Traveling To Austria : My Experience On A Virgin Passport (Part V)
Turbulence On Air – My Flight From Austria To Nigeria
Finally, our two weeks stay in Austria came to an end and it was time to return home. We were booked for a 9am flight from Vienna to Amsterdam, then onwards to Nigeria. That meant we needed to be at the airport before 8am for proper check-in procedures before departure. We booked the first train by 5:30am from Linz to Wien (Vienna). In silence, my brother drove us to Linz Banhohf. I knew he wished we could stay longer. I wished same too. But then, we really had to travel back home.
We got to the train station just a little before departure. We shook hands, hugged for the last time and hurriedly carried off our luggage into the train.
Two hours later, we were at Vienna Int’l Airport. We quickly transferred our luggage to a trolley and made our way into the airport.
Inside the airport, we started the search for the KLM stand. Time was not on our side. I enquired from a non English speaking airport official who simply replied “KLM up” pointing to the first floor. I made for the elevator with my trolley as I saw others pushing theirs’ into the elevator. The elevator doors closed just as I came up. I waited for it to return, and it did, almost instantly. Two white male teenagers walked out as I went into the now empty elevator, almost the size of a room. The doors closed in and then the claustrophobic feeling came back, this time with a voice. “Na only you waka enter here abi? What if the doors don’t open? How will you handle the emergency buttons that are inscribed in German? What if the walls suddenly closed in on you? The thoughts kept pouring in. I fought them. Fear is a luxury I cannot afford now. I switched my thoughts to my country. I would be in Nigeria very soon. I felt distracted from the fear as I paced around the large elevator space.
The doors opened and crazily, I pushed off my trolley from the elevator. One of my bags tilted to a corner, nearly falling off from the trolley. I was adjusting it, while on motion and mistakenly hit a woman making a call by the corner. “Sorry Ma’am”, I blurted out remorsefully. She was too shocked to respond. I was so behind time to wait around for her response. I zoomed off instantly, piloting my trolley more carefully.
Finally, after so many “hey excuse me please”, we landed at the KLM stand.
My luggage far exceeded the allotted kg limit. The KLM attendant asked if I would like to pay for the extra kg or simply repack. I opted to repack some things from main luggage to my hand-carry. That solved it.
We were checked in, right on time.
We boarded the flight and were ready to leave from Vienna to Amsterdam. The flight crew did their necessary pre-take-off checks. I intentionally didn’t want to listen to their “drop in air pressure, put on your oxygen mask first bla bla bla” anthem. Not today please. I would love to think positive today. The pilot fired the engine high and moments later, I was bidding farewell to Vienna from hundreds of feet above the ground. We were up into the sky, tearing through layers of dark clouds onto our cruising altitude.
The take off was cool, and we were now flying at the cruising altitude. I removed my seat belt and visited the rest room. The flight attendants pushed their snack-filled trolleys from different directions ready for service. Suddenly the seat belt lights came on and the voice from the cock pit announced, “please put on your seat belts and cabin crew, take your seats”. I melted inside, while fumbling over my seat belt. Things were not looking good definitely. The cabin crew quickly checked all the luggage bins to be sure they were well closed. And few minutes later, I got to meet my worst nightmare on air.
Firstly, our plane bounced as if it hit a gallop. It steadied and bounced again more fiercely. We were then engulfed in a thick dark cloud moving towards the opposite direction. I closed my eyes and gently called prayed, hoping that it wouldn’t be my last prayer.
By the time I finished praying, we were dancing to the rhythm of the wicked clouds. The wings of the plane were so shaking, I thought they would fall off. The flaps opened and closed intermittently. Everyone was quite and silent, except for the little baby crying few rows behind.
I wondered what was going on in the cock pit. Were the pilots afraid or were they well equipped to handle the situation? Our safety depended on them.
For the first time, I noticed the young man by my side. He was so relaxed, glued to his adult movie on a mobile device. I couldn’t understand it. Watching an adult movie thousands of feet above the ground, in a seeming situation of rapture? Issorite!
The turbulence lasted for what seemed to me like eternity and stopped. We flew on smoothly over the white coloured clouds. An hour and few minutes later, we were landing in Amsterdam. The cabin crew prepared for landing as usual when it was announced from the cock pit. However, the lower we descended, the lower the clouds went beneath us. It was as if the sky didn’t want us to leave. How the pilot managed to fly into the run way from the thick layer of clouds still amazed me. We landed successfully without any incident.
After passing through airport security, we were stamped out of the Schenghen area as we proceeded to find my boarding gate. It was pretty easy finding our gate as the signs directed us. We had an hour and some minutes before the next flight.
