Friday, November 30, 2007

Jeremy moans about Nigerian airlines again

Ok so its all my fault. Flying from Abuja to Lagos on a Friday is an insane idea. It was however close to unavoidable - I had a 2pm meeting so getting an early afternoon flight (your only chance of avoiding pyschological scars on the way to the commercial capital) was a no no. And there was something I was supposed to be at tomorrow 9.30 in the city of sin/house of wisdom.

And I was feeling so fly. I had my sunglasses on, my nice white lace Nigerian thing on, with Wayne Shorter's classic "Introducing" album on the Ipod, booming through my Sennheiser cans. The music pushed me out into the antediluvian landscape that was flashing by, describing the molars and mounds in cool-jazz arpeggios and stutters. Mehn, I was feeling tutu.

I commandeer a trolley for my luggage, swatting away the suya-sellers with their brown envelopes of barbecued cow. I'm still feeling like Miles somewhere between Kind of Blue and In a Silent Way. Husky but not too husky voice, aviator specs, pre-shell-suit-back-to-the-crowd-jheri-curls-sunglasses-swallowing-the-face.

And then I roll up to the Bellview desk, with a good hour to get my flight. The desk has a sign saying Closed. Uh-oh - that's weird. I ask the lady behind the counter what's up...

This was the point when Newtonian reality fell rapidly away, to be replaced by something closer to a cocktail of Heisenberg and Schrodinger.

Me: What is happening madam? I have a ticket for the evening flight.
She: Pause. We don't know.
Me: What do you mean you don't know? Is the 18:25 flight cancelled or not?
She: We don't know.
Me: How can you not know whether the flight is cancelled or not? Surely, you must know one way or the other?
She: [silent shrug]

Jeremy takes a mental step back. The normal rules of the game have stopped applying. It is not a question of an 'either/or' [either the plane comes from Lagos, or it is cancelled], but rather a 'both/and' [the plane will come from Lagos. And it will not leave. Version two: the plane may come from Lagos. And we don't know anything else]..

A sick philosophical side to my personality loves these weird out-of-body unreality experiences that Nigeria specialises in. How to get back to a language game that makes some sort of rational sense? Surely you can work that one out onyeocha? C'mon, show us your conceptual hustle...

Me: Madam. How is that you do not know whether the plane will leave or not? Surely you must be in touch with Lagos, and they can give you an update? Why don't you call them up and find out?
She: They don't want to tell us in Lagos. No one wants to be implicated. We are fed up too..

Aaaah - that's the shape of the rational penny that droppeth from the sky:

The Bellview plane must have been delayed in Lagos (probably a FAAN check - some of their planes are looking a bit Flash-Gordon-era - you can almost see the strings holding them to the sky). It will therefore get to the Buj late. By which time, most of the passengers will have disappeared onto other airlines or buggered off home. Therefore, the woman behind the counter is giving people refunds now, rather than face a wall of abuse later on from stranded passengers, or the prospect of an empty plane back to MMA. Its game theory. She doesn't know what Lagos is thinking, therefore she is imagining the worst (the plane doesnt even get off the ground), to cover her derriere.

I get a refund. Another Bellview operative tries to wheedle me on to the Chanchangi and the Aero (the Aero queue for the 7pm is by now a cross between a bare-knuckle boxing crowd without a ring and a cattle market on the outskirts of Borno. Must it always be so, I ask myself. This airline has been going since the 1950's hasn't it?). The only thing is for me to pay 20,000 to a tout for fake-business class. No way buster.

So, it ain't happening at the cattle shed that is the local airport. I am now feeling like Miles with purple shell suit at some ghastly European jazz festival in the 1980s.

Aminu the driver re-appears and we schlep to the International airport. No one at the Arik desk knows what's happening (betraying an all too typical yet always baffling Nigerian disconnect between someone working at a company and their utter ignorance of what is happening). Eventually I find out from someone in the inner office that all the flights are booked. I go to Virgin Nigeria (in desperation, you know what I think about 'em) - all flights are booked, including all tomorrow morning's flights. One of the Virgin Nigeria staff makes a flattering remark about my baffs. I am not in the mood, oremi.

I listen to The The's classic album Soul Mining on the way home in the Baby Blue. It is dark outside. My mind and body trawls back nearly 20 years to those endless afternoons in bed with Corinne, a pile of pistachios in a bowl nearby, watching ourselves undulate in a mirror as Matt Johnson melodes through the speakers. Outside its Israel.

So: Abuja it is. Fate rests me in this dusty city for the weekend.


uche,  9:37 pm  

Interesting way of capturing your ordeal at the airpoprt. Can't beleive you went to Virgin Nigeria though, i guess you have to do what you have to do.

Love your style of writing....LOL@ the gaff about your baffs.

Confessions of a moody crab 11:26 pm  

lol @ your baff. Nigerian airlines.....same old, same old

Sorry they busted you..err..bubble?

Waffarian 1:56 am  

Jeremy, ahhhh, all these ya slangs this time around...shuoooooo, I bow for u oh!

Naapali 5:26 am  

Loved this. Flowed like the jazz u were listening to. So you had imagined your flight status as being binary but the Naija element reshaped the question. If only you had hedged against your leaving Abuja, you could have made a killing. Perhaps what is needed is a good derivatives and futures market and you can turn these disappointments into cash!

Anonni Mouse,  3:59 pm  

Quantum Aero Dynamics (QAD).

Feynmann would be proud.

Anonymous,  4:02 pm  

Is that 'ore mi' (as in my friend) or 'o remi' (as in i'm tired)?

Uche,  4:21 pm  

I had to catch an emergency flight to Lagos this week from London & all airlines were fully booked. Out of desperation, I had to take a Bellview flight from Gatwick as a last resort.

I was actually pleasantly surprised, everything went pleasantly smoothly with the exception of the food . I am quite surprised that they will go through all this effort to make their international flights more pleasant than one will expect & not make any effort to have great customer service on their local routes.

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS 10:21 pm  


I am sorry that I was laughing through the whole post. I was not being mean, it was just that I could picture you walking in to the airport and even stepping in time to the music only to come to a screeching halt at the counter...
so sorry...

Olamide Obalisa 10:49 pm  

Didn't know reading the chronicles of travel in Nigeria could be so interesting. Well written!!

Anonymous,  4:30 am  

Uncle Jeremy, this post must go into your chronicles. Meanwhile, sorry o.

Anonymous,  5:30 am  

Years ago, I was trying to catch a flight on my Nigerian Airlines return ticket from Abidjan to Lagos. Nigerian Airlines would not answer the phone, so I took a taxi to their office in downtown Abidjan. Not opened. Finally, about 4pm, their agent shows up. I asked him what time the Tuesday flight was leaving. The answer was "Thursday". On Thursday, the 6pm flight finally left at 11pm.

Fredrick Chiagozie Nwonwu 4:27 pm  

Jeremy, U are nothin but a loveable craze man! I so love this ur style. I am not done laughing. Chei, u nor go kill pesin. Anyway's, Mayhaps you need to dare the devils along the Lokaja/Lagos highway and try the Igbo traders night bus, that will be an experience. Man, you write!

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