Perfect Strangers

Perfect Strangers

That awkward moment when you step into the lift with the colleague you see in the corridor, at the coffee machine, at lunch, and because neither of you acknowledges the other, one of you takes up elevator-door-staring while the other fiddles with a smart phone.

That awkward moment when standing in the lift, each one pretending that the other does not exist, pretending that there isn’t a world where you both coexist, the lift jerks to a stop and the light goes out.

That awkward moment when phones act as torches and your fingers touch as you both reach for the alarm button, apologise and laugh self-consciously, and then make the same mistake again because neither of you can decide who should go first.

That awkward moment when you know you’ve spent too many nights watching Criminal Minds and Crime Scene Investigation, because in the dim light, your colleague looks like Frankenstein’s monster and you expect a switchblade to suddenly appear.

That awkward moment when crisis forces both of you to skip introductions and attempt chitchat that lacks the finesse of children forging new friendships, to manage the silence which otherwise would stretch to infinity.

That awkward moment when like a steam train your chitchat sputters to an unsteady start so you ask, “How’s work in legal?” And silence follows because your colleague responds, “Fine and where do you work?” making you aware that in this game of show me yours and I’ll show you mine, you’ve just been outwitted.

That awkward moment when anger that you mask, masks the hurt you feel because there are no perks in being treated like a wallflower, unnoticed by someone with whom you share 5000 square footage in a twelve-storey office building.

That awkward moment when your colleague clears his throat and admits that he’s seen you over at finance but wasn’t sure as he’d also seen you in sales. His words placed like a winning serve, are honest words that deserve your applause.

That awkward moment when you confirm what you’ve always known: you are not claustrophobic. Trapped for ten minutes in a lift, with a stranger, you have not begun to pull your hair. Instead, you have discovered things about yourself that you can now define.

That awkward moment when the fluorescent bulb flickers to life causing you to blink, but not filling you with relief. You see your colleague as the lift ascends and wonder why you never thought to greet each other in bright, wide, open spaces, as if either of you would lose points for being the first to say hello.

That awkward moment when the lift slows and tings as the display stops at number seven and you look at your colleague, nod and then smile because words would get in the way of the silence that you have both come to accept. A dysfunction in technology has made your world not only smaller but also richer.

That awkward moment when you realise independence is not all its hyped up to be. Although you have been striving for independence all along, interdependence—the union of independent minds in mutually beneficial harmony—is the greater prize.

That awkward moment happened to me.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

image credit: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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Our National Pastime

football

Returning to live in Nigeria after nearly a decade away, the influence of another culture makes me observe life through a different set of lenses. Like a black face in a sea of white faces, our national pastime immediately stood out to me. In the past, this hobby did not elicit a raised eyebrow from me since it blends seamlessly with the landscape.

On the streets, behind magnificent edifices, under bridges, at the corner of dream castles, and even in front of crude, hand-painted signs that expressly forbid it, men and women, boys and girls, and goats and dogs all rollick in this pastime. I dare say that you or someone you know has been involved in it.

Being a showy people, we engage in this activity openly, without shame, and no thought of decorum. Have you guessed what it is? No, it is not football; it is urinating in public!

Urine pours like libation all across the land and there is no hallowed ground. Any gutter, wall, bush, or piece of land will do. Smart-looking men disembark tinted-glass Lexus jeeps mid-street to relieve themselves beside school-aged boys turned vendors. Women, though in the minority, refuse to be outdone. Whether standing astride, or crouching low with bunched-up skirts, they contribute their quota to this swelling, smelling river that threatens to overflow its banks.

Are people in such dire need that they cannot wait until they get to a toilet? Does a dearth of facilities fuel this activity?

I observed a security guard having a go on a neighbour’s fence, so I made enquiries about the gatehouse in front of the estate where he worked. There was a toilet and yes, there was running water.

Pray tell, what should I conclude? That old habits die-hard? That the satisfaction derived from relieving oneself in the open is out of proportion to that obtained in the confines of a cubicle? That borderline exhibitionism is pervasive? That, that … the, Do Not Urinate Here By Order-sign, which stands at attention in front of the fence, is an open invitation to do so?

by order

All this has given me a new perspective on handshaking. Fortunately or maybe unfortunately, hugs are more commonplace in my setting. Friends, however, remind me that worse things have not yet killed a man.

Sometime ago, my family and I were caught in traffic occasioned by the Lagos Carnival, for several hours. We missed the warnings about roadblocks thanks to our habit of predominantly watching foreign TV channels. Anyway, we killed time by enjoying a hot but decent view from a bridge on Lagos Island. The heat from the sun was momentarily diverted to my brain when my son asked to use the toilet. I calmly explained that there were no nearby facilities all the while crossing my fingers.

public toilets           lagos state carnival

After trying to contain his distress for a few moments, he approached me again and again and again. With no alternative in sight, I got off my high horse and encouraged him to just do it on the kerb by the bridge. Reminding me of my stand, he vehemently protested. Nature won the battle eventually, and I escorted him to a less conspicuous corner while eating my humble pie.

