On my first flight out of Kano, after boarding 485 passengers, the cabin crew positioned to perform the required FAA required seatbelt and oxygen mask demonstration prior to take-off. Our head stew announced that individual instruction would be provided for use of the toilet facilities. This was only understood by us crew-members since the passengers spoke various dialects of Hausa, but no English.
The crew had to keep a keen eye out for passengers leaving their seats so we could escort them to the lavatories and demonstrate the use of the toilet facilities. We mimed lifting the robes, squatting over the bowl and flushing.
They smiled, nodded, seemed to understand, and then proceeded to stand on top of the toilet seat straddling the bowl. We hoped the stream would land in the bowl, but with all the layers of flowing robes, we couldn’t tell until the liquid (or solid) did or did not hit the floor, in which case we could have the mop and pail ready. My guess is the ditch at home, in the bush, had a larger target area. If we weren’t diligent in keeping up with the mopping we would have a problem on descent when the aircraft was angled down and it all went running down the aisle toward the cockpit. Ah, so this is why so many avoided the Hadj assignment.
We did our best to consume our stash of ganja during our month’s stay, but barely made a dent in it. We couldn’t even foist it on our fellow crew members- everybody had his own. The month flew by; departure day was nearing, and it was time to get our red stewardess Samsonites packed for the trip home. With all the newly purchased treasures we bought in Africa and Saudi Arabia, we had to make room. We dumped most of our clothing and traveling food. We surveyed the inventory: tins of tuna and sardines, packets of saltines, jars of peanut butter and there it was: one box of brownie mix! This was the perfect solution for taking a little of the potent herb home with us. Yes, we would bake some boo into the brownies on the way to Jeddah, where we were stopping briefly to pick up crew, not even deplaning, and prepare to enjoy a pleasantly stoned flight back to the U S of A. There would be a short stop in London to drop off our British personnel, but again – no deplaning. The long flight back to Oakland would give us plenty of time to take our own trippy trip, sleep it off, and straighten up for check-in at Oakland International. Cool. Let the baking begin!
On departure day, all one hundred of the crew boarded the DC10 with their allotted luggage. About half of us had purchased huge African baskets in the open-air market, carefully considering how we would get them home to California. Being a small charter airline had its benefits; all we had to do was schmooze the right people and they would look the other way in situations like this. These were big baskets. Very big. Nests of them. The largest basket was big enough to hold a person. I knew this to be true because I tested it. I fit my whole body in there, pulled the lid on after folding myself into the hand-woven round straw work-of-art that I couldn’t live without. Once all the luggage and baskets were loaded, we had a crew meeting onboard to determine who would work the flight and who would get to be passengers.
Judy and I enthusiastically volunteered for galley duty. We had some secret baking to do. I had the goods stashed in my topside, the airline term we used for carry-on. Judy and I had made our plan; as soon as the captain turned off the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign, we would ride the elevator down to the galley, mix up the magic brownies, bake them in the oven that I had set to pre-heat before take-off and thirty minutes later be handing them out to a few selected friends. We even had nuts and raisins. In less than an hour from block removal (triangular pieces of wood they shoved under the airplane’s tires while parked), we had warm, yummy, chewy marijuana-laced goodies to share. Judy and I had really loaded these babies. They were the color of olive drab. We had to; why waste the goods? What else could we do with the extra? Couldn’t hide it on the plane. Couldn’t carry it off. U.S. Customs would be all over this bird coming from Africa in the 70s.
Typically, crews would be divided into two groups: the straight-arrow goodie-two-shoes types and the wild ones – the risk takers. It was commonly known that the latter group hung out in the galley, which was a whole separate section of the aircraft below the passenger mid-section. It was large enough to house many carts; meal carts, beverage carts, and garbage carts. Although there were only two jump-seats, we were known to sit on counters, overturned crates, or just Indian-style on the floor. Word was out that there would be loaded brownies down below about an hour after take-off. The usual suspects filtered down, one by one. And then came John.
Guess what happened to John! Stay tuned for part 3