THE PRESSURE COOKER PLANE
This is where the real drama comes in, and I swear I don’t make these things up and I don’t understand why I attract so much drama. The plane had been chartered by the Nigerian Music Awards organization to take press and celebs to Abuja. It was called…you CAN’T believe it…SOUL FLIGHT. I believe it was supposed to be a Virgin Atlantic flight because that’s what had been advertised, but I suspect the deal must have fallen through at the last minute. We finally boarded the plane at 4.30pm only to get in and find it steaming hot inside. One interesting thing I have noticed with Nigerians is the way we access and react to situations. While other people do the boiling point thing, Nigerians are more optimistic and start with cracking jokes about the situation, in hopes that it would get better. Then they go to reality mode where they realize that this thing is no longer funny. You ear phrases like, ‘de tin don get k-leg’, ‘e don comot for jolomi o’ and ‘odikwa risky’. Then you hear them asking questions. Then finally the third stage sets in when it turns into anger and a free for all fist fight for dear life. That was what Addy and Isis found themselves stuck in the middle of. The plane was so freaking hot people were sweating profusely and had to take off their clothes. The ChanChangi pilot and the cabin crew refused to open the door or turn on the air. They said when they turn the engine on that the air would kick in. Ok o. We were patient enough for that. Then some random people that didn’t look like press or celebs. People started getting upset that Chanchangi was selling the empty chairs just to fill up the plane. Basically, selling seats that had already been bought. Floozies!!!!! Meanwhile the cabin was getting hotter and hotter.
By now we had spent up to 30 minutes in the air compressed cabin and everyone was panting for air in the sweltering heat. The pilot starts moving the plane, that’s when all hell broke lose. It is bad enough that flying in Nigeria is traumatic and stressful. Not only was the plane’s rattle raising my blood pressure, looking under the seat to see no life vest really bothered me. My heart rate went up, sweat beads rolling down my face, my nails tapping the arm set. Effiong one of the producers then draws our attention to his broken seat belt. I then called the crew hostess to tell her that I wanted to get off the plane because I was very hot and will not fly under the condition. She was like Ok be patient we will soon take off. Then I told Isis and Alozie, one of our radio producers who is much older, that I was seriously not feeling well.
Before I knew it, tears started rolling down my eyes, my chest was burning and I started gasping for breathe and hyperventilating. I jumped up from my seat and started yelling ‘I need some oxygen PLEASE!!!” I think fear and panic coupled with the heat overcame me. I made my way to the front where the oxygen tank was. There were only two. Isis got one of the safety instruction cards and started fanning me. I swear I must have gone blank. But I could hear cameras clicking and all that flashing was blinding. Isis, realizing this was probably going to end up in something like City People, tries to step between me and the ‘paparazzi’. Effiong and Alozie make their way to the front. By now there was pandemonium on the lane and the pilot was not saying anything over the radio. The crew members were just as retarded. People were kicking on the cock pit door and threatening to open the cabin door if they did not stop the plane. Apparently the pilot was taxing back to the tarmac but because he was not saying anything to calm the passengers down or control the situation we got all panicky.
Moments later another reporter from the Punch Newspaper also starts hyperventilating and nearly faints. They carried her to the front o use the other oxygen tank. Then another guy also starts cursing and shouting that he could not breath and he got very angry and emotional and rushed to the cock-pit like a lunatic screaming, “Open the F—ing door, Stop this F—ing plane, I am dying, I can’t breathe.” As he kicked, my ear was just right next to where he was kicking. I was crying, Isis was also crying and we were already like, ‘Dang we are going to die today if this plane takes off.’ Some guy in the back(Marvelous Benji) seeing how this other dude was behaving thought he was going to open the cabin door while the plane was in motion, now came and grabbed the dude in a choke-hold basically. This only made matters worse because the dude, as small as he was found energy from no where to struggle free. He punched and kicked and of course trust Nigerians to forget that this is some one who is under crisis and is fighting for air.
Anyways 'Marv' and some of his friends also got angry and you can imagine what happened, keeping in mind that these guys had been shacking (drinking) beer all afternoon. The started fighting on the plane, eventually we get to the tarmac and the cabin door opens. You should have seen how people just rushed out the door gasping and gulping air like it was Fanta. People forgot their things on the plane. Meanwhile, the men and the ChanChangi people had rushed ahead for the free for al fight. Everyone was asking what was going on. Then all we saw were some odd number off black clothed hungry looking police men and the white shirts of the ChanChangi and Federal Aviation Authority people. We get to the terminal and we are like we need our luggage to gerrout of this place. The airline folks refused to give it to us. Kate Henshaw who was also on the flight was also telling them to give her her bags, but they refused. So we all waited patiently as they said they would go and bring another plane. As if we are talking about molue or luxurious buses.
Anyways we had spent 45 minutes on board with out air and by now it was like 5.45pm. The drama and shouting continued going on with no end in sight. I spotted some guy who had a camcorder and started coaching him on what to do. Obviously I had come back to my senses and back to reporter mode. Then at one corner I see Effiong in the middle of a scuttle with the ChanChangi people. I think he had tried to play voltron for the dude who could not breathe and got jumped on. So like Spider Woman I think quickly enough to go there and try to get him out of the mess, as per woman now, they will calm down small. Some how it worked but not after the look on my face changed and I yelled and cursed sternly at the people who were trying to rile Effiong up again.