BY ORDER

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: alvez / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alvez/4697340832/
Title: nigerianos

Photo credit: Darren Taylor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANigerian_fans_at_2009_World_Cup_qualifying_match.jpg

Photo credit: nova3web / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
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Title: Ghana 2008: Nigeria Vrs Cote d’Ivoire in Sekondi

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Title: Project Nigeria : Day 2 : The Law.

Photo credit: ©Ifeanyi Ukoha Facebook Timeline

Photo credit: Lagos State Government Carnival
http://www.lagoscarnival.com/galleries/index.html

 

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A Father’s Love

Father's Love

My father’s love is different from my mother’s love because my dad is not like my mum, as it should be. He is a thinker, not a talker; his low rumble rarely punctuated the soprano-rich chatter that filled our home.

While I can dig up a dozen memories of my mum the superhero, without knitting my eyebrows and closing my eyes, I can only dig up a few of my dad. However, each memory, etched with a permanent marker in my consciousness, represents a turning point that defined me as a writer.

During my childhood, my father was two things to me: Father Christmas and the man I wanted to please at all cost. Perhaps it was because he lived far away and I did not see him every day; the heart often longs for that which is not near. He returned home at Christmas with lots of praise and presents. He brought us tons of Judy, Mandy, Betty & Veronica, and Archie comics.

He made sure I had one Naira every day so I could go to Challenge Bookshop or Leventis Stores to buy a book. That was how I discovered the enchanted world of Enid Blyton and my imagination soared to distant lands and distant shores. I cut my notebooks to mini squares and wrote the stories I would have loved to tell.  That was how I learnt about pace and dialogue without going to writing school. Encouraged by my dad, I read and read and read.

As a teen, we read together because he was home every day. I scanned the newspapers daily, but saved the columns and editorials for weekends. Then I would lounge with him in our veranda, he lost in his world of words, I lost in mine, as the clock ticked away. When night fell and the queen of the night flowers released their scent, we slapped the moths and mosquitoes away, turning the pages of our newspapers faster than we had done in the afternoon.

He indulged my love for reading and there was always money to buy more books, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, The Economist, Times, Newswatch, and Classique magazines. That was how I learnt to argue for what was important to me with my words instead of my voice. Enthralled by the magic of words, my worldview changed one sentence after another. I wrote opinion pieces that enticed people to read and not skim, arranging my stream of thought in a logical flow.  That was how I learnt about exposition without going to writing school. Encouraged by my dad, I read and read and read.

Now a young woman, it is my turn to be Mother Christmas, heaping gratitude and gifts, so my father can continue to read. When we talk, I listen. I listen for it. I listen for the lilt in his voice as I imagine the spark in his eyes, because something he read has transported him as it does me, to lands of possibilities.

As I connect the dots of my life, it becomes clearer and clearer still: my father’s love is different from my mother’s love. Her love is loud and the spotlight magnifies her heartbeat in motion. In the periphery, my father’s heart beats too, at a quiet even pace that masks its fervency.

My dad is the mostly unsung hero who in a time of uncertainty wrote me a letter that has frayed at the ends and torn at the fold. Whether soaring or plummeting, whether laughing or crying, his words have remained with me, reminding me of when I first dared to dream. Reading and rereading the letter through the years, his writing style has become my own.

Happy Father’s Day dad.  Surely, my ink flows in part because of you.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Photo credit: http://www.creationswap.com/LuisGarcia

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WordPress 103… Recruiting Followers

follow me

I log into my WordPress account to check my blog stats. One visitor; one view. Hmmm, Australians are asleep and Americans just woke up. I scroll down to community and click support. I search for how to increase blog traffic. And that’s what you should do because this post isn’t about SEO, publicize, or  WordPress plugins.  Me? I started blogging six weeks ago.

The initial response to my blog humbles me. That you would honour me, an Ijaw girl, whose only claim to fame is that I come from somewhere near Oloibiri  in the Niger Delta, where Shell first struck oil, by reading my posts, I thank you.

Around midnight six weeks ago, I began sending mails to friends on Facebook and Linkedin. If I missed you, I’m sorry. I was struggling to keep my eyes open as I copied and pasted the prototype mail, changing the recipient’s name and customising each mail to take into account the circumstances of our friendship for that personal touch. Ko easy rara!

I sent the original to Yinka first. Then I copied and pasted it on Afi’s mail. I clicked the send button before I realized that Afi’s mail read: Hello Yinka!