We came to my boarding gate where it seemed black men congregated for an urgent meeting. They were my country men from different corners of the world traveling home to Nigeria. I wondered how many of them are based abroad and only visiting Nigeria, and how many like me are based in Nigeria and only visited abroad. I sat by a corner waiting for the boarding announcement while striking off a conversation with an elderly man by my side. He introduced himself as a man of GOD. I introduced myself as a son of GOD. We both laughed and became friends.
Our boarding was announced and we queued up in a single file as we matched to the plane. I was a few meters ahead of my elderly friend on the queue. People discussed in low tones and laughed at intervals. I think social status and intellectual exposure rather than tribal affiliation, formed the basis for inter personal relationships at this point. An Hausa man would shake hands with an Igbo man and gist about events around the world. Then I wondered if the seeming hatred and tension among the different tribes in Nigeria only exists around the “Niger Area”. Perhaps every Nigerian should travel every once in a while, and feel life from a different perspective. Maybe then, we can begin to value HUMANITY above TRIBALISM.
We were well seated inside the very big airbus plane. I took my seat beside a young pretty lady, probably in her 20’s. “This is gonna be my best flight so far, 7 hours of bliss” I smiled inwardly, fixing my gaze on her. “Hello” I said to her with a wide wild smile. “Hi” she replied, more to herself than to me, just as she instantly pushed back a side of her oversized earpiece over her ear. I swallowed hard.
Directly behind me was an elderly woman returning to Nigeria from the Canada. I unintentionally overheard her thanking GOD for the safe journey so far from the Canada, while asking GOD to lead her on. I thought of my turbulent flight, from Vienna to Amsterdam and wondered if I had any adrenalin left to carry me through another turbulent flight. Certainly not! I bowed my head and secretly joined the woman in her prayer, asking GOD to lead us home safely.
Minutes after the pilot and his crew sang their “drop in air pressure, oxygen mask” anthem, we were still dilly-dallying on the run way like those on excursion. The pilot made us understand that there were other planes ahead of us taking off. When it was our turn, the engines roared high as we taxied on the run way and bid farewell to Amsterdam and all its inhabitants. The time was 1.25pm as we tore through layers of clouds deep into the sky, on our way back home, the land of my birth.
To my amazement, I still had no appetite to eat even though I wanted to. However, I got my own share of the food and even a small bottle of red wine. I took few bites from the food and gulped half the content of the small bottle. I felt so relaxed.
My thoughts wandered to the beautiful female creature sitting right next to me, her little ears still completely covered by the over sized head phones. We haven’t spoken a word apart from the initial “Hellos”. Moreover, 39000 feet above sea level isn’t exactly the best place to query my mind for “pick-up” lines and ask someone for a date. I closed my eyes gently and slept off.
The flight was smooth and hitch free. Few hours later, we were flying over Nigerian airspace from the north, towards Ilorin, Oyo then finally Lagos. It was getting dark and one could barely see the landscape below. We were ready for landing. The pilot brought the plane lower and lower, as we positioned on the run way. I looked out through the window to behold the thick layer of darkness that spread beneath us. There is no light, I whispered to myself. I wondered how the tens of millions of people who inhabit this city were able to live normal lives in such thick layer of darkness. I was happy for my safe journey back home, but the chaotic darkness that lay below was no longer my idea of home. Just then, I felt so strange in my father land.
I was still lost in thought when I heard a loud applause from other passengers, clapping and cheering. The plane had touched down and I didn’t feel it. The pilot must be well experienced to have performed such a silent landing. The elderly woman behind me was praising GOD in Yoruba language. Mobile phones were sounding start up tones from different corners. The flight attendants repeatedly shouted that nobody should stand till the doors are opened. I was not even in a haste to leave. They can shut the plane doors for all I care. I remembered the first night I boarded the plane in this same airport. Given every choice that night, I would have chosen to stay back in Lagos, than enter this claustrophobic machine to Holland. Given the same option now, I would happily live in this windowless plane than step into the Lagos night.
The plane stopped and the doors were open. I sat quietly as people disembarked the plane. When the rush died down, I stood to leave. There at the door of the plane were two white men, clad in KLM attire. One seemed to be in his mid-fifties, while the other seemed early forties. They smiled at everyone that passed-by and welcomed you to fly with them next time. I smiled back at them and passed, then came back. Looking at the older man, I asked “were you the captain sir”? He smiled weakly and nodded in affirmative. I stretched my hands and grabbed his feeble looking hands in a firm handshake. “I enjoyed your flight sir” I said to him. “Thank you” he smiled again.
I hurried into the airport and queued up for “stamping in”. The female immigration officer asked what I brought for her from abroad, while stretching out her hand. “My passport ma” I responded as I handed over my int’l passport to her outstretched hand. She searched my emotionless eyes for few seconds and bent down over her desk. Few minutes later, she was done with my passport. I took it and hurried off into the baggage area where we carried our luggage and stepped into the Lagos night.