furious, but tried not to let my anger get the better of me.

“Excuse me sir, can you be kind enough to help me with my luggage? He turned around and gave me a stern look, and for the first time I noticed he had the ugliest tribal marks I had ever seen which turned out to be scary, maybe it was a mark of punishment, they were strangely so long. It made me want to say “no wonder you’ve got such attitude man”. He looked at me for about five seconds and hesitated to get out of the car until I shouted “mr man I have a damn flight to catch, help me with my luggage will you? Before getting out of the cab he said something in yoruba which I couldn’t make out but cared less about.

I went into the local airport dragging my luggage with me and approached a security guard asking for the airline, he told me it had its own terminal and so I had to take another cab there. Immediately I felt weak. I started to open my mouth to yell at the security guard, asking him what kind of an airport this is, not well structured, comparing Nnamdi Azikwe Airport in Abuja with it, but realized he wasn’t one of the builders or one of those who engineered the building of the airport and that he was only a worker in the airport. I simply thanked him and turned around to look for a cab.

Fortunately for me, a guy noticed that I needed a cab and ran to me. I asked him how much it was for him to take me to the airline’s terminal and he told me #1500. “#1500 ke? “Is the terminal not situated inside this same airport we are? Its not like we are going out of this airport, you think that its everybody that comes to the airport that is loaded with too much money. “Okay pay #1400 then” he said. After we haggled for a few minutes, we finally agreed on #1200. He helped with my luggage and we got into the car and drove to the terminal.

The drive was a short one. My heart bled that I paid the cab man a whole #1200 for just a short drive. He brought out my luggage out of the cab and there a man was waiting for me with a trolley to put in my luggage, he looked like he was going to fall off the trolley, he had this lazy stare which could throw one off balance. I was happy that I wouldn’t have to drag my luggage into the building.

I went in to check in my luggage and when I finished, the man with the trolley told me I had to pay for his services and that it is #500. And here I was thinking that the trolley service was free. When putting my luggage into the trolley he didn’t mention that I was going to pay for his services. It was then I discovered that the man used what the yoruba people call OGBOJU for me. I paid him and concluded, next time I would be smarter!

I went into the departure lounge and was surprised at the number of people there, the lounge was half empty. I guessed it was because the airline was a new one and so not manh people knew about it. I looked around and chose to sit in front of the television where I could watch what was being shown.

There was a man going around advertising his books, who looked like he was going to beat everyone for not giving him an audience, a woman selling airtime who had a crying baby strapped to her back, passengers buying snacks from the Mr Biggs shop nearby. Not more than thirty minutes after sitting down at the lounge, a shrill female voice from the speaker announced that my flight was ready for boarding.

I got into the plane and looked for my seat number, found it and sat down to prepare for the journey to Abuja. An old man who should be in his late sixties, he had wrinkles all over his face sat down beside me and we exchanged pleasantries. We had not been ten minutes into the journey than the old man brought out a cigar, and started to smoke it knowing fully well that the plane was a non smoking area but he seemed not to care.

I looked at him with disdain, he turned to look at me, frowned and said “excuse me young lady, what’s with the face? “sir, you are smoking in a non smoking area, in a plane for that matter, don’t you know that smoking in a plane is a criminal offense which could land you in jail, and as an old man it isn’t good for you? Other passengers looked towards our direction amd and made passing comments at the man. “Oh please, to hell with all that nonsense” he said. It is not in your place to tell me whether smoking in the plane is a criminal offense or that smoking isn’t good for me. “Of course its in my place, this plane is filled with human beings and not animals if you are not aware of that and for all I know what you are smoking could endanger the lives of people on this plane”. He looked at me and said “endanger my foot”, laughed and continued smoking. Others tried stop him from smoking but didn’t listen.

One of the flight attendants walked up to the old man, I was hoping he would caution the old man but what happened next came as a shock to me. “Excuse me sir, I hope you are having a good time? He asked. “Obviously I am, thank you” he replied. “Good to hear sir, can I have a cigarette please? He asked smiling sheepishly. “Sure why not? The old man reached out to his pocket and brought out some cigars and offered the flight attendant three cigars. “Oh thank you very much sir”. He said happily and left to smoke it and probably share it with his fellow colleagues. The old man turned to me and gave me a mocking stare.

I couldn’t believe what just happened but then I remembered I was in Nigeria and not in America where laws are not abided or taken seriously and where the laws are broken by either the lawmakers or agents of the government.

My plane arrived Abuja safely and we got out of the plane. I went to get my luggage and moved to where I could board a cab home. I got one, the cab man helped me with my luggage into the cab and drove off. Suddenly the cab man started to tell me the story of his life,  how his parents died in a ghastly motor accident when he was fifteen years old in the village and how he had to come to the city to struggle which had also not been going on fine. He got so emotional and started sobbing and I was just staring at him, tears rolling out of his eyes and one thing was going through my mind, what if he was a kidnapper and those words he said could make me fall asleep? I quickly pleaded the blood of Jesus upon myself.

He looked at me and quickly turned to look at the road and he said something I didn’t expect him to say. “Look here, am not a kidnapper who is trying to use words to make you sleep and kidnap you, I just needed you to listen to me that’s all. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable and bore you with my pathetic story. I was speechless and just went on staring at him till we got to my destination. I paid him and he got my things out from the cab and looked at me straight in the eye which sent a cold chill down my spine. Strange as it sounds, i felt a special feeling towards him but waved it off immediately for fear that it could be affection and took it for pity.

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