I don’t know if you’re familiar with the saying, “Writers are great eavesdroppers.” It’s actually a statement of fact. All good writers keep their ears to the ground since any information gathered today can become a writing ingredient tomorrow.
Such was my experience on an Accra-Lagos flight about two weeks ago.
I was allocated seat No. 28B, which was a middle seat. I don’t like sitting in the middle but the lady check-in officer couldn’t help. She said the flight was full and there was no way she could allocate another seat to me.
I had to accept.
The flight was truly full. But despite the fact that all the seats in the aircraft had almost been occupied, I realized that I was still the only one in my row. Boarding was almost completed but seat No. 28A to my left and seat No. 28C to my right remained empty.
‘What could be happening? Is this a kind of 419 from that lady or what? Well, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. I may be having three seats to myself afterall.’ Those were the thoughts going on in my brain.
The pilot’s voice came on air. He calmly introduced himself, gave a quick analysis of weather condition, and informed us of the estimated flight time. He also apologized for the “little delay” in departure.
Don’t mind him. What he called “little delay” was more than two hours of frustrating wait at the airport departure lounge.
Anyway, the apology was just part of their “normal routine” as any frequent flyer on West African routes will attest. Those guys never depart or arrive on time and we don’t ever bother to sue them.
With the pilot’s “welcome address” completed, I was quite sure that the owners of seat Nos. 28A and 28C were not going to fly with us. How happy I was that I would be able to stretch my long frame properly.
I moved to the window seat (28A), closed my eyes, relaxed, and prayed silently as I waited for takeoff.
That’s another thing we all do. We must pray each time we fly.
Hmm, the pilot had prepared our minds for a “mild turbulence on the way” and everyone in this part of the world knows the meaning of that kind of announcement.
It’s usually a request for passengers to sprinkle the plane with the blood of Jesus.
It’s a call for Heavens to personally pilot the plane as you gallop and possibly confess your sins during the flight.
“Excuse me sir, that’s my seat.”
I opened my eyes to see two beautiful ladies waiting for me to move back to my original seat number 28B.
We know them. They are the “notice me” type of ladies who will rather wait until the plane is about to take off before they board.
I think it’s actually a kind of advertisement strategy. How else would they be able to do a fashion parade for everyone to see? Oh yes, they must wait to do some catwalk from the front of the plane once everyone is comfortably seated.
“Ah! Sorry about that,” I said as I gave one of them the chance to move to the window seat.
The other one occupied the aisle seat No. 28C.
Now you know what must have followed. I found myself back in the middle seat, sandwiched in-between two pretty ladies.
I watched as they both settled down.
One of them brought out a small mirror from her bag and quickly powdered her face.
Her friend fumbled with two expensive-looking handsets and began to switch them off.
For the want of comfort, I muttered: “It’s going to be a smooth ride this morning.”
“Yeah,” they both chorused as if they had been waiting for me to talk.
But what made me utter those words? I’m not sure if it was the anxiety from what the pilot had said about turbulence, or the fact that I was going to enjoy a smooth ride in the middle of two warm bodies (Haaaa!…Catechist!!!).
“Eh, eeeh, Mary, as I was saying, there is no point in going into a relationship with a man whose wallet is not fat enough to take care of you. That kind of relationship is bound to fail.”
That was the lady in the window seat. She was reopening an uncompleted discussion.
“Of course, Tinu, why would a lady suffer herself for nothing? When some people talk about love I just laugh at them. I wonder if men are worth sacrificing for. I beg, any man that is not up to the task can go and marry his own sister, not me.” The other lady on my right responded, laughing gleefully as she stole a quick look at me.
By that time, I knew that I was in for a ‘smooth ride’ indeed.
“Boarding completed.” The air hostess announced.
The plane would soon begin to taxi for takeoff.
My two neighbors were born chatterboxes. I wondered if they realized someone was right there in-between them – a man for that matter!
Not for one second did they stop talking as we took off. And the discussion was still about the role that money plays in a relationship between a man and a woman. To them, any man that doesn’t have money should forget about love. Money, they reasoned, is the oil that powers love.
The ride was quite smooth and I kept my eyes closed as we cruised for the first 25 minutes of the journey.
