You know a lot of bad behaviour conveniently hides behind that little thing called tradition. Remember when you were younger and you were sent out of the room because mommy and daddy were speaking, or that ridiculous ‘African habit’ of placing “brother” or “sister” in front of your older siblings’ names as a supposed mark of respect even though you treat them like the French do McDonalds.
Some traditions I firmly believe in, like the idea that one must never talk back to one’s elders – I was brought up to respect my elders no matter what, to maintain a certain decorum in the company of an older person. Those were ground rules in my house. Respect anyone superior in age or intelligence not social standing or perceived wealth.
This stemmed from never sticking your hand out to an elder until they extended theirs, to offering an older person a seat if they need one. For as long as I could remember, I’ve always gotten on with OAPs – friends’ parents, my parent’s friends; some of my most scandalous ‘gbeboru’ sessions have been with my 90-year old grandmother.
On the other hand, I also embody the hypocrisy of this tradition, for instance, I consider myself the ‘serial prostrator’, I often enter ‘idobale’ mode at family functions – I’m talking the type where my chin practically seduces the floor. Often handing out respect/ acknowledgement to people because it’s what ought to be done when I don’t necessarily believe in it.
On board a flight recently, I was going through my usual flying blues; I find that I have very low tolerance for cabin drama. This means, I don’t appreciate seats within the radius of the communal WC, I’m not happy with anyone with hygiene problems sitting in a middle seat, and I have no love for passengers who leave messy food trays.
This flight from the moment I boarded felt like it was going to be one of those. First, an Omotola-lookalike tried to convince me we were both allocated the same seat although refusing to produce her boarding pass – no problems, I quickly spotted a free row behind.
The flight hadn’t quite taken off when two middle aged daddies who wore their Baba Ajasco-fashion influences on their sleeves, decided to invade my shaky travel state of mind.
In all fairness, I had spotted these two at the gate; I should have known excess baggage was on board. One of the men had a knuckle full of rings – which even Kollington Ayinla (Alhaji Agba/ Ijo Yoyo) would bow to. The other was a walking ad for bleaching remedies. They both (in their opinions at least) looked very content clutching their money purses as if Tafa’s embezzlement was in it.
Let’s name them Granpa Kangol and Granpa Sunshade (yes….the ring master also rocked sunglasses on board and this was an early evening flight).
Our dialogue started with these words “Excuse me, are those chairs free…” I initially pretended not to have heard his question, (after all when did aircraft seats become “chairs”) keeping my eyes permanently closed until I felt a rather unpleasant poke. I was this close to responding with a ‘Yes’ when I quickly worked out that they were trying to get people to move from their row to open up more room for themselves, after all they need to roll out their “33” lager-induced bellies.
So I responded with ‘May I ask why sir?’ Granpa Kangol clearly irritated by my response, defensively continued with ‘these two people here want to have the window seats..’. Can I just add that the ‘supposed’ people had exactly the same seat on their side.
So I simply refused to dignify this request with another response. Seconds later, I heard the first of what will be an hour of insults. Granpa Sunshade launched the first assault by commenting “Look at this mothafucka” then Grandpa Kangol fuelled the fire with “...look at his mouth like an asshole”, as if the insults were not enough, they got the attention of the flight attendant asking if they could move, his response was a ‘NO’ which simply fuelled more anger.
All hell broke loose, Grandpa Sunshade tried several times to get my attention looking like something out of a Lagos State University Aristo yearbook, he goes to me “I will show you today, you disrespectful vagabond (…I didn’t even know people still used that expression)”.
A week later, I’m finding that I’m slightly irked by the verbal assault, all because I dare to challenge their motives. What I had an issue with was their failure to accept their selfish reasons. At least I was upfront at not wanting to give up my accidental spare seats, because they didn’t get their way – what they essentially attempted to do was to bully me with age.
It is a common African mentality that we must succumb to the older person; just because he or she is older they automatically must be right. I have a problem with this and essentially believe it’s a wasting pandemic. There are a lot of fools walking around acting like respectable older citizens hence they fail to understand that you have to earn respect. Same goes for our leaders and supposed role models. You expect me to respect your grey hair yet you behave like your illegitimate 21 years old?
That entire conversation could have gone the complete opposite direction. We truly must check ourselves, it’s not all employers that should be called ‘Oga’, the same way not all child bearing women should be called a ‘mother’.
Next time you feel obliged to greet/acknowledge that grey-haired uncle or family relative, think about it – is this person deserving of my respect?
This week’s Friday Track is Fink with the very moving ‘Sort of Revolution’.
Enjoy the weekend; I have every intention of enjoying mine.