Interesting things typically happen in transit on flights between London and Lagos. Tolu Ogunlesi’s recent YNaija piece reminded me of a few of my own experiences. Once, a woman who’d probably got lost in the Terminal 5 Duty Free, and on account of whom the flight had been delayed for nearly 45 minutes (they were about to take her luggage off the aircraft) finally showed up, wheeling in a humoungous holdall. Now, even if the overhead locker above her seat had been empty she would still have had trouble fitting her luggage into it. However, this was the London –Lagos flight and she was the last person to board, so the odds that it would be vacant were next to nil. Said lady, opening the locker and seeing it full, casually remarked “You Nigerians sef, is this your seat?” and proceeded to toss all the other bags on the floor. Of course, pandemonium ensued.
The incident after which this piece is titled is no less remarkable for its shock-factor. We were well into the British Airways flight, dinner had been served and cleared, alcoholics had had their nightcaps and passengers were falling asleep on their second or third movies. The lights had long since been dimmed and we were nearing the end of the silence just before the flurry of activity that usually precedes landing; that point when the flight map shows the aeroplane somewhere between Morocco (?) and France. Suddenly, three sharp slaps rent the air, thwap, thwapp, thwapp! “You thief!” the slapper accused.
Going by standard fare in Nigerian comedy circles, the recipient of the slaps must have been a Yoruba man, as the final syllables of all the exclamations that followed left him with his mouth wide open.
“Ha! Ha! Haaa! You slapped me? Me, you slapped me?? I will kill this old woman o!” he screamed. He spread his fingers wide and raised his arm in a pre-slap arc. A gentleman sitting in the row behind them quickly grabbed him mid-swing. “Control yassef” he urged the incandescent man, “are you not a man?”
“You stole my money,” the middle-aged lady alleged.
“Me???!! Steal money from you??? I have three thousand pounds in my brief-case!” as he lunged for her again. But the intervener refused to let go. “You’re a man. Control yassef. Control yassef,” he urged.
By this time, the BA flight attendants had run over in military formation and asked the man to come four rows back, to the rear of the plane, two seats away from me. A male attendant remained with the woman, while the person interviewing the alleged thief was female.
“Did you take her money sir?” the attendant asked. The man, in his late 30s to early 40s, started denying very loudly but she insisted he calmed down before answering. The man, still upset, very firmly refuted the accusation. The male attendant came over very shortly afterwards and asked to confer with his female colleague in the galley. They soon emerged, with female attendant looking slightly embarrassed.
“Ok sir, Let me first of all apologise for what just happened. My colleague has spoken with the passenger beside you. She’s now said she’d been dreaming that someone’s hand was inside her purse and suddenly woke up… I’m really, really sorry sir…we’ll also have to ask you to remain here at this seat until we land at Heathrow… I’m so, so sorry, sir.”
The man was silent for a few seconds, appearing to contemplate the misfortune that had just befallen him. Then, with absolutely no warning, he burst into tears and cried thoroughly, bitterly, broken-heartedly for a good five to ten minutes.