What’s in a name? Plenty. People deserve to know that they are important no matter the time and distance that separates you from them. I couldn’t afford any more gaffes. At 2 a.m., I was still jogging my elephant memory, remembering the small details of our friendship and adapting  each copy-and-paste mail accordingly.

Did it pay off? You tell me.

It got to the turn of a friend who is an award-winning writer. The last time I saw her was in 2010. As we exchanged pleasantries, she mentioned an event involving her grandmother. I planned to attend, but didn’t get round to.

I sent this customised copy-and-paste mail to her:

Hello K,

How are you doing? Long time. The last my sister and I saw you was in PH-ou mentioned your grandmother’s burial I think?

I’ve just started a new blog which I think may interest you. But, don’t just take my word for it, check it out for yourself! Leave a reply, share & spread the word! http://www.livelytwist.wordpress.com

Regards,

Timi

A few days later, I received this response:

Hello Timi, I am okay, thanks. I will check out the blog. My grandmother is still alive.

Cheers.

I wanted to enter a forest so the trees could bury my humiliation with their green leaves. To think that my mail may have hit K as ill-wishes; tufiakwa! K, I only meant well o! May your grandmother live to be 120!

In his book, Axiom, Powerful Leadership Proverbs, Bill Hybels says, “Leadership is a lot about asking. After casting bold visions, leaders ask people to help make them become reality.”1 He writes about projects where the stakes felt sky-high and he had to remind himself to be absolutely shameless in asking people to join him.

So, here’s what I’m doing:

  • Casting the vision – this blog is about us, because we’re doing life together and when we connect, we do life better.
  • Stating the value proposition – every post you read will entertain, inform, inspire, or provoke thought.
  • Inviting you to join me – the follow widget makes it easy to subscribe, so you’ll receive my posts instead of occasionally stumbling upon them.

Recruiting followers goes beyond blogosphere because we lead daily. In my experience, men tend to be hunters, aggressively going after what they want.  Women on the other hand, tend to tell their potential followers all the reasons they should say no, and then apologise for asking.

Man:  I just started this project (goes on to make it sound larger than life), and I want you to join me (exaggerates all the reasons it will be worth your while).

Woman:  I know you’re very busy (adds more reasons why you should say no), but I just started this project (promotes project in humble terms), and I’d like you to join me (gives even more reasons for you to decline).

Well, it’s a new day for me. I’m learning to speak up about what I need and pursue what I want, without losing my femininity. What about you, how do you campaign for what you want?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

 

1. Bill Hybels, Axiom, Powerful Leadership Proverbs, (Michigan: Zondervan, 2008), 21.

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design: ©Timi Yeseibo

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Facebook Fraud

Laurita FB

Laurita Laurita, oh Laurita Laurita! Your name has a sing-song and unreal quality to it. I do not know how you found me and why you singled me out. Facebook has made the world smaller, but there are around one billion people in the world’s third-largest country. Ah yes, we have one mutual friend. What you both have in common still baffles me.  

I am an editor second, and a nice person first, which is why I refrained from deleting your early morning ungrammatical intrusion into my inbox. I checked your wall and saw that your last and only status update before you changed your profile picture was in Russian. You recently changed your Facebook language to English (US), which may explain why you sound as if you used Google Translate, and then copy and paste.

I am fine, thank you for asking and your marital status is of no consequence to me. So you think Facebook is too small to contain the breadth of a friendship with you. No wonder you barely have anything on your wall since you joined Facebook in October 2012. You prefer to catch your victims friends by email.

Your profile picture is beautiful. Your eyes look photoshopped, but what does that matter when your skin looks like smooth caramel latte. Your hair; was that not how Naomi Campbell styled hers, the beautiful centre-part look that I tried in vain to achieve during my teenage years? But I am neither a voyeur nor model scout so I do not want more photos of you.

There is something you should know about me.  I am not as foolish as you suppose I am. Anybody whose name reminds me of Chivita Chivita must have a big head and a small brain. I have therefore written this cease and desist order, Прекратить и порядка, to you.

Laurita oh Laurita

Whether man or woman, I do not know

Whether girl or boy, I do not care

There are many fishes in the sea

Waiting to swallow your bait

But I am not one of them

Laurita oh Laurita

Whether Nigerian 419, it is hard to tell

Whether Russian 419, it is hard to sell

There are many fishes in the sea

Waiting to swallow your bait

But I am not one of them

Laurita oh Laurita

Whether Yahoo Yahoo, na you know

Whether Facebook fraud, na today?

