Much Ado About Something

lagos-airport-night

The man seating across the aisle from me is what Nigerians call Kora, which loosely means that he hails from somewhere in the Middle East—Lebanon, Syria, Israel.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” he calls to the flight attendant. “Can I use the toilet over there?”

He gestures to the business class section, which will be cordoned off with curtains after the airplane takes off and reaches cruising altitude.

The flight attendant says, “There is a toilet over there,” and points down the aisle.

The man and I are seating on adjacent sides of row 11, immediately behind the curtains that define our class; those seats with a little more leg room and no trays.

“But that means I have to go to the back.”

He speaks with a Nigerian Pidgin accent. I place him as Lebanese. Many Lebanese families have been in Nigeria for generations.

The flight attendant is quiet, his expression stoic like a doctor.

“What’s the difference? Is it not the same toilet?” the Lebanese man turns his hands so his palms facing upward, are asking the questions too.

“It’s for the business class passengers sir.”

My view is limited, but the business class section looks empty and passengers have stopped entering the airplane.

“Yes, but what’s the difference? Is it not the same toilet?”

“Sir, you can use the toilet at the back.”

“That means I have to walk all the way to the back. This one is closer.”

The Lebanese man places emphasis on the word all, in a way that reminds me of how petulant teenagers roll their eyes. I peg him at between 47 and 52 years old. His stomach strains against the buttons of his white shirt and his hair is mostly grey with silver highlights.

He looks at me, maybe because I have been following the conversation, but I look away. Although I am fully Nigerian, I have no desire to moderate the debate.

The flight attendant adjusts a bag in the overhead luggage compartment. It seems like a passive way to deal with a belligerent child.

“The toilets in the back are cleaner than those in business class, sef,” the man tacks this sentence to the conversation, like an insult.

It should provoke a reaction, but it does not. The overhead luggage compartments demand so much of the flight attendant’s attention.

He continues, “I have been waiting since 9 in the morning for my flight. You people are just useless.”

My 13:30 flight was also grounded. All Lagos-bound passengers finally boarded this 18:30 flight. I commiserate with him.

Communication is like dance and grouse takes many forms. If a man asks a woman, what’s wrong, and she answers, “Nothing,” he knows that something is wrong. The toilet, business class or economy, is not the problem here.

“I’m very sorry about that sir.” The flight attendant’s voice has a professional inflection, sympathetic but detached.

“Sorry, sorry. Take your sorry. I don’t need it!”

Minutes later the flight attendant demonstrates the safety instructions coming from the airplane’s public address system. Twenty minutes into the flight, the man ambles down the aisle, all the way to the back, to the toilet. The flight attendant serves refreshments. The man gists with his travelling companions in Lebanese.

I am still rolling their conversation over in my mind, intrigued by it because of something I once read: two monologues do not make a dialogue.

What if the man had started out by stating his displeasure over the delayed flight and the inconvenience it caused, explaining his tiredness because of waiting all day in the airport, before requesting to breach protocol, would the outcome have been different? 

But in Nigeria, to be polite is to be weak and to be aggressive is to be right.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo credit: Photo credit: artforeye via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

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38 thoughts on “Much Ado About Something

  1. “two monologues do not make a dialogue” – this is true. It is more costly to listen to try to understand; understand words, feelings, intentions, expectations, limitations… But, I am afraid that we live in a time that does not recognize it will be more costly not to listen to try to understand. Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Terrific piece of writing. A lot going on in a small space. Hemingwayesque in my mind. Liked the quote on communication. Here’s one you might like by GBS: The main problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such episodes are common in the Nigerian scene. This statement is so apt ‘two monologues do not make a dialogue’; may we learn patience and consideration for others before labouring our own point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hahaha at “…moderate the debate.” I generally don’t like when two random people have an altercation of some kind in public, and expect me the stranger cum spectator to intervene. Nope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel you. You know how Nigerians like to put their mouth in other people’s business as if it’s a family affair, lol 🙂

      Sometimes I feel as though I should say something, but not this time. I was the closest to the ‘drama’ and I was busy taking notes, yes, I was scribbling away for a future blog post! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He wasn’t handicapped as far as I could see.

      Generally speaking, Lebanese people don’t have a favorable reputation in Nigeria … and in some quarters foreigners are given preferential treatment, maybe that explains his sense of entitlement. Whatever the case (there’s plenty dynamics going on), his attitude didn’t do him any good.

      Like

    1. @ rules, true. Nigerian society is steeped in that kind of thinking though … our leaders & the wealthy have ‘immunity’.

      I used to work in customer service, I know rules can be broken … but I wouldn’t break them for the ‘too arrogant’.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a domestic flight (Nigerian). His flight was for 9:30am but was delayed until 6:30pm. He had ‘many’ grievances, genuine ones too, for sure.

