I once had a Chris Tucker moment, like the one he had in Rush Hour 2 and it wasn’t in the least bit funny.
Okay, wait, let me remind you of the Rush Hour scene. Remember when Chris tucker (Detective Carter) and Jackie Chan (Inspector Lee) were suddenly surrounded by Chinese gang members in the massage parlor and had to fight their way out and C.Tucker mistakenly punched J.Chan? Well, instead of an apology all he did was helplessly say, “all y’all look alike!”. I cracked up uncontrollably at that scene and still makes me laugh to this day; it was hilarious.
Not unlike those two, I found myself in a situation I was struggling to fight my way out of, but… arrrggghhh let me just tell you what happened.
Years ago while working on my writing in Lagos, one of my other job descriptions was that of a personal assistant. The writing brought in sporadic pay while the personal assistant job brought it a steady monthly pay. It was as a result of that, I found myself one hot Lagos afternoon on my way to pick up a house help.
The location for the pickup was a very posh restaurant on Awolowo road in Ikoyi and I didn’t like going there. This is because most of those kinds of establishments in Lagos have the rudest doormen and snootiest servers. And if you do not arrive in an expensive Jeep; well that’s when your misery begins. I always arrive either on an Okada (public motorcycle) or the lowest form of arrival, after a long sweaty trek from the bus stop.
As I approached the door that day, wiping the sweat off my brow, I hoped the owner would be somewhere around. He was a really nice Lebanese man who looked for every opportunity to practice his English. And when he stops by your table, to his employees it seems like you have been touched by the gods; hence undeserving of their bad manners.
He wasn’t around but sitting in a lone corner was a slim and slight lady, the only female in the whole area and I made a dash for her table.
Me: Sorry, excuse me, are you the person looking for a job?
She looks up, I register disbelief in her face, the silence was stretched, I was trying to be patient and then she gives me this very unnerving look.
While I am recovering and wondering, ‘what the…?’
She (blandly): I like your hare.
Well I thought she said ‘hare’ at the time, I was still adjusting to the phony Lagos accents and the excess use of r’s. So I asked, very confused at this point, “My hare?”.
Then she points to my head. ‘Oh my hair’, we’ve talked about this on this blog before. Anyway, I say my automated thanks and slow as I can be, I stupidly repeat my previous question about the job. This time she ignores me. I stare at her and suddenly she begins to look familiar.
Me: aren’t you xxxxxxxxxxxx?
She answers with a ‘finally you recognize me’ look and instantly becomes friendly. She was a popular musician whom I had seen a couple of times on the news. She asks me to sit, which I do. Then I lie about loving her music while silently praying she doesn’t ask for my favorite song. I didn’t know any of her songs.
The horror began when my boss called to tell me the girl I was expecting, would not be showing up. This was after a nice chat with the musician. So feeling quite free, I started telling my boss how I mistakenly thought Miss xxxxxxxx was the house help.
She: You thought I was a house help?
And she was saying it right at the time my boss was saying into my ear, “I hope you are not still sitting next to her”.
Naturally, this brought on the full range of my grievous mistake and the look on the musician’s face confirmed it. I quickly ended the call with my boss and started searching the problem solving archive of my brain on what to do next;I came up empty. However, I proceeded to say the most stupid thing (in hindsight) I could have said to someone like her.
Me (speaking at the speed of light): I am so sorry, I am from Jos, It is a lot easier to differentiate house helps over there. Everybody dresses so well here, I can’t tell the difference, everybody looks alike, there is no difference.
She looked like she had been slapped, then looked at what she was wearing and so did I, for the first time. In hindsight again, it must have looked like I was confirming whatever she was thinking.
The next thing that happened was almost magical for the lack of a better word. The musician basically curled up into herself, like in defeat or for protection. I started to seriously rack my brain on how to make the situation better; again nothing came to me. And so we sat in silence; she lost in her thoughts, me thinking of an exit strategy.
Then my boss calls again and says I should wait for something else. I was stuck but had an idea to turn to the occasional saving grace; any conversation about music. I asked about her genre of music and she relaxed a little bit. I was relieved. The mutual love for music will heal the day.
What happened instead was, she used every music show to state her worth; her financial worth. The musician told me how much Glo paid for this and MTN for that. The time she sang in America for this amount and in the U.K for that amount. I truly pitied her but was relieved when my message came. And before I left, I did one more thing, stupid or not, I just went for it. I apologized once more for my mistake and let it be known, it only happened because she was the only female in the area not because of anything else. She gave me a tight smile, reached into her bag and handed her business card. Whatever that meant, on my part, I had washed my hands off anything my mistake brought up for her.
My Mom was a house help when she was young and worked to put herself through school. I am extremely proud of my mother and every single day I wish I am as hardworking as she still is; you can call her superwoman. This is why I couldn’t find comfort to give the musician because I have never seen anything wrong with being a house help. It is a job like any other; for most people it is a spring board to make their dreams come true and most importantly it is a way to survive.
What I learn’t that day is, you can never out run your demons. True freedom is in facing them. When you do, you will find they are ghostly things bent on depriving you of a full life. And if you think being successful at what you love and what you are good at (I researched her when I got home. She is exceptionally talented, no joke) will save you and help bury your issues… well good luck then.
This is what I am doing, handing all my issues to God because when the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I found this truth in the bible that brought understanding to the fruitlessness of escapism.
Isaiah 30:15-16, ‘The sovereign LORD, the holy God of Israel, says to the people, “Come back and quietly trust in me. Then you will be strong and secure.” But you refuse to do it! Instead you plan to escape from your enemies by riding on fast horses. And you are right — escape is what you will have to do! You think your horses are fast enough, but those who pursue you will be faster!
I choose to quietly trust God with all that plagues me. I’ve told him how I truly feel about every aspect of my life that weighs me down. And he brings healing through his word and through the occasional soul searing process of encouraging me to be vulnerable with trustworthy people in my life. I tell you help is flooding in.
Escape is not a long term option because all it takes is a little rattle and you’re instantly faced with your demons. And next to change, the other things constant in this life are the rattles.