I have always been a “Miss goody-two-shoes”. I hate to admit it. I mean, I like for people to see me as this savage, bitchy, extroverted, carefree, light-souled individual…I figure people consider those kind of people much more interesting… but no. it is what it is. I am reserved (being around lots of people drains my energy), quiet, shy, introspective, very blunt, a huge observer and I like to plan everything! I also like to follow rules, routines and I hate to make mistakes. In fact, when I tell people I have never really made any huge, life-threatening mistake in my life so far or that I have no ‘vice’, they look at me like I am a pretentious piece of f**k. But then their feelings are quite understandable too. My personality probably makes about as much sense to a people (even some friends) as Snapchat does to my grand-uncle in the village. There is the general perception that introversion is the inferior personality type and all who want to succeed should strive for extroversion.
So, on this trip, a friend, who was also visiting, handled everything: booking the apartment, itinerary, e.t.c. and she did a stellar job too. The plan was simple: I fly Etihad, arrive Abu Dhabi then wait for 12 hours before joining the Etihad bus to Dubai, from where I would head to the Dubai Airport to meet up with her. Then we were to commute to the apartment she rented together. Upon getting to Abu Dhabi, however, I was told the layover was a mistake on the booking agent’s part and I would be traveling to Dubai immediately. Luckily, I had the address of the apartment: Dubai Marina Towers, and a few dollars with me. My plan was to head to the apartment on my own, seeing as I would arrive earlier than my friend, contrary to our plan. I went on to update my friend on the changes, but she informed me that I would not be allowed into the apartment without her, seeing as she did the booking and I would have to stay in some hotel temporarily until she got in.
As you would imagine, I did not like the idea of spending extra money on a room for a few hours when I had already paid for a room for the 7 days I would be staying there. My “Igboness” immediately kicked in and I started to consider other options. I considered the possibility of waiting at the Etihad Travel Mall but that would mean sitting and staring into space for at least 10 hours until my friend’s flight arrived. I also considered walking into any of the coffee stores or restaurants and sitting there… my very options were very limited. As I sat deliberating my next steps, the man sitting next to me said: “Hi, my name is xxx” and I said, “ hello, my name is Nkem”. Next, he asked if it was my first time in Dubai, where I was staying e.t.c and like a loose tap, I went on to narrate my predicament. It was unusual for me. Usually, I just listen to people. Maybe I just needed to vent, I don’t know. But it kind of worked; to my surprise, the man (who is Nigerian by the way) made me an offer.
“I have an offer for you. You can wait for your friend at my hotel”.
The phrase “my hotel” creeped me out a little. On a normal day, it would be all I need to brand him a pervert. He looked like he would be in his 50s and he wore a wedding band. But, my brain was working differently. I really needed a free place to stay though, and agreeing to the request would be an adventure. It would be me stepping out of my shell, taking baby steps towards becoming the carefree rebel kinda girl I have secretly always wished to be.
I may have stared at him in silence for about 2 minutes, but eventually, I said: “OK.”
I have heard stories of people being raped by strangers in hotel rooms, killed for rituals or just beaten up for the fun of it, but why would this man have such a plan for me? He just met me, and this is Dubai. I had the nagging feeling that I was being stupid over what would only cost me about $50 -$75 dollars, but I said to myself: “Nkem calm down, this is just a man trying to help you out” and I decided I would go through with it. if I die, I die. It was a chance to be different and I had to take it.
The moment we got to the Etihad travel though, my heart started to beat fast. The man hailed a taxi and asked me to put my box in the trunk. I wanted to, but my hands wouldn’t move. I looked him in the eye, I could tell that he already sensed my hesitation, so I said cooked up an excuse: “I need to use the bathroom and make inquiries about my return ticket, I will be right back”.
In my mind, we had silently agreed that I would go into the mall and he would drive away and let me fend for myself. About 30 minutes later, however, he found me: “Gosh, I have been looking for you, I was worried. Are you done making the inquiries?” I was legit perplexed. I heard myself mutter something like: “Yes”. And he was like “great! let’s go”. Clearly, this was God, or so I forced myself to believe. I followed him and got in the taxi. A few minutes into the journey, I felt myself relax.
Upon arrival at the hotel – Ibis Hotel, he paid for ‘our’ room. I had been of the impression that men and women who weren’t married could not stay in the same room in Dubai, but apparently, that only applied to 2-star hotels and below. They scanned our passports, it was clear we were two strangers, yet there was no hitch. As we got to the room, the free-spirited girl disappeared and the careful one reappeared. I signed on to the wifi and told my friend immediately. I sent her the name of the hotel, the room number, the man’s full name e.t.c. My friend was legit shocked. horrified. “Nkem, how could you be so stupid! Why are you in a strange man’s room in a strange land? Are you ok?”. I had asked myself the same questions over and over before but couldn’t come up with a sensible answer. She went on and switched into fierce mother hen mode: “Do not lie on the bed. Sit on the chair. Make sure you do not sleep. Do not drink anything he offers you…e.t.c”. it was actually sweet the way she was genuinely worried, so I took her advice.
Mr. xxx took me and I went to the restaurant immediately after we dropped our bags. It was a lovely meal. He needed someone to listen to him. He also didn’t let me pay for anything.
We got back, he took a shower and before I could say, Jack Robinson, he slumped on the bed and started to snore. I hate people who snore, but his snoring was like peaceful, sweet music to my ears. It was a huge struggle to stay awake, but I was determined and 10 hours later, I was ready to head to my hotel. Mr. xxx still got up, called me an Uber and did not insist on having my number or meeting up later.
Perhaps it is the Holy Communion I took before I set out on the trip or my very active guardian angel, but he did convince me that really there are good Nigerian men. And most importantly, it is okay to do “stupid” things sometimes. it does not make you the worst person on earth, rather it has a way of reminding you that you are human and that is quite refreshing.