I pretended to be taking a nap, but I guess those ladies knew I was wide awake. They were probably bent on drawing me into their discussion.
As they spoke, so they gesticulated; inadvertently punching my cramped body.
I enjoyed the treatment at first. But it soon became clear that I could end up with some bruises I wouldn’t be able to explain to my wife at home.
‘What do I do now? These ladies are horrible chinwaggers. How could gorgeous ladies like these be so talkative early in the morning?’ I thought.
I was pressed at a point so it became a good idea to visit the washroom. Maybe they would have kept quiet before my return.
I opened my eyes and turned to the one sitting on the aisle seat.
“Excuse me, please. I need to use the restroom.”
“Okay,” she said as she gave way for me to pass.
“Do you want me to accompany you?” Tinu, the lady in the window seat joked.
“Ha, no o, that would be haram,” I replied.
The three of us laughed as I walked down to the nearest toilet in the aircraft.
Now I knew these ladies definitely wanted me to talk. ‘Why would she want to follow me to the lavatory?’ I mused.
On the way back to my seat, I made up my mind that I would engage them vigorously. It would be unwise to allow them to disturb my peace without giving them some run for their loud mouths.
“Sorry, I swapped seats in your absence, Sir.”
It was Mary. She had moved closer to her friend. She now occupied my seat, leaving her original seat for me to sit on.
Before I could say a word, her friend spread her hand and said, “Oh, we’ve not even done any introduction. This is my friend, Mary, and I am Tinu. Nice meeting you.”
They’ve won. I shook their hands, introduced myself, and sat down.
“You’re such a gentleman, Sir. You must be a Doctor, am I right?” Mary asked.
Those ladies sure had effronteries. They were the typical Lagos ladies. But what could have brought them to Ghana?
As if reading my mind, Tinu quickly explained that they were colleagues in the office, and were returning from a training program in Accra.
The discussion about money and relationship resumed as soon as the introductions were completed. This time, I became an active participant – If you can’t beat them, you join them.
But maybe it was actually a big error for me to have got myself drawn into such a sensitive debate. Those ladies almost tore me into pieces. It was a case of one man against two aggressive ladies.
I told them that the greatest mistake any lady could make is to enter into a relationship with a man because of his money. I played the Catechist in me by preaching that money could not buy love. I counseled that yes, money is very important, but it must be accompanied by respect, honesty, care, and affection from man.
I tried to convince them that many men feel that ladies are only interested in their wallets. For that reason, they treat their spouses as commodities that could be bought, consumed, and disposed at anytime.
Lord have mercy! It was as if I was speaking in some extraterrestrial language. Those ladies would not budge. As far as they were concerned, love cannot be nurtured without good money in a man’s wallet. He must be able to meet all his woman’s needs. He must be able to satisfy her financially.
They wouldn’t agree with me that a couple could both “struggle” together. Tinu educated me that the era of surulere (patience with a man) is gone forever; it is now a matter of Olorunsogo (God has done wonders). According to her, of what use is a man who cannot buy her jewelry, shoes, clothes, bags, and also put a car under her bum?
Thank God for the rough weather that came to my rescue as we began our descent into Lagos. It was really turbulent up there and that actually silenced the two ladies for the first time since the beginning of our flight.
At a stage, Mary brought out her rosaries and started praying silently.
Tinu reached for her handbag, brought out some chewing gums and started chewing herself away; shouting “Jesus!” intermittently as the plane entered into “potholes”.
Praise the Lord! We landed safely. It was the end of another hairy flight. Little wonder why we are a praying people.
Throughout that day, I kept on having a flashback of my discussion with those engaging ladies. I asked myself a series of questions:
- Could this be one of the reasons for the inability of our ladies to get married?
- Will they ever get willing young men to marry them?
- Is a poor man doomed as far as relationship is concerned?
- Is it true that ladies don’t want to join men in struggling for a better tomorrow?
- How come my “preaching” didn’t enter into those ladies’ eardrums; yet they remembered Jesus when we experienced turbulence in the air?
Questions, questions, questions; but few answers.
Maybe I acted old school. Maybe I didn’t know that the days of surulere have truly gone as one of them said.
Maybe, maybe, maybe… a lot of maybes.