Changes and Assumptions

On the other side of the year – the very tail end of it, I was in Lagos and needed to pick up some wax fabric (you might know it as ankara) as a gift for someone. I have a standard place or a standard ‘guy’ for almost everything in my life, so naturally, I have a place for ankara. This store is close to my Mom’s house and the only thing that they sell is ankara (actually, a specific brand of ankara which will not be named) and ankara-adjacent items – bags, shirts, etc. They are also a franchisee of the brand that will not be named, so they always have the latest designs in all the colours and in whatever quantity I want. The only downside to this store is that it is in a major mall, and this is a major downside in Lagos especially in a festive period. If you don’t know why that is, let me give you a clue: everyone is out, even those who don’t have a reason to be out. Forget coronavirus for a minute, we need to park! To make matters a little worse in this case, the management of the mall gave about half of the parking lot to a major brand for a Christmas display/ Santa grotto or something of the sort. Forgive me, I didn’t get close enough to find out exactly what it was.

So I pull into the mall and spent about twenty minutes trying to find a parking spot, and when I did park, I had to park nose-first, rather than tail-first because of the spatial orientation of the car relative to the other traffic in the lot. At this point, you’re probably wondering why I drove. I have no answer to that, and I in fact only asked myself that question after I had circled the parking lot without finding a spot to park in. So I eventually parked, got out of the car and walked purposefully in the direction of the store. But as I got closer, I became more and more … confused is not quite the word, I wasn’t confused, maybe just a little disoriented. The signage I was seeing in the front of the store did not look like what I was expecting to see. Now bear in mind, this store has been there for at least ten years, I didn’t expect it to not be there. If my condition was anything to go by, I couldn’t imagine a world where it was not there. Until I had to. Still in disbelief, I asked the doorman where the store was – I was holding out hope that they had moved to another space in the mall, apparently – and heard, ‘they have gone,’ no emotion, a bit of impatience. ‘Gone where?’ ‘I don’t know,’ incredulous look, a lot more impatience. So I said thank you, paid for parking and went to get an iced coffee for my troubles before I went back to deal with the traffic in the parking lot.

As I got to the car and took a sip of my iced coffee, I was reminded of an interaction with my watch a couple of days before. For some reason, I looked down at my watch to set a timer, but the interface was slightly different than I expected. I hadn’t worn the watch in a few days, but that was not the cause. My devices are set up to update their software automatically and the watch must have done just that. Upon further reflection, I realised that my phone had done the same thing, but those changes did not affect the ‘look and feel’ of the interface so I hadn’t noticed them. As I set my timer, the thought occurred to me that the fact that I have not paid attention to something does not imply that it has stayed the same.

The Yoruba people of West Africa say that, ‘eni ba fi oju ana wo oku, ebora a bo laso!’ Literally, this means that the person who does not take into account the changes that a corpse has undergone will be stripped naked by a spirit (and probably not a nice one). I gave you the literal translation because I really like the imagery, but essentially, it is saying that we cannot take our focus off of something and expect it to be the same when we decide to come back. Things rarely work out this way – not shops, or gadgets, or people, or pets. Not even apples – if you cut an apple and walk away, you won’t meet it the way you left it (if you do, please don’t eat it). And unless things were left deliberately and under the right conditions, they would not improve – think about the difference between adding a little yeast to some grape juice and leaving it for two weeks versus taking your eye off a basket of grapes for two weeks. In one instance, you’ll come back to beautifully fermented free-run wine, in the other, you’ll likely not find raisins.

In a new year, we are not the only ones chanting ‘new me’. Everything is changing around us. It is useful to double-check our assumptions before committing resources. Also, if you’re going to do it – whatever ‘it’ is – you better do it right now.

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