Monday October 31st, 2011. I arrived at Port Harcourt City airport after a 5-day retreat with various uncles, aunties, cousins, nephews and nieces, most of whom never believed that I would get round to visiting them (as the last 15 years went by with a no-show) and whom were not expecting me back again until 2013. I got to the Check-in desk 2 hours early and was welcomed with a short queue and no airline representative in sight. The queue was already beginning to split into a ‘Y’ formation due to the excess luggage dump of one passenger whom I reckon was relocating permanently to the Land Attracting Generations Of Scavengers. It was quite obvious that by the time the check-in desk was operational there would be a squabble over who was or who wasn’t next in line.
Lo and behold, the check-in assistant appeared about 45 minutes later and took another 15 minutes to ‘start-up’ her system, though I think she was actually going through the airline’s quick manual on how to check-in luggage (which is by far quicker and less embarrassing than reading Luggage Check-in for Dummies). Squabbles ensued as predicted and I just stood my ground like the hard-head I am. One passenger who had been standing beside the queue grabbed the wrist of the next passenger to be rightfully served and explained that his own check-in wouldn’t take long (I bet I could count the number of brain cells in his head – that wouldn’t take very long either!). That molester got the censored response, though I would have much preferred he had his luggage shoved down his throat.
Afterwards I found myself trying to get my boarding pass ‘pierced’ with an airport tax sticker which was, wait for it, free of charge! My question is, If every passenger had already paid for it in ticket prices then why did we have to inconvenience ourselves by joining yet another queue to get some little sticker on our boarding passes? Couldn’t that have been incorporated into the check-in queue? Oh I forgot, maybe that would have required even more brain power for the airline representative! Whilst in that queue I was confronted with a mushy roll of toilet paper at the tip of my shoe. Seconds later a crouched lady dumped another roll of toilet paper which began to look like it was soaked in white vomit. Before I could react I noticed that the ‘vomit’ was coming from her bloated sports bag. It was oozing. Next to it was the culprit – a bottle of body lotion which obviously wasn’t packed properly. She knew if she didn’t tidy up this mess her bag would be seized for potential bomb inspection and subsequent disposal.
On getting to the queue for screening/metal detection I was pleasantly amused by the banter going on between a tolerant screening official and an impossible passenger, whom after surrendering his phones and jewellery, was refusing to take off his shoes:
Passenger: Why do I have to take off my shoes? If this was an international flight I would understand! This is my country!
Official: Take off your shoes, sir.
Passenger: Don’t you think it is not right? Why should I take off my shoes? Do you think I am hiding something in my shoes?
Official: Just take off your shoes, sir.
Passenger: This is nonsense. I don’t see why I have to take off my shoes. You should take this matter up with your authorities.
Official: Sir, you can put that in writing. But for now you must take off your shoes.
(Official 1 Passenger 0)
By the time I finally boarded the flight I was in for some more entertainment. Just before take-off I was subjected to a 3-minute ordeal of the flight safety routine orchestrated by an air steward with a very feminine side. Each time he struck a pose I could’ve sworn he was behind the choreography of Madonna’s Vogue video. I tried hard not to laugh while other passengers appeared to stare in utter disbelief. By the time the plane took off (with a particularly turbulent assent) the passenger sitting diagonally on my left started snoring so loudly that I silently prayed for some more turbulence just to wake him up.
I was so glad when we finally touched down in Lagos city. My sanity and my luggage all in one piece, my dad’s driver picked me up and drove me home. The following day I put on my laptop, loaded my internet bundle, and pondered on the best way to start an article which summarized all the crazy scenarios I encountered on my trip back from Port Harcourt City. I titled it ‘Orders, Hoarders and crossing Borders’…