beep beep beep. the obnoxious noise accompanied by red lights flashing. the boarding pass scanner was going mental.
‘just hang on a sec.’ the air france employee said.
‘okay.’ i replied absent mindedly.
‘they’ve changed your seat. i’ve printed you a new boarding pass.’ he concluded.
‘okay, thanks.’ automated response.
looking down at the new permit handed to me, i was thrust out of zombie mode and delighted to find that i had been bumped to business class. i had no idea how it was possible and kept quiet as i felt it had to be some mistake.
i walked with purpose down what seemed like an endless ramp, only to arrive at the bus marked port harcourt. i felt the cool air, cooler than the true air temperature after having gone through that sickening wave of heat near the automatic doors. my head felt clear, i breathed in fresh air until it was disrupted by the smell of fuel and exhaust fumes.
on the bus, we crammed in. having made a number of last minute purchases, i felt like an octopus: superfluous arms grasping at a ridiculous number of items. it seemed particularly extravagant in light of thought of the man i bought a copy of the big issue from the other day. he didn’t have a home to go to and here i was with two bottles of veuve clicquot, a new longchamp bag, various clothing items and unnecessary trinkets purchased from some junk store or another.
beyond what would be legal fire capacity, and it felt as tightly packed as it sounds, the bus began its lengthy journey to the tarmac.
i still didn’t think it would be possible at this point that i would be sat in 6A for the six hour flight. i climbed the stairs to the massive plane. displaying my pass, the attendant smiled widely and informed me my seat would be to the right.
another attendant asked immediately if i had a coat which needed hanging. i looked down at my jumper. i did not need help with a coat. i thought about how the french staff had an excellent hold of the english language. my french was horrendous since i dropped the subject after year 9, despite doing very well. a stupid move in retrospect.
i considered the state i was in. comfortable clothing, trousers with a wacky pattern, tattered old hoodie, a scarf which would have been better suited to nicer threads.
i looked at my surroundings, a wide window seat, not quite one of those tricked out cubicles, but the most luxurious seat i have ever had the pleasure of sitting in during a flight. big tv screen, 10cm of space on either side of my own proportions and no concern about bothering the person in 7A if i moved the seat back. i stored my gear and settled into my anticipated indulgence.
i expected someone to come along and take the aisle seat next to me and began reading my book.
‘champagne or juice?’
‘champagne, s’il vous plait.’
yet another attendant smiled as she extended the tray for me to choose my drink. real glass, a large serving. i tried not to show how elated i was about this experience as i took my first sip of bliss.
i continued to read and sip as we waited on the tarmac for take-off. there were the usual intermittent ignored announcements.
my brain chimed in when it said, it being the captain: ‘we are late taking off because of the sheer amount of luggage being loaded but we should be on the move in the next couple of minutes.’ nigerians were notorious for carrying extra bags.
i smiled and sunk deeper into my chair, realising that i would not be bothered by a single serving friend when i was in no emotional position to be social with a stranger. i needed to be in my own zone.
a five course meal was brought to me on my miniature table cloth. it began with an amuse bouche like in fancy restaurants. there was all of the champagne i could drink. i tried to match it water for alcohol, remembering that a drink in the air is like three on the ground.
i laughed to myself about how ludicrous an onlooker might feel about my clothing, proper meal and access to the film, straight outta compton. no one noticed. the other passengers in my vicinity were sleeping or ensconced in their own film watching.
it was as if i was in a dream.
elbowed in the ribs by my less than courteous neighbour, i was rudely awakened to the reality of my filling seat 35A. sardine class. some mistake, indeed.