“Game recognize game, pros do too. It’s the new two Live Crew, I suppose you knew!” –Shawn Corey Carter
My dad and I live in different cities, but we see every other month and when we do there is never a need for either of us to catch up because neither of us has skipped a beat. It’s not just because we talk over the phone every day, actually our connection is stronger than that of an MTN base station. When my dad calls me at 6.00am on a Monday morning, he already knows I’m backing into my preferred spot in the parking lot of my office complex, and I know he is about halfway down road 36 brisk walking with his #teamfitfamandflatbelly crew- Alhaji and co.
“Hello daddy, good morning” “good morning Ope, how are you” “fine thank you”. “Ngbo Alhaji ni o ri awon ni ile Prof o ki won” literally this means “Alhaji says you saw him in Prof’s house but you did not greet him”. The catch here is that my dad hardly ever speaks yoruba to me so when he does there is a hidden message and I’m supposed to read in between the lines. The statement above when translated means “Alhaji has taken offense at you because he thinks you saw him and snubbed him, I don’t think that’s true, by the way the phone is on speaker so go ahead and set the record straight”.
I immediately take his cue and raise my voice “ rara o mi o ri won o, shey e mo pe mi o wo glasses mi n’jo yen mi o de dayanmo” “No I did not see him you know I did not wear my glasses that day and also I have a hard time recognizing people”. Alhaji then speaks up from the other end of the phone, I apologize and tell him that I did not see him, I make a couple of funny and witty comments, we both laugh, and he says in yoruba “ok Ope no problem, I have always known you to be a respectful young man, so I was surprised, I know you would not recognise an elderly man and not greet him”. Case closed. If it had happened in another place and at another time, I would probably have had to defend charges of disrespect before the council of elders. All because I went to my neighbor’s house without my glasses!
I started wearing glasses two days before my sixth birthday, I was in primary two and my teacher Mr Adepoju had taken special interest in me because I was the class dullard. However he observed that the closer I came to the chalkboard the smarter I became, so he advised my parents to take me to an ophthalmologist for an eye test, they did, the result? MYOPIA!
Myopia also known as short sightedness might not be such a big deal to you except you were once a shortsighted five year old boy without glasses whose permanent seat was on row six, colum six. Primary one was a nightmare! My class teacher Mr Ayoola used to cane me for getting all the sums wrong, he would cane me for not being able to read (what was written on the chalkboard from my seat at the back of the class) he would cane me for everything, for the fear of being canned I would skip classes and when I eventually came back he would cane me again. I was a lazy child and foolishness was bound in my heart so there was only one cure, the cane! Mr Adepoju* used the cane also, but the difference between him and Mr Ayoola was genuine concern, careful attention and understanding.
Understanding, a lot of people just don’t understand me, for example when people find out I don’t watch football, they usually think I am strange. “You don’t watch football! Why?” I usually just answer with a smile and a shrug. How do I begin to explain? That when Barcelona plays against Real-Madrid all I see is blue and red dots moving haphazardly on the TV screen, that I can’t see Christiano Ronaldo’s leg-overs, neither can I make out the trajectory of Messi’s curved balls except I am standing right in front of the TV which is bad for my eyes and annoying for everyone else watching the match. I remember watching a match from the sidelines in secondary school, my friend Tunde missed a corner kick but he didn’t miss my glasses, although I didn’t miss my classes it made no difference because I missed my glasses. That was when I decided to always have at least two pairs of glasses, today I keep a spare in my car just in case someone slaps me when I am out. Lol.
Talking about driving, I am not exactly the best driver I know, my dad is, but he is also the worst passenger I know, he sees everything a second before I do.”Opeeee!” “turn you hand!**” “breaaaake!” “can’t you see the pot hole?” “Do you want to bash him?” I have ‘ideal’ answers to all his questions and I’m dying to talk back, but somehow I manage to keep my mouth shut. My dad is seated at my right hand side and he has a strong left backhand. I have seen him play table tennis.
I have learnt to pay extra attention while driving, pick front row seats whenever I’m in a class and avoid seating right in front of the TV as it has negative effects on my eyes, but I am yet to develop a facial recognition system. I have gotten used to staring blankly whenever I am at events whilst avoiding eye contact with people, not because I am timid, but because I know I don’t recognise half of all the people I should. What happens when from a distance you lock eyes with an elderly man who you are not sure is your uncle, friend’s dad or complete stranger? Do you go and hug him, nod politely, or just turn your face in another direction? Even at work I make a good impression, weeks later a boss lady sees me and is greeting me warmly, there is usually a one second time lag before I reciprocate. Whenever one of my bosses has introduce himself to me outside work, I cringe and wonder how many others I have “snubbed”! Oh Lord help my career! I thought I was alone until I read the poem below by poet extraordinaire Rolayo Williams.
My View, Your View
I see what you see
But you see it clearer
I see the colors but I miss the patterns
I see the shapes, corners and contours
But the tiny details you take for granted evade me
She’s walking towards me, all smiles
Wondering why I’m not smiling back
Little does she know that I see the color of her shirt
But I can’t make out her pretty face
She thinks I’m snubbing her
Then she’s 5 feet away and I recognize that gait
And I smile back continue reading