I have been wondering if people still ‘fall’ in love? Can a guy and a girl meet, develop sparks from the get go and experience a connection like none other? Me the cynic is convinced it is all about  doing the sums, weighing the pros and the cons, and deciding what ‘makes sense’ – not some visceral, emotional reaction. I wish I knew though, I really want to be swept off my feet by someone, be blown away by an emotional connection…. Somehow I know that will never be me, I will remain Me, the cynical pragmatist…

Six degrees

Walking into the phone store in the bowels of the big sprawling mall that sits right next to the hell-hole I currently work at, my eyes are drawn to one of the lads at the till. My first impression is that he is Nigerian – what with his thick lips and his quick and easy smile. I am in-store to activate the 6 month’s free internet that should have come with the phone I bought. After much haranguing from my cousin about my being notoriously difficult to catch, I agreed to buy a blackberry – even though I am well aware of the madness being pinged at odd hours can cause.

It is just after 12 noon, and the store is almost empty – besides me there are only two other people, a clearly bored mom and her excited son merrily zooming and pinching away on one of the tablets on display. The lad at the till reads my hesitation, and in a few quick steps he is next to me. ‘Any thing I can do for you sir?’ he asks.

His voice is soft, almost girl-like in its quality. I note a slight inflection, that uniquely Nigerian blend of British, American and goodness-knows-what-else accents, picked up [I dare say] from watching too many late night sitcoms. Up close, I notice the barely discernible facial marks, he sports. His name tag bears the particularly bland moniker ‘Chris’, hardly helpful in my attempt to place him. I explain my dilemma, he listens and then heads back to his console motioning for me to follow him.

He types furiously for at least a minute, then asks for my original receipt, and types some more; verifying my purchase is what he says he is trying to do. Eventually, he raises his head and confirms that I am indeed eligible for the freebie, providing I register the device. That seems a small price to pay for a device I really do not need anyway. I hand him my bank card which has my name. Nigerian or not, my surname – all ten letters, a jumbled mess of vowels and consonants – is difficult to pronounce, and my default solution is to hand out a business card or my bank card.

That’s you sorted then, he says after a while, When your current upgrade expires, the six month freebie will kick in. I nod, and thank him. As I turn to head off, I notice some hesitation on his part, as though he is weighing the pros and cons of saying something more. I pause, and then he blurts out.

Your surname looks familiar, he says. I used to know a Bee with the same name. That is when it all falls in place, almost in slow motion. He once lived next door to my sister and cousin. I must have met him on one of the days I popped in to see them. We chit-chat a little, he’s wrapping up his dissertation, and working part time to make a quick buck. I give him my card, with a promise to set up a meeting with him in the near future.

So much for me running from the past………

Loosing our Awe

Children are little adorable things; when they are not cry-y, squirmy little things and are not pooping and peeing all over the place, that is. This weekend, yet another ‘lost’ friend stopped over in town with his wife and daughter in tow.  The daughter in question has just turned five, and is in that phase of life where her unfettered inquisitiveness is allied to a a precociously quick brain. Whilst her parents and I are engrossed in deep conversation, reminiscing over the lost years since we last hung out, she manages to find my trove of retired gadgets and begins to play around with them. She settles on my Galaxy Tab and pokes around, trying to figure out a way to get it powered up. After several failed attempts she disappears from sight, reappearing at my side away from her father’s glare.

Uncleeeee, she croons, handing me the tab. I switch it on,  hand it back to her and then resume my conversation with her parents.

It is a full ten minutes later when we realise that she has gone incredibly quiet. A quick look around the room reveals that she has found a spot on the rug out of our sight where she is sitting, poking at the touch screen on the device. When I peer at the screen, she has somehow found her way into Google maps and is gleefully pinching and zooming away. The look on her face is one of deep concentration, almost as though she is relishing the power to zoom and pinch that is suddenly all hers. I remark to her parents that they have got a Web 2.0 kid on their hands; inwardly I am left musing on how out of awe I have fallen with the world.

One last punt

I spent the whole week – and some – agonising over the pros and the cons of one last punt, asking EJ if we were done for good. It didn’t help that she took nearly a full day to reply my initial email. Yesterday, I finally worked up the nerve to make the phone call. It still took me six tries, before I allowed the phone ring through.

We talked – whilst she was out shopping with a friend. The one thing that comes out of it all is that at best, we will be acquaintances, the odd phone call every so often, the odd email and simple safe gifts for birthdays if they are remembered. Oddly enough, I never got to ask her for a black and white response as to if we were done for good. She did seem very eager to get me back into the dating business. Guess by default, we are done, and yours truly has to wise up to that and move on, difficult as it might be.. 😦

… it will always be difficult, but if you cry like this every time, you will die of heartbreak. Just know, that it is enough sometimes to know that it is difficult.

Chris Abani @ TED 2008

Right now I miss having a male role model I can bare my heart out to.

