The tall, frowning airline attendant popped open the overhead covers as she cat-walked the jumbo jet’s narrow aisle, and then released a visible aerosol into them. Phish, phish.
“What’s she doing?” Akwete asked, his brow as tight as a rumpled towel. He could smell it. It smelled like…an insecticide.
“Spraying the overhead,” Francis answered, looking nonplussed.
“You ask her.”
Getting no help from his friend, Akwete looked around for faces that telegraphed the same reaction he had. Everyone else acted as if nothing had transpired. Frustrated, he leaned into the aisle and raised his hand. “Ma’m.”
The British Nigerian Airline attendant paused. “Yes?” No smile.
“Why are you spraying the overhead?”
She slammed the overhead cover shut and then sashayed her way towards the rear of the plane.
Akwete leaned back on his seat and threw side glances as he processed the event he’d just witnessed. He turned to Francis “You see that? She ignored me.”
Francis shifted in his seat, subtly showing irritation with his friend’s preoccupation. “Welcome to my world. Listen. Maybe she’s trying to get rid of the onion smells. I’m not talking about vegetables. You know that some of these travellers don’t take their baths before they get on a plane.”
Sniff sniff. “I don’t smell anything sweet,” Akwete announced.
“My point,” Francis countered.
“Lagos weather will make you sweat. When you sweat you stink. That’s natural.”
“You’re being generous. Wear deodorant and you don’t have to. That’s all I’m saying.”
“If she’s going after the body odours then she should spray down, abi? Right?”
“Maybe the handbook says spray up. What does it matter?”
“See? It matters. It’s making that little girl cough.”
“Maybe she has a cough.”
“Maybe she doesn’t.”
“How do you know? Her mother is right there sitting by her. She’s not complaining.”
“She is, Francis. She’s covering her face and giving the girl strange looks.” Akwete rose up.
“Where you dey go?” Francis asked, flashing a furrowed brow.
Akwete pointed. A male version of the spraying attendant patrolled the aisle, spraying the overheads above him as well. Akwete walked up to him and yanked the spray can out of his hand.
“What are you doing?” the tall, shaggy-haired attendant asked.
“What are you doing? This is a toxic aerosol you’re spraying in here.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Tell that to that little girl sitting there. She started coughing after you guys started spraying this thing.”
The attendant reached for the can and missed. “Sir, you need to take your seat.”
“Did you ask the passengers if they mind getting exposed to this? You guys would not do this if your passengers were English or American. Do Nigerians look like insects to you that you can spray this crap in here?”
“I’m calling security,” the pouty attendant announced as she brushed past Akwete and the male attendant.
“Call President Jonathan if you want. This is ridiculous.” Akwete turned to face the passengers. They looked like they’d be happy to throw him out the window of the plane if asked. Francis, looking like he’d rather be somewhere else, ducked behind the airline seat. Akwete continued, “My fellow Nigerians, how can you people sit there and allow these people to spray you like you’re infectious insects? I’m sure that when they checked our bags with scanners they would’ve seen those little buggers running around inside the bags, abi? Right? And this is supposed to be a Nigerian airline? We sit around and allow corrupt politicians to turn our great oil-producing nation into a generator-nation. And now we sit down compliantly in our own airline and allow foreigners to spray us like we’re cockroaches! My God!”
“Bobo, make you sit down. You’re embarrassing us!” a voice called out.
“Maybe na terrorist,” another voice called out from another part of the plane. She was the lady who covered her nose when the little girl coughed.
“Maybe na Osama Bin Laden send am! Wey security when we need am?”
“Ignorant woman,” a passenger hissed. “You no hear say Obama don kill Osama.”
“He no matter. Na Osama pikin send am!”
Come with me, sir,” a deep, raspy voice called behind Akwete.
Akwete turned around. A Nigerian security agent covered-up in a suit and sweat, glowered menacingly at Akwete. “Why should I come with you?”
“You’re disturbing the peace.”
“I’m not going anywhere. I bought my ticket, just like everyone else in this plane.”
“May I see your ticket, please?”
Akwete handed him his ticket.
“Where are you going?”
“Los Angeles. Stop-over in London.”
“What do you do in Los Angeles?”
“I live there and make a honest living.”
“Doing what, sir?”
“With due respect, sir. The issue is not what I do in Los Angeles but what this airline is subjecting its passengers to.”
“Come with me, sir.”
“I told you that I’m not leaving this plane. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Take him off the plane!” a voice cried out from behind him.
“Akwete! Na you?”
Akwete shifted his gaze and noticed DJ Koololo waddle his way towards him from the first class section of the plane. “Koolo, my broda. How you dey?” A slight commotion erupted in the plane. Passengers shoved each other to get a glimpse.
DJ Koololo parted the security detail like the Red Sea and then gave Akwete a bear hug. “I heard the attendants talking. I say let me come check this thing out myself. What’s going on?”
“Sir, Mr. Koololo,” the security agent began. “I’m sorry, sir. But he has to deplane. For security reasons.”
“Listen, Mr. Policeman. This man is clean. He’s my promoter in Los Angeles. I didn’t even know he was on the plane o. Eh?”
The security agent stood up a little straighter just as DJ Koololo politely turned away autograph seekers. “DJ, sorry, sir. I am following protocol. He has to come with me.”
“Then I’ll come with him,” DJ Koololo declared. “I am with my brother here. Let’s go.”
“I need to get my bag.” Akwete marched back towards his seat.
Francis came out of his crouch and wagged a scolding finger at Akwete. “I told you not to do it. You don’t listen. What’s in that water you people drink in Los Angeles, eh? The same thing happened to Fela. He used to be a gentleman before he went there.”
Akwete patted him fondly on his back. “Relax. I’ll be back.” Akwete followed DJ Koololo and the security personnel out of the plane.
“Your friend is in deep trouble, my friend,” a passenger told Francis. “Big trouble!”
Francis retreated back into his fetal position, and covered his ears with his earphones. “He’s not my friend.” The flight captain came on to apologize for the delay, while the spraying attendants resumed their spraying of the overheads.
Munites later Akwete and DJ Koololo strolled back into the plane, both sporting smiles as big as the River Niger. DJ Koololo signed autographs and led a couple of rabid fans in a rendition of one of his songs. Akwete walked over to Francis and hugged him.
“What happened?” Francis asked.
“I’m getting out of here, man.” Akwete answered as he gathered the rest of his belongings.
“Are they arresting you?”
“Arrest me ke? Na lie o. No be dis Akwete! I dey go first class, my broda, courtesy of Kool.”
Francis was speechless for a moment. “First…class?”
“They don’t do this spray nonsense there. I’ll see you in London, man.”
“Can I …” Francis started, but Akwete was gone before he finished. A few minutes later, Akwete reappeared to escort the coughing little girl and her uncle back into first class. Francis leaned back on his seat and searched around his immediate area for something he could complain loudly about.