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Our Culture?!

My second cousin is getting married in New York next week and as I had intended to go, I began early with my preparations. I…

My second cousin is getting married in New York next week and as I had intended to go, I began early with my preparations. I got the details of a Naija tailor to whom I sent my aso ebi material four months in advance, told her when I needed it (first week of August) and expected that it would be ready on time for me to try on at least two weeks to the date I’d told her I wanted it for. I seem to recall that we had agreed to that. I even told her if she made it earlier and did a good job, my sisters might use her. So, imagine my shock when I called her towards the end of July to check on its progress and she gave me a haughty, “It’s not August already. Shebi it’s August you’re travelling?” Okay ooo. If this is her attitude to her customers, she shouldn’t say it’s her village people stunting her hustle in Atlanta. I can’t even go for the wedding (circumstances), so I may very well leave her with the material to do with as she pleases.

My annoyance at the tailor had barely subsided when I went to the Nigerian Consulate to pick up my passport, four days after the date I had been asked to come for it. I have no immediate travel plans but I was a Girl Guide for a minute, and I’ve never forgotten the lesson on preparedness we learned. Now, the consulate has no guest parking, but an enterprising Naija man who owns the complex with a parking spot next to the embassy charges $20 per spot. There is nowhere else (or hardly anywhere else ) nearby to park , so for each visit to the consulate, I have to cough up the parking fee.

What I expected to be an in-and-out situation with my new passport in tow ended up taking almost an hour. In that almost-hour, standing in line at a window inside the consulate, I listened to a frazzled African American tell whomever would listen that he had come from Columbus, Ohio because he sent his papers to DC and all he wanted to know was if they got it and “I ain’t never seen anything so disorganised in my life.”  Nobody responded to him. Apparently, we don’t like non-Nigerians flagellating Naija.

Eventually, the glamorous woman who’d been attending to folks at the window swanned out of the office. Those of us who had no clear idea where we were meant to be pounced on her. She told our American brother he didn’t need to be at the consulate at all.  She walked him over to a piece of paper pinned onto the wall, a well-manicured nail tapping at a www address.  “You need to go to this link.” She directed myself and a man who had come to pick up his passport (that ought to have been ready months ago but “I’ve been waiting for it and it hasn’t come and I have to travel for a funeral”) to a young man, Mohammed and asked him to take our papers and see if our passports were ready. “But we mail passports,” she said to us almost exasperatedly.  Mohammed soon came out and said while the man’s was ready and he could take possession of it soon, mine wasn’t. “But I was told to come back on the 29th.” I pointed at the date written in ink on the paper I had been given at my appointment. I was hungry. I wished I had at least had a cup of coffee before leaving the house.  “Nobody would ask you to come here to collect your passport,” the lady said. When you apply for a new passport, you bring, in addition to a money order, a self-addressed stamped next-day delivery envelope. I had done that. The man who had come in to hear the fate of his had done it, but we knew that it was easier to come in person than wait for the passport to be mailed. A big oga came into the office where we were to greet “his sister” who was filling a form. Apparently, he was in charge of passports because the glamorous woman who was getting ready to go back to her desk said to him (of me): “She said you asked her to come and pick up her passport. I’ve told her that nobody would have told her that.” I showed him my paper and said, “I was told to come back on the 29th.” He looked like he couldn’t decide whether to rave or laugh and said, “The date is an approximation. We haven’t even started on applications from June.”  “So when should I expect my passport to be ready?” He gave me a lackadaisical “go home and wait.” $20 poorer, no passport, I am still at home waiting. I expect I’ll go back in November to see if the passport is ready by then.

And while I wait, I shall rant about how much I despise folks wasting my time. Someone said our culture encourages us to be laid back about time, that I should have known better than to have trusted that the embassy and the tailor would deliver at the promised time. “You’ve been abroad for too long.” Biko, folks can be laid back all they want to be as long as they don’t do it on my own time. And I’ll continue to expect folks who know better to do better. I refuse to accept this ridiculousness as “our culture.” Tufiakwa!

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