Decisions, again

I turned down another job offer, opting to stay with the safer option (yet again). The first time it was to a competitor in my city, this time it was back to Nigeria, and a return to UX5 where I cut my teeth and learned the bulk of everything I know. There were  a number of issues – a few powerful interests stacked up against me courtesy of toes I’d stepped on in the past, and the fact that I’d seen all that and done that before. The key sticking point was that the pay on offer was ridiculous – clearly designed to price me out of accepting (plus rumour has it that on of the lead engineers on the project had a candidate)..

Their loss, I reckon… My two year itch still remains – only it will probably be tickled elswhere, just not in Nigeria.


I have died-
Seven times but one;
Crushed beneath the weight-
Of pain’s unrelenting
Hammer blows.

Straight right. Left hook.
Right uppercut. Left jab.
Right hook. Left uppercut.
Cheek bones splintered-
Lip leaking blood, Teeth-
Bludgeoned until loose.

Head spinning. Time, space
Distance blending-
Into a confused blur.
Then over-hand right –
And sight mercifully fades-
Into blissful blackness.

I have died–
Seven times but one;
But like a rubber ball
Squashed flat against a hard place,
I rebound seven times,

About Town: The birthday party edition

Given our propensity to moan about the little corner of the North East where we currently live, it is somewhat strange that I, and the four or so long term friends I have here, do not make time out to meet up more often. In fairness to my friend O, it is not for want of his trying; several attempts to organise a meet up have floundered, torpedoed by our wildly varying schedules and travel plans.

The one thing we do not scrimp on though – and our inner Nigerian might be to blame for this – is on parties, and celebrations. Invited or not – depending on our perception of closeness to the celebrant – we all congregate at those venues, downing copious portions of rice and drinks and catching up on who recently got married to whom, who has a new kid and all the other banalities that everyday life throws up. It has been a little dry on that front this year, bar a couple of weddings and an unintended meet up.

This weekend, O’s son turned one – a small fact I had completely forgotten. Thankfully, Mrs O – ever the efficient wife – sent out text message reminders to a few of us lads – which was how I ended up at the venue a full hour late. This was no small affair. There must have been at least twenty adults in the room, and that many children too, possibly more.

Scanning the crowd looking for a place to grab a seat, I am rescued by the waving arm of another lost friend motioning me to a seat next to him. I make my way through the crowd, careful not to step on any children – who are chasing balloons, and kicking up a racket – oblivious to the jokes the MC is trying to tell. The lost friend, K, stands up to welcome me – firm handshake followed by a fist bump, a relic from our days in undergrad study in Nigeria.

We make small talk, in between spoons of rice and bites of chicken. He’s in town briefly; a small break in the project he’s working on out of Brazil affords him the chance to share in our little celebration. I talk about work, a trip to Nigeria I am planning, and a couple of potential work opportunities I am chasing up in his sector. He offers his thoughts on what changes I need to make in my strategy. He’s chasing a few Nigerian opportunities himself and he shares his uncomplimentary views about doing business there. A woman comes over and whispers in his ear. He rummages in his pockets and comes up with a car key. She takes it and then leaves, four packs of rice in tow.

My fiancée, he explains. I nod and offer my congratulations remarking that he had always had an eye for really beautiful women. He laughs – self indulgently – the laugh of a man who knows he has a keeper on his hands. He asks about EJ – the one thing I can’t accuse my friends of is not staying up to date about happenings in our various lives. I give him the cliff-notes version: didn’t work out. He listens, head angled, fist on chin, looking directly at me – the affected pose of a bloke who is trying hard to understand my dilemma, but can’t relate.

We move on to other more recent matters, a new kid for another friend out of London, a distant acquaintance that has returned permanently to Nigeria, and his own wedding plans. Around us, a child cries after tripping over the outstretched leg of an adult engrossed in winning the battle with chicken bones. Out front, the MC waffles on.

On shi**ing (Or, the criticality of the angle of perch)

Gross post alert

The one thing being suddenly pushed out of my sheltered teenage years into shared hostel accommodation (in a very rugged Nigerian University) taught me, was that squeaky clean loos were a luxury. Growing up,  we didn’t live a posh life,  but thanks to theOOhj Snr‘s day job  in the academia, we had decent living quarters – complete with a loo I shared with the kid brother. On pain of a severe caning, Mrs RustGeek (Snr), ensured we kept our little loo clean. Unbeknownst to me, that luxury would be rudely snatched away from me in short order.

My first year at University was a culture shock of sorts. If coping with the new surroundings  – and being far away from everyone I’d known up till that time  – wasn’t hard, a slew of issues made it harder still. First us fresh-faced Jambites were given rooms on the ground floor;  from which we were dispossessed by hardened serial students and confra-men. These same self appointed Lords of the domain  colonised two of the four toilets on the floor, complete with padlocks for their own use, leaving the rest of us scrambling to use the remaining two. True  to form, these were absolute cesspits of  bodily fluids and smells, especially when baked to boiling by the withering sun.  On the first occasion where I popped in, the cornucopia of smells and liquids made every desire to download vanish – a shell shocked state I stayed in for a full week.

