I still remember that day very clearly because it was the day I was scheduled to go on my very first international flight, I was headed to India for a training! I was so excited about the trip, I had my visa, flights were booked with a very nice airline nonetheless, I walked around Lagos that week with my feet barely touching the ground; I was about to become an international traveler, but not without the drama of a Nigerian aunt. My mum told me that my aunt was terrified of my upcoming trip, in my aunt’s words “Aunty mi, e la oju yin si le ki Sarah ma lo si India! India! Aunty mi, awon aje t’o wan be ma n fo ni oju momo!” She was worried about my trip to India where she believed witchcraft was the norm, that it was evident all around you.
Now you have to understand that in many parts of Lagos at the time (I don’t know about now), and even around the university I attended for a few years- Lagos State University (LASU), there were so many posters and advertisement by “Indian gurus” who promised potions that caused instant wealth, love potions, control potions etc. One of them was called Indian Lord Shiva, I still remember his poster, so my aunt was worried. My mum convinced her to calm down, that I would only be gone for a few months and this was not my first trip outside the country. Phew!
I was booked to fly out of Lagos on a 3:30pm flight on the worst traffic day-Friday, and after running a few errands, saying goodbye to family members and finally getting off Lagos Island in my attempt to get to the airport in spite of the manic traffic, I knew I wasn’t going to make it! I got to Ikeja around 3:30 (my flight departure time) and went to my brother’s office for some consolation and lunch, I was starving! Then I called the airline to let them know I had missed my flight, to find out when the next flight was and what I needed to do to be on that flight. I was told that I would pay a $100 fine as the no-show fee, and that I had been booked onto the next flight which was on Monday. All the while, I kept thinking, “darn it, I was hoping to leave here today- Friday and be there by Saturday morning so that I would at least have the weekend to get over some of my jet-lag. Now that has changed, when I get there on Tuesday morning, I’ll have to rush straight into class!!! However, I was grateful that the next flight was only a few days away and was not fully booked.
I got to the airport on Monday (very, very early in case those who wished me evil attempted to prevent my trip again 🙂 and the airline staff who validated my ticket and I had this conversation…
Airline Man (so I’ll call him A.M): Saaaaarahhhhhhh, ah ah, your flight was on Friday now
Me: Yes oh, so sad I missed it
A.M: Why now? (he looks into my eyes smiling)
Me: (thinking to myself ahhhhh he had better not be trying to flirt oh, Sarah just be polite, be nice, maybe he just wants to help): I know sir, it was the traffic (my innocent look was in full force and my innocent voice was at work)
A.M: Awwww, you should have left earlier… Ok, go and check in.
Me: Thank you so much sir (inwardly yelling YES!!! No $100 fine, ha!)
After checking in, going through the customs and immigration checks (which if you are Nigerian, you know is no small feat) and waiting for a couple of hours, I heard the boarding call. So, I proceeded to the boarding counter, had my documents checked again, and went into the boarding tunnel (that’s what those things are called right?).
As I walked into the tunnel smiling to myself, guess who was walking out of it coming from the plane- Airline Man. He stretched out his arms wide and said in Yoruba “se ooo ni hug me ni?” meaning “won’t you give me a hug?” I thought to myself “what???? No, I can’t hug him, I don’t know him, I won’t do it, god, noooooo!” Then an idea hit me!
I immediately went on both knees (as is a form of respect for older people in Yoruba land) and said, “thank you so much for helping me sir, ese gan-an, mo dupe”. Embarrassed (because he must have only been 12-15years older than me) he waved me on and quickly walked away saying “no problem, no problem” because the people coming behind me were watching the entire scene.
I gallantly walked on the plane feeling on top of the world. My $100 intact, my hug tank intact 🙂 and ready to leave Nigeria.
This happened over 10 years ago, and it still makes me chuckle, because I don’t know how I thought of kneeling so quickly, but I am so glad I did!
Have a great week!