There are many fishes in the sea

Waiting to swallow your bait

But I am not one of them

Laurita oh Laurita

Whether Nigerian or Caucasian, long throat no get colour

Whether Scandinavian or Asian, greed sabi follow follow

There are many fishes in the sea

Waiting to swallow your bait

But I am not one of them

I reject it; I will not be one of them

Laurita oh Laurita

May Facebook delete your account

May our mutual friend wise up and “unfriend” you

May you shudder in apprehension whenever you see my name

May remorse overtake you like a Nigerian politician who did not loot enough before the end of his second term

 

In this vast global village

Let me not be a victim of identity thief

Let someone not steal my profile picture

And call himself Bournvita Bournvita

 

 

Okay can somebody tell me what these Facebook scammers want?

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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Image credit: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Naija Movie Night

naija movie night

I am at The Palms Shopping Mall, Lagos, buying popcorn and a drink before I proceed to the cinema theatre.  My popcorn, a warm mixture of sugar, salt, and butter, sends my taste buds to heaven with every crunch. This is the preamble to a wonderful evening.

Friendly and professional staff check our tickets and wave us in. We make our way to the last row at the top of the theatre, a vantage spot for viewing pleasure, and sit mid-row. The easy banter of friends, shuffling feet, and polite excuse-mes, set the mood in the theatre before the lights go out.

Panic erupts from my left side. Stampede follows.

“ Rat! Rat! Big rat!”

We scamper in a radius of confusion. Questions hang like clothes left to dry in the sun: “Where?” “Did you see it?” Eventually we regroup at our row. Some people brave the popcorn-littered floor and the “invisible” rats to collect their belongings, while others take our places. My popcorn sits intact in its paper carton, but I decide to donate it to the rats.

We settle for another row of seats. Governor Fashola’s message hits home. Kate Henshaw tells us to park our cars at home and ride the BRT buses like her. Funke Akindele tells us to pay our taxes so green Lagos can extend beyond Alausa.  Eko o ni baje o.

The movie begins. It is fast-paced. I like it. Soon, a bluish light amplified by the darkness, irritates my vision. It emits from the row in front of us. Ping, silence, ping; a BlackBerry in motion. It must be important. Ping, ping, ping. Maybe her mother is dying. Silence at last, but the light keeps harassing my eyes. I ignore the luminescence the way I ignore a stubborn particle in my eye that refuses to leave after a thousand blinks.

A phone rings from the row above us—someone who forgot about silent mode. I commiserate inwardly. My phone has rung at inopportune moments too, like laughter at a funeral service. I imagine him quickly switching off his phone and apologising.

“Tunde! My man, I dey Palms.”

A relaxed conversation ensues, as if he is sitting in his living room drinking Guinness Stout with his mates. I wait for the reprimand that surely must come. Instead, another phone rings from a row several levels below us.

Quiet resumes as the movie draws us into a web of suspense. The actors are clueless. People shout hints so the actors can hear them. I am not perturbed enough to proffer solutions. Don’t they know that the leading actor never dies?

The action scene over, calm replaces the excitement of moments before. A holy hush descends as both the leading actor and all of us recover. A baby’s cry pierces the quiet, followed by a mother’s insistent, “Sssh, sssh!” A baby in the cinema? What were the mother and father thinking? What were the staff at the entrance not thinking?

I expect the Occupy Baby movement to arise. I am not disappointed.

Madam, abeg give de pickin breast!”

Not long after, the baby’s cry teeters to a stop.

I give up watching the movie on the screen. Real life offers colours and sounds that Technicolor and Dolby Surround cannot match. The sporadic flash of cellphone cameras blinds me. Babies protest against the ludicrousness of being in the cinema theatre. Cell phones ring in programmed sequence, one after another, as when you snooze your alarm, it startles you out of sleep fifteen minutes later. I drown in the conversations and debates floating up from below and drifting down nonchalantly from above.

How can I describe the cooing in sync when the leading actor achieves a milestone? This is it. He typifies our lives, the relief that washes over us when we cross difficult hurdles. It is a Kodak moment. We coo without cue, a sound so tender, goose bumps chase prejudice away. The fantasy that we came to revel in for ninety minutes is over. We applaud, burying our irritation underneath a shared experience.

Outside, my friends apologise for the people’s behaviour. I ponder their apology. Dutch people do not apologise for being Dutch. French people do not apologise for being French. English people do not apologise for being English.

I take their advice and return the next morning to watch the film in peace. The theatre is empty save for about ten other people. A man slips into the seat next to mine.

In the dark, confidence buoys his voice, “Wetin dey happen? Wetin de man talk?”

I smile, “Make you come watch for night; dem dey show de pidgin version for night.

I watch movies in the morning. Then I return in the night to watch the same movies again because I cannot get enough of the beauty, the diversity, and the insanity that is Nigeria.

naija movie morning

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013