With time,over that first semester, I learned a couple of  crucial things that would keep me out of harm’s way through the following years:

1. Timing was of essence: The loos were cleaned at around about 10am – if dousing them in bucket fulls of izal and hosing them down with water could be called cleaning. Given that the rest of us normal chaps had to share a couple of loos, they did get soiled pretty quickly. Give or take, there was a two hour window within which the smell of izal was strong enough to subdue these smells of bodily excretions. I learned to synchronise my download meter to that crucial window to avoid being laid prostrate by the stench.

2. The angle of perch was critical: I learned pretty quickly that the easiest route to various skin infections was to allow fluids from the bowl splash willy nilly. Minimising the particle impact momentum was essential to achieve this goal. Two tactics evolved into very useful tools over that period. The first was create as much of a bed of toilet paper in the bowl [source] to soften the impact, thus minimising splashes. The second – and most important tactic – was to modify the angle of perch. At the right angle, the entire momentum of the solids are  absorbed by the walls of the toilet, leaving gravity as the only driving force moving the delivered pellets. Where delta h (the vertical distance between the impact point and the liquid level in the bowl) is small, the resultant liquid impact velocity is negligible,  thus transferring minimal momentum to the liquids (and avoiding splashing).

I am glad to say that by utilizing these two tricks,  I grew to achieve well nigh 96% success in avoid the splash…Thankfully, after spending a couple of years in those conditions Mrs RustGeek Snr sold off a couple of choice wrappers (those were the Abacha days when money was scare) and got me out of there fast, a feat of quick thinking that probably saved me.

Postscript: Reliving the garish details has made me queasy if that is any consolation. I apologise for any lunch plans I may have (indadvertedly) mucked up… 

Al Mohler on Vocation

A few weeks ago, ‘Jane Doe’ prompted some deep thinking by Single Nigerian, leading him to ponder if trying now and then was enough when others had sacrificed things (even their lives) to ‘get the word to the common man.’

I was listening to an old message by Al Mohler  – Being Men and Raising Men [mp3]  – whilst walking to work today,  and a section [begins at 51;11] struck me as being a very apt answer to that question.

Money Quote:

The disconnect between labour and reward is one of the most unbiblical manifestations of the confusion of this culture. We must teach our sons that they are expected to work, and that labour is by God’s design followed by reward. And the reward is more than money and more than material;  it is the satisfaction in a man’s heart of knowing he has done something to the glory of God.

There is the temptation for some men to say, “You know, I can see what he does.  He gets to do great things  for the glory of God, the world gets to observe him and see him in what he does, the church gets to celebrate that, but all I do is this! ”

Whatever you do, do to the glory of God……. There are no little people, there are no little places, there are no little jobs in the kingdom of God. You will never know what life you were touching by your honesty as an accountant, by your steadfastness as a police officer, by your integrity as a teacher. You will never know how the glory of God is shown until in eternity you are given a glimpse of how God worked through you.

Calorie Counting

Up until this week, I didn’t know that lumbering along at a fairly respectable 4.5km/hr for 1.3km only burned calories the equivalent of a 34.5g bag of Walkers ready salted potato crisps.

I blame my sister for that. She – all sharp mouthed, 5′-4″, verbal terrorist Edo woman  that she is  – decided that last Saturday was the day to put her foot down and insist that something had to be done about my burgeoning waistline. I couldn’t have guessed our little chat would segue into those matters, if I did I would have invented a network failure and hung up. She, the mistress of subterfuge, began by regaling me with our usual fare – stories about the nieces and cousins, about who was seeing whom and all the other mundanities – before mentioning that she had run into an old schoolmate of mine. Said schoolmate was this huge, built-like-a-wardrobe bully who terrorised us all those many years ago in primary school. We had a nickname for him, puff-puff, only used when he was out of earshot; given because he looked like a hurriedly fried, misshapen ball of puff puff.  I hadn’t seen him in years, but by my sister’s account he had morphed from puff-puff into a Fally Ipupa clone.

The inevitable follow up question then, was what I was doing about my own belly. Her premise was that old puff-puff had somehow found the strength and discipline to pull off a minor miracle in loosing his flab, therefore I had no excuse. In my humble opinion, I am perfectly fine, especially when my buddy O’s  near perfectly spherical agbada belle  is considered. But little MsRustGeek is having none of that.

So yours truly is making this first,  tentative foray into the murky world of daily treks walks, carefully scrutinizing food labels and scaling down on the cokes. One week in, it does look like something that could grow on me. It just sucks that all that walking only knocks off a wee bag of crisps.