My profound apologies for being unable to publish the conclusion as previously promised. I wasn’t up to speed and had to rest awhile. Muah!
You’ll finally find out all about the return leg of my journey. It turns out that the end of the stick I got is apparently not as short as many others have received from Arik. For this I’m thankful and fully sympathetic to my fellow sufferers. I believe ‘suffering and smiling’ as Abami Eda put it, should no longer be the case with organisations that continue to peddle service that’s less than acceptable, that age of ‘managing’ must be put squarely behind us!
So my return flight was scheduled for 19:15 on Friday 1 May, 2015. With previous experience I was prepared for almost anything, so I wasn’t surprised to be told it had been cancelled and my ETA in Lagos moved to Saturday. Taking it all in stride I looked forward to be reacquainted with Abuja. The promise of some delicious cake, tantalising fried rice and other activities loomed on my horizon.
Some hours later (wait for it) I got word that there was a five pm flight that would accommodate our party. My ad hoc plans were abandoned; the only caveat was to keep those aware, in the loop in case anything changed. Yes I’d come to realise that despite the assurance, something or the other could still happen. I was fast becoming a cynic and would only believe I’d be in Lagos when airborne.
Having received word about the five o’clock we got to the airport, only to be told that boarding had closed. Furthermore, we also learnt that we would not have been checked in had we been earlier. This was after many questions, assurances given and lots of turancci. Arik demonstrated how fragmented it was as an organisation because apparently the officer that had told our party to report for the said flight was disconnected from the booking section and somehow gave us inadequate information.
The longer we stayed talking to the personnel, the more counter claims, refutations and other surfaced. Eventually when our claims were (finally) accepted as genuine another phase commenced. I call it the negotiating-a-way-out of an already bad situation. With some probing and doggedness, we discovered that a flight already on the runway had a few seats (ten) for some in our party. We fished out those that just had to be in Lagos and processed their passage.
As things progressed (like they usually do) another ten seats were found and I decided to throw my hat into the ring. After a quick dash to the bus for my things, a retrieval of my ID card and having handed it over I was set. A strange thing happened, my name could not be found on the list, two others peering over shoulders also didn’t have any luck. Thankfully for me, Gbenga (although on the wrong side of the counter) has bionic eyes and saw it and I was given the pass!
Clutching the boarding pass close to my chest, amid a choruses of goodbyes I began to run. Warned to hurry, I took it to heart and got to the scanning section. Dumping everything, I took off my shoes and dashed through the body scan. Retrieving my property at the other end, I hopped a few steps whilst wearing my footwear and continued my sprint to the finish line.
Almost tripping over a woman and her toddler, I had to slow down. When a gap opened up, I overtook and sped down the last flight of stairs into a crush of bodies. Forced to halt, I shuffled into the shuttle going to the plane. At this point in time I couldn’t see the others but guessed they had taken another bus. As the bus started moving, someone from another shuttle came running towards us, waving and shouting for it to stop.
I finally noticed it was Brian and the name on his lips was mine. With the commotion and realisation someone wasn’t meant to be on his shuttle, the driver stopped and I got off. We both trotted to the Arik bus and jumped in. I thanked him for coming to my rescue and simply exhaled on my narrow escape. Joining the queue, the hand-held scanner was used on us and I finally entered the plane bound for Gidi town.
With my heart rate slowly returning to normal, I made my way down the aisle. I knew the oil and sweat on my face was another story, but undeterred I marched on until I found an empty seat. I passed my comrades in my search and we shared smiles. Stowing away my bags, I collapsed into the chair with a heartfelt sigh as I was finally homeward bound.