I taught the children at church recently, had kids aged 9 – 13. Having taught the toddlers a few weeks before, I expected that this class would be a breeze, them being older and all. How mistaken I was! Anyways at some point I punished one of the children for being impossible. After I returned him to his seat, I told myself I’d tell his mom after the service (for reasons I cannot remember now). I told her, and even before letting me finish she asked the child (who was beside her), ‘is this true’, and then without waiting for an answer gave the urchin a smack across the face.
I felt sorry for him. Reminded me of a much younger ‘me’. That’s the thrust of this chronicle, ‘community policing’.
How many of us remember being ‘children of the neighborhood’ when we were younger? By that I mean being at the mercy of your elders, especially when you’d erred? A typical scenario would be doing something wrong with your peers, getting punished, maybe even spanked by the parent who found you guys out, and then having the pleasure of being driven home by that parent, just so they can ‘claim points’ . Unfortunately you’d almost surely have secured another spanking! When I was younger I used to think, if you’re going to punish me go ahead but don’t get me punished twice for the same crime!
I think of those times and I smile. I think of now and parents don’t discipline their kids, talk less of letting anyone else correct them. And I wonder at how much we claim to love them, but let them rot away (in our ‘love’). Of course I’m not advocating offering our kids up for the world to train/batter/reprimand but….. I don’t even know how to explain what I mean.
Ok, so this happened in Abuja, sometime in 2010. I got ‘policed’.
I had to do a transaction in the bank and so I got there at about 8.10am, with the confidence of an early bird who wouldn’t have to wait too long to be attended to. With benefit of hindsight now, next time I have to do a transaction before going to work I’ll probably by there by 7am, the queue was so long!
Anyways, so I located the last person in the queue, told him I’d be behind him, and then went to sit down because my leg was still in limp mode and standing was a major chore (the chronicle behind that will be ready sometime before the coming of our Lord; still haven’t come to a place where I can write about it).
So I sit beside this buxom woman, obviously an Alhaja from Oyo State (thanks to her delivery of Yoruba on the phone) and I greet her. When she’s done with her call, she acknowledges my greeting; suddenly she looks at me funny like the injury is on my hands and says, “ki lo de”? Without answering, I turn up my left foot and she sees the ugly wound under the foot, spits away from my big toe. Let’s play out the dialogue that ensued, and call her B.W (buxom woman) for this purpose too.
B.W – Jesu! What happened to your leg?
FGS – erm, I……..
B.W – it’s the high heels abi?
FGS – no ma! I fell…..
B.W – (now sympathetic) Ah, pele omo mi. (Sudden light bulb moment). But it was when you were wearing the high heels that you fell abi?
FGS – (now laughing hard and thinking, ‘seriously’) no ma, I wasn’t wearing heels…
B.W (cuts in) o n r’erin abi? You’re laughing? I’m telling you; high heels are not good but you people will not hear! Even if you want to wear them, not every time! I don’t know why you children don’t hear!
FGS – (now contrite, and a little embarrassed) yes ma
B.W – eh! Not every time! Se oti gbo? Remove it and put it in your bag… (pauses for a moment). Let me see your bag
FGS – (stunned cos I’m not even wearing heels now) yes ma (show her my bag)
B.W – (takes the bag, looks it over, and then hands it back) ok, this your bag is small. The day you want to wear heels (reflective), carry a big bag so you can put it inside and wear them just before you enter the place.
FGS – (squirming because I don’t if she means ‘enter the place’ like TuFace did) yes ma
B.W – ok, it’s my turn now, sit down o, and don’t stand up till it’s your turn
FGS – (now thinking ‘before nko’) yes ma (rolling my eyes in my mind)
End of dialogue.
Did I mention I didn’t know this woman from Adam? And did I also mention that her voice was very loud? Jeez! Now as much as the incident amused me (and mind you, I saved you the dialogue on the tips she gave me for taking care of the injury), it kind of reminded me of the slowly eroding tradition of community policing.
And on that Sunday, made me feel sorry for the boy at church.