The editing room of the Lagos based TV station was as loud as Ojuelegba under the bridge on a Friday afternoon.
Market was down in the whole of Ibadan, and mostly when I passed the jewellery shops overlooking the 3SC Football Stadium, the Igbo salesmen by the side of the road were discussing what electronic gadgets they were planning to buy. Sometimes I would stop over for small talk. One day the most outspoken among them, who sold traditional musical instruments alongside his necklaces, started interrogating me about the mobile device I was packing. At the time I still carried a Nokia 6310, a mobile phone with a brilliant long-lasting battery I considered perfect for use in a place with daily electricity cuts. ‘What does your phone do?’ he asked. ‘Make phone calls’, I responded. ‘No camera? Internet? Radio?’ he reacted, not trying to hide his disbelief.
I shook my head. All of a sudden I felt as if I had something to be embarrassed about. I saw it in the salesmen’s eyes: I had dropped considerably in their estimation.
Over two years later – by now owning a smart phone. The editing room of the Lagos based TV station was as loud as Ojuelegba under the bridge on a Friday afternoon. Journalists shouting, videos playing, cell phones ringing. Colleagues were fighting each other over the desktop I was supposed to be working on, so I decided to get out my own computer to edit the video on.
My little white MacBook cannot boast the fastest processor and is not of the latest model, but it accompanied me to Eastern Congo, survived Harmattan in Burkina Faso and did not even stutter when I overloaded it with Luanda party pictures during my last stay in Angola. Moreover its battery is replaceable, so I always have a charged one as backup. I adore that laptop.
Maybe that is why the remark hurt a little. ‘She does not even have a Mac Pro.’ The observation after I had taken my computer out of my bag was made just loud enough for me to hear. When I turned around to defend my little Mac, the colleague who had found it wanting was already gone. I was a little hurt, but not surprised. Years earlier in Ibadan the salesmen of Ekotedo had already taught me a valuable lesson. In Nigeria, you are as good as your gadgets.
Don’t get me wrong: I met a lot of Nigerians who do not think that way, and elsewhere in the world there are people who judge a book by its cover just as relentlessly. Just that I have never moved in those circles. I come from a country where the prime minister goes to work on his bicycle. I like shopping for second-hand clothes (second-hand, not vintage), I do not care for brands and I go through life blissfully ignorant of the latest model of anything. For some reason I cannot get away with that attitude as easily in Nigeria as I do in The Netherlands. As if more is expected of me.
Never in my life have I owned a car worth more than 500 euros. My wheels were always scrapyard material I shared with friends. Imagine my excitement when last week I got myself a bright red four-wheel drive to ship to Lagos!
The Toyota RAV4 from the year 2000 was a bargain, but still the most expensive car I ever bought. Being a red-head from the Stone Age, she has been baptised Wilma. On our first drive through the Dutch rain it was clear: we are meant for each other. Wilma’s four-wheel drive mode will safely navigate me through the streets of Lagos in rainy season.
I never loved anything on wheels as much as I love Wilma, so when I told a Lagosian girlfriend about my car I hoped she would share my enthusiasm. ‘Whát year did you say?’ she asked on the phone. ‘2000. Wilma is 13 years old.’ ‘O.’ Nothing more.
I did not have to ask any further: I knew. Once more I had failed the gadget test.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.
Previous entries of Femke Becomes Funke:
My Moin Moin Madness
White Sexual Commodity
‘I Became Angry the Lagosian Way: Skin Deep’
Beer in the Morning? I Would not Dream of Refusing http://ynaija.com/2012/03/30/femke-becomes-funke-beer-in-the-morning/
A Terrifying Dream