Then I go and find the police officer in the biggest GSB-Aviators (Go Slow Bones… you know the designer knock-off $2/N200 sunglasses they hawk on the streets during traffic. Don’t worry; I have one or two hot ones. Lol) I start narrating calmly all that had happened because it didn’t seem like any resolution was coming. As Isis and I are telling him the story, he is like, ‘Ehn…is dat so... you don’t mean it…geesus….ok I am coming.’ He goes off to make a call. Then another guy from the FAAN comes to us to get a statement and find exactly what happened. To cut the long story short. Chanchangi kicked off the paying passengers, ran the engine of the plane, topped off gas and told us to get back on the plane. We reluctantly got back since they refused profusely to off-load our baggage. We all have a little ‘profession ethics’ discussion amongst ourselves and were like should we get back on considering we had a job to do…actually everyone did, except me. I was just tagging along. Anyways we all got back on (kicking myself for knowingly risking my life at this point) but this time we had some CHURCH up in that plane. Zakky Azzay, who I guess is now a gospel artists prayed this powerful prayer and we clapped and calmed down. There was a little air this time. By now it was like 7.20pm. By the time we got to the take off runway, a voice comes from over the radio, ‘Ladies and gentle men, ya attenshon plis. Unfachoonatly dis plane will not be goin’ to Abooja. The minister of Aviation has ordered dis plane to tern around. So we are going back to the terminal plis.” PHEW!!! You could hear everyone on the plane heave a sigh of relief and clap. SAVED!!!
GETTING TO ABUJA…VIRGIN NIGERIA TO THE RESCUE
We get off the plane and get on the bus to the old terminal as we had originated from the new terminal. Some how we eventually get our luggage after hounding several Chanchangi and FAAN people (notice how I type ChanChangi often, just so that all Google hits will point to this page) I call a friend who works at the Virgin counter and Effiong calls another who was about boarding the 8pm Virgin Nigeria flight. We are still at the old terminal at 7.45pm and needed to get to the international airport. We get an Airport Taxi for N1,500. We told the driver that if there was ever a time that he need to do some rough ‘gra-gra’ driving, this was the time. We got the Virgin counter in just roughly ten minutes breathing and panting heavily. We asked if the flight was still on ground and that we had made reservations blah, blah, blah. The lady was like ‘Sorry, the gate has close and the plane will be leaving soon.’
OOOHH NOOOOO!!!! Come and see us begging. We begged and begged and begged. But all they said to us was NOPE!! We are not taking anymore passengers. Then she said if we really want to go tonight that Bellview had an 8.45 flight and that the sooner we make our way back to the old domestic terminal the better. Was this a sign that we weren’t supposed to go on this trip? I mean everything that could go wrong was going wrong. So we were like, shocks, I guess no Abuja and with our long gloomy faces we made for the sliding doors. As we walked out the door, Isis is like ‘OMG that’s Yemi!!” I am like who the hell is that?
Apparently she knew this fella through some six degrees of separation type link (WHOA!! I just had a Eureka moment here…is that where Six Degrees North at Bacchus gets its name from or is it a coincidence? Hmh… that’s deep. Totally rad...Back to the story) He was one of the directors at Virgin… ‘A Virgin Big Boy.’ Kai…GOD You 'IS' wonderful. Isis starts telling him about our ordeal and how we needed to be on that flight. He was amazed and shocked by our story that he ‘felt pity’ for us, waved his friends off and was like ‘Come with me.’ You can guess what happened and it went something like this…
‘Bisi…is the plane still on the ground? Yes Sir….Get these people on it right now… But sir the gate is closed … Nkechi dis is Yemi we have 3 more passengers please open the gate…But their bags sir…Musa check their bags at the plane otherwise they can go on board with it… Yes Sir… Collect their money and issue them a boarding pass… what about their ticket sir… deal with that later, just get them on that flight….yes sir.
Luckily for me I had gone to the bank two weeks ago and had money and I helped my colleagues out. We counted N45, 000, dumped it on the counter with the ticketing lady and ran to the gate like a lion was chasing us. E got on board panting and laughing with joy. Apparently the pilot had announced to the passengers that there was a slight delay and some more passengers were being expected and he apologized. So when we walked aboard looking all crazy, some woman just hissed loudly. ‘PSHIIIIEEEEWWWW…iz even SILVA-BED people.” When she said that we were like, “Ah madam no talk like that o, if you know what we have gone through today you will thank God we are here, Chanchangi wanted to boil us alive.’ We settled down and started narrating our amazing ordeal to the attentive ears of the other passengers and cabin crew members. The flight took off at about 8.40pm. They gave us food, drinks and most importantly REFRIDGERATED OXYGEN. We slept like babies on the flight and got to Abuja at around 9.30pm. We were so happy and I finally was in this city called Abuja that I had never ever been to before. Paradise. As in can I relocate to Abuja or what? Anyways Virgin Nigeria and Yemi came to our rescue; he get's Addy's hero of the month award. So if anyone knows this Yemi please say a big thank you to him and give him a big hug for rescuing Addy and Friends. But just because he hooked us up doesn’t now mean that you too should go and be looking for Yemi at Virgin to hook you up. You might just get bundled out by airport security.