      To me, the request was okay, but his approach… hmmm. He is Lebanese in Nigeria… that’s a story for another day …

      Also the flight attendant showed practically no empathy. Surely they are trained to handle these situations …

      Like

  5. Really? Politeness, kindness, consideration of other people are considered weakness? Gosh. Does that apply to women also? I can be very aggressive, but I have to be blind angry. Because I’ve always believed anger just sets the other person in their position like concrete.
    Good thought provoking post. I have to use a walker when traveling because of the distances involved in airports and sight seeing. And I have been in that seat right behind business and really wished I could use that bathroom, particularly when the drinks’ wagon is between me and the other bathroom. I guess the host/hostess might get demerits or written up if they break the rules. Never thought of that. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know, when I worked in customer service in an international setting, we frequently saw this. The ‘bullies’ who threatened to sue the company, write about us on social media, etc, etc, would get their way; the rules would be broken to accommodate them. Those who politely requested an ‘exception’ would get politely turned down … I never thought it was fair and within the leeway that service agents are given, tried to help the ‘underdogs’.

      In my experience, exceptions can be made, and good companies empower their staff to use their discretion within limits. I would sooner make an exception for someone who asks politely than for a bully… maybe that’s what was going on here, who knows?

      Btw, I think that politeness, kindness, consideration of other people, is the way to go, even when aggressively pushing for something. I hope I can display these traits consistently. Thanks Eileen.

      Like

  6. I really like the narrative almost feels like I am there, I can clearly see the disgruntled Lebanese passenger, the trying-so-hard not to be rude air-hostess, and the quiet observer in my mind’s eye. You literally took me on the flight too.

    Well his aggressive behaviour didn’t make him right, doesn’t work all the time. In some cases getting the empathy of others gets you what you want. You have to be smart to know what to use per time. Being aggressive is not my thing though, but if that’s the only way to be heard when something is my right then maybe I would give in just a little bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, some emotional intelligence needed. The flight attendant was a man, I felt as though he too was being aggressive … passively … Could he have diffused the situation using another approach?

      Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad the scenes were vivid to you. I was taking notes as the drama played out, lol! It paid off 🙂

      Like

  7. Dealing with difficult passengers every day must be exhausting.

    In contrast, having to walk down a short aisle-way to use the restroom . . . easy peasy. Some men just don’t want women to tell them what they can and cannot do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @ dealing with difficult passengers, true. Although his flight had been delayed for almost 10 hours, he could have handled the incident better.

      Btw, the flight attendant was a man. It is generally the case that the Lebanese don’t treat the Nigerians they employ right … it may explain his attitude if stereotypes mean anything.

      Like

      1. I see that now . . . you did say:

        “The flight attendant is quiet, his expression stoic like a doctor.”

        What made me view this as possible male/female dynamics was this:

        “If a man asks a woman, what’s wrong, and she answers, “Nothing,” he knows that something is wrong. The toilet, business class or economy, is not the problem here.”

        So, I’ll revise my comment:

        Some PEOPLE just don’t want other PEOPLE to tell them what they can and cannot do because they are SPECIAL and should always be given SPECIAL TREATMENT. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

        1. True @ special treatment.

          I learnt something about writing articles from your feedback and that of others online and offline, who assumed the flight attendant was a woman. Nearly everyone did for one reason or the other, which I think has to do with the fact that we read through filters…

          The sex of the flight attendant added some dynamics to the story and I should have been more deliberate in showing that the flight attendant was male.

          Thank you so much for your feedback, which makes me write better. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I haven’t bumped into many male flight attendants . . . maybe 1 out of 100. That said, I haven’t flown much in the past 10 years. If the percentage of male attendants has increased, I would be the LAST to know. LOL!

            And I do agree with your first hand observation: two monologues do not make a dialogue.

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Passengers can and will be difficult but they’ve been trained for such situations so they expect it.
      But having to wait for more or less 5 hours to board a plane,that’s exhausting and unplanned. The man definitely handled the situation wrongly but in contrast those that had to wait were way more exhausted. I don’t feel it has anything to do with her being a woman, she isn’t even the one that delayed the flight. He was angry and she was available it could’ve been a man, no difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The outcome might have still been the same, but if he had done that, maybe the flight attendant would not have had to count the day as one of those with difficult passengers who take out their frustrations on the wrong people. She’s merely doing her job. His grounded flight and anyone’s else’s are not her fault, neither are the rules and she merely has to state things that did not require her personal input in their formation. She probably thinks the business class toilet issue ludicrous, but only privately, because at work, she must do her job. Feel sorry for her too

    Liked by 5 people

    1. True @ outcome and everything else. If only in the midst of our own frustrations, we consider others too…

      Some emotional intelligence needed … on both sides. The flight attendant showed little empathy, and he’s the one that has (or should have), received training on how to diffuse these situations… food for thought.

      Liked by 2 people

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