Memoirs of a Rookie Traveler: No such thing as a Free Lunch

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

It was while I was just a young “gal”, serving my fatherland during the National Youth Service that I learned this vital lesson. I was still a rookie in many respects, including the art of traveling by air.

This popular airline had just begun a flight promotion: book your ticket at least a month early, and pay N10,000 for a return ticket to anywhere in Nigeria.


In those days, airfares were scarily steep. For a long time, air travel was not seen as available to the average Nigerian. Only for the wealthy. And the ‘thievin’.

For the rest of us, ours was a life rife with the excitement of “Night-bus” and “obele-oche”. Our regular “In-bus” entertainment were mobile vendors, who peddled everything from rat-poison to Cameroonian crayfish, including medication that could cure anything, from leprosy to frank Madness.

Which is why libations were poured to bless this airline when it introduced this flight deal that crashed air-fares nationwide.

It was a no-brainer, that rather than endure the risk and sheer hardship of travel via Nigerian roads, you could save for a little longer, and purchase a return ticket at this incredulous rate. 

Even though, it was like making a deal with the devil:

If your coattails failed to cross the check-in line one nano-second after 40 minutes before departure, your ticket was forfeited.


This promotion began during a period I was itching to travel to see Mum, for a couple of days. Expectedly I took advantage of the deal, saved up for about two months, booked my flights like a century ahead, and on the day of travel, I made sure I had checked in well-ahead of the cut-off time.

In those days, flights in Nigeria had not yet gone totally bonkers. We left right on time, and arrived as scheduled.

However, on getting to my destination airport, cousin Emeka had not yet arrived.

When I called, he grumbled about his car radiator packing up, and said he was in a taxi on the way to the airport.
“Make sure you’re ready to leave immediately I come o. This guy is charging me N1,200. I cannot add anything to it for wasting time”.

(In the whole of our less-than-twenty-seconds conversation, he probably repeated “N1,200” about eight times)

So I stood at the arrival lobby, looking lost. There were no chairs in sight, and this was my first time at this airport.

Suddenly, this very pretty lady with a captivating smile waved at me warmly, and beckoned at me.

I was happy to have a ‘friend’ in the sea of strange faces.

How do you do?, she asked, even as she drew me into a room.

The room was quite beautiful. She was quite beautiful.

We chatted for a bit, and she asked if I would prefer tea or a glass of wine.

The weather was a bit cold. It had been raining chickens and molasses. Tea would be just fine, I said. She beamed in return. Soon enough, a cute cup of tea was brought to me.

She asked me to recline my chair, and relax, so I could rest, till I was ready to leave.

I was so amazed at the niceness. Truly, there were kind people on earth.

She checked in on me every once in a while. Her other colleagues (I guessed they were colleagues for they wore similar clothing) also smiled at me intermittently.

Another cup of tea was brought. With some biscuits.

By this time, I had warmed up and was contemplating that glass of wine… when Cousin Emeka called to say he was outside, and that I should hurry out.

The traffic had been far worse than they expected, and the taxi driver was insisting on N1,500. He could not afford pay more than this.

(He repeated N1,500, perhaps, six times in our less-than-fifteen-seconds conversation)

I stood up to leave, and looked around to thank my angelic friend. But she was not in sight.

So I packed up my bags to leave.

A pleasant-looking man, also dressed in similar clothes with what my angel wore, came right up to me, and smilingly handed me a piece of paper.

I saw “N5,000, or more” inscribed on the paper.

I was confused. Were these nice people also giving free raffle tickets?

Sorry… what is this for?” I asked innocently. 

Oh… the base fee for our Cosy VIP Lounge is N5,000. But you are allowed to give any extra to the attendants”.

(Heaven wept!)

And he said this, while looking me straight in the eye and smiling.

I suddenly became very, very warm. Perspiration had gathered even under my feet.

“So I am to pay N5,000? But no one told me! I thought it was free”.

He pointed to a small sign above; it actually had rates for various services.

I started looking around for Aunty Angel. She was nowhere to be found.

Cousin Emeka kept calling me on the phone…

I riffled through my pockets and my bags, and was able to come up with about N4,570. Which was all the money I had for the whole trip.

At this point, he was no more smiling… and Aunty Angel who had put me in this yawa was still nowhere to be found.

I had to urge them to let me go. Spun a tale of my ATM card, and my grandmother blah blah…

Cousin Emeka probably never understood why I sat ‘humble’ all through his tirade, till we got home.

Because I was still pondering on the food life had just served me: that lunch is never free. At least, not two cups of teas with biscuits, in a “Cosy VIP Lounge” of an airport.


But that was a lifetime ago. I still love to travel, and I am no more a rookie.

These days, even if it takes years for my flight to be called or for me to be picked up, and there are no seats, I’d just hang by the wall.

I will not die.

And generally, when “nice” people present “nice” (unsolicited) offers to me, I have learnt to answer with a two-worded response:

How much?



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  1. Haha haha!!!!!!its more painful when the items you have to pay for are things you had no need for. And even if you needed them, it could have been gotten at a cheaper rate elsewhere

  2. Lol! Every special room service in an airport dont offer free anything!

    1. Lol. I did not know!! Now... my eye don tear.

  3. Replies
    1. I know!! It's funny as hell now... but then, it wasn't funny at all.

  4. Lol.. nothing is free even in Freetown. It's good you learnt your lesson.

  5. Lol.. nothing is free even in Freetown. It's good you learnt your lesson.