Sarumi? Is it the one of the former political heavyweight? The custom officer asked me expectantly. I never answer this question, it’s asked every time I deal with one of these airport officials, I just smile. They usually take the smile to mean ‘Yes’, I don’t mind, if they think pops is one of the big men, it means my I get the light touch treatment and I definitely cannot complain about that. He handed my passport to the official next to him, who was on his mobile whilst on duty, ‘Abeg, where is your yellow form’? I had been given a ‘yellow fever’ form that I’d tossed into my bag, I dug it out and handed it to him, ‘Sign and date it’, he rolled his eyes, his hand still pressing the phone to his ear, he took the form and waved me away.
The business class lounge was packed, mostly with European faces, French was the predominant language and I surmised that a flight to France or one of its colonies was on schedule for the night. I managed to find myself a seat in one corner, I was amused, the heat of the security check in would ordinarily have left me irritated but the impending trip back to the UK and the cold I’d soon face meant I appreciated a chance to be hot, for the last time.
‘Madam, are you on the flight to the Paris’? The attendant asked with a practiced smile. I shook my head by way of response and continued fumbling with my phone’s power cord.
I was rather self conscious in the lounge, this was not my first time travelling business class, I had done so twice before but those times were really for business, paid for by the company I was working for. Now, I had scraped together a few Pounds to recreate the experience, really, my wallet permitting, I do not intend to fly economy again.
I get like that when I’m out of my comfort zone, I’m ever aware of my proper working class upbringing, I had over the years availed myself of the opportunities I’ve had to learn the key ingredients to tame the obvious signifiers of this. I learned to hold my champagne flute by the stem, to use a salad fork as appropriate and to stop myself from dropping my Ts so wantonly. Still, I cannot not chase the feeling that I am a fraud.
Across from me was a fellow Nigerian woman, Igbo, I concluded from the language she spoke on the phone, she’d occasionally switch to English and I’d cringe, no, her English wasn’t bad, it was that she seemed to suffer none of the acute self awareness that I was plagued with, she did not mind that she was conspicuous or perhaps she was oblivious to the fact that her voice carried across the room. In any case, she sipped her beer and continued badgering the unfortunate being at the other end of the line. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed the woman with the black and red hairdo but no one seemed to.