Friday 23 October 2015

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

Worried Black Girl
Image: Naija News Agency
I always use every opportunity to learn from life. Some lessons are easy to swallow but others are just bitter pills.

Take my house issue for example.
Immediately after my service year, I got a nice apartment in an upscale neighborhood. The rent should have been cut-throat but because one of my Pastors was related to the owner, it was very affordable. I was told the owner was out of town and wanted someone to ensure the house wasn’t empty. The house was a 3-bedroom flat and I was given one room. The owner’s nephew was in one room and the other room was leased out from time to time.

I was okay with the arrangement. I was hardly home so I never had any run-ins with my housemates, neighbors, or their family.

A week after I had moved in, I had the desire to return home early and when I did, I could not believe the scene that met my eyes. The neighbors’ kids were playing football inside the living room. I was livid! The dust they had kicked up and the dirt they brought in turned the room I had swept that morning into a refuse dump. Turns out that the neighbors wanted me to settle in before showing me how things were done. From that day, things changed a lot.

I would come home to a messed up kitchen with the sink filled with days of unwashed dishes, pots blackened from improperly set stoves, and pieces of food on the floor. Rats had a field day in the kitchen and one had the effrontery to chase me one day! The owner’s nephew had the kids from the other flats do his cooking and dishes, so he could not be bothered if the dishes were done or not. He didn’t go into the kitchen except to fetch water so he was okay with the smelly, dirty, and nasty excuse of a kitchen. I wasn’t and I raised the issue with him many times until we were at a point where we were barely speaking. My compulsive nature wouldn’t let me take that!

I had kids coming into my room and taking stuff when I so much as stepped out to get something. I caught one little girl going through my bag one evening. I stood behind her quietly to give her the benefit of doubt. I was right: she was a little thief! She snuck in after I had seen a friend off and left the room open. When she turned and saw me, she could have died! I called her much older sister and had her handle the issue: but not before banning her from entering the house whether I was there or not.

All of these weren’t as bad as when the person in the next-door flat bought a rickety I-pass-my-neighbor generator. He put the generator right at my window, with the exhaust facing my room; because he DIDN'T want to face the church we shared a fence with.

Night after night, I would be poisoned with carbon monoxide and disgruntled with the irritatingly noisy generator set. It got worse when he came into some money and bought a bigger generator. Since we had problems with the electric supply, the generator would be on for almost 24 hours! As a result of the constant drone of the generator, I always woke up with a nasty headache which only dimmed as the day wore on. In fact, the man came to me one day and said, ‘You dey try for this noise oh! Thank GOD my room is really far from the generator.’ If you know me, you probably know the facial expression…and the subsequent reaction I gave him.

I desperately needed to leave that house. The sky spirits - in King Julien’s voice - were in agreement. The owner of the house died and his wife needed money to bury him. She left Lagos and came to Yola. She didn’t expect to find people in her house. Yes, they had tenants in the other houses but the thought of tenants in her house shocked her. She said her husband would never have given the house to tenants. Turned out the nephew was the one who gave the house out to make some extra money on the side and he told no one of it. The entire house deal was a shoddy affair. And said nephew had left the country for school...if that is what it was. I was stuck. I had no receipt, no evidence of payment, and quite frankly, no reason to be in that house! After much discussion, the widow agreed to let us stay in the house if we were willing to pay a 50% raise on the house rent her nephew-in-law collected. When I told her I could not afford that, she told me to either pay up or two weeks!

I weighed the messed up kitchen, lousy neighbor’s kids, horrible power situation, the constant poisoning and noise pollution and I knew I would not pay 50% extra to continue living like that!

So I started going up and down and blowing up people’s phones for agent contacts. I was looking at houses for a whole week after the ultimatum. My radio shows were suffering, I wasn’t eating or sleeping well and I was dropping weight by the pound but I wasn’t going to give up on my house search. The houses were either too expensive or in neighborhoods that were not friendly. Even though life was bashing me, I knew I had no option but to push on.

Two days to the end of the ultimatum, I headed out with my friend to look at some houses. We got to a neighborhood that was neither upscale nor completely ghetto. They were offering two rooms for a little above the price of my house. Yeah, it wasn’t great, I had to share the toilet and live with people but I needed a house: I was desperate for a house!

I paid for the house and finally breathed a sigh of relief. In two days, I moved to my house and prepared to get accustomed to my new settings.

I should never have breathed that sigh of relief.

The new house was much worse! I had inconsiderate neighbors and I got attacked! My neighbors in the new house were so much worse than the ones I had to deal with in the old house. Everyone had an I-pass-my-neighbor generator and they all came on as soon as it got dark! The poisoning?! I have to continually bless God for not dying. I used to have so much carbon monoxide in my room that my eyes were always red and my chest always hurt! And oh God! The noise! If the generator in my old house was noisy, the ones in my new house were a racket from hell! I would lay awake all night listening to the kratakata kratakata drone of the generators and I would curse from here to Africa! Trust me, I stopped cursing in 2014 and picked it up as soon as I had to live with those people! I also had to deal with absolutely dirty neighbors who would use the very public toilet and not flush or rinse. And if you haven't lived with dirty people, please please please, don't you ever do that! They are just nasty! Dealing with my neighbors and the attack really messed up my head, so much so that I wanted to pour salt in my neighbor’s generator and kill someone!

The moment the rains came in, my troubles multiplied. My area flooded every time it rained. The flood water didn’t enter the room from the door but seeped from the floor and created large puddles in the room. One night, I was sleeping on the floor after pulling the rug up. It rained wild animals and my room flooded to a line a hair’s breadth away from me. I may not be a crying girl but when morning came and I saw all that water and all my things taking a swim, I broke down and cried. I wondered why I was suffering in Yola when my parents had houses in Kaduna and Abuja. Only my intense passion for my dreams prevented me from throwing in the towel and moving back home.

Then the big no-no happened. I was attacked one dark, stormy night by some of the louts that lived in the neighborhood. I am sure they planned to rape me but God saved me yet again. It is still one of the most terrifying moments I have had to endure in the past year.

So I had to deal with a house with disgusting I-wouldn't-flush-the-toilet-after-taking-a-nasty-dump neighbors, generators that sang horribly and poisoned me daily, a constantly flooded inner and outer room, and loud kids who always stared at me like I fell from the sky in a mushroom-shaped space machine.

Truth is, I never would have moved to the new neighborhood if I had not been desperate. Desperation never allows for rational thinking and reasoning. I know they say desperate times call for desperate measures but desperation will lead to manifold problems!

I had to move houses again, making it the third house I have lived in for the past 10 months. You got that right! Third house! 

I could go on and on but I will leave that for some other time. I hope you learn something from this. You may be in a really terrible situation right now and you feel desperation clutching your heart. It is okay. We all feel the same way at one point or another. But before you make any decision, take a much-needed breath, inhale deeply, consider all angles, choose wisely, and hope for the best! It is the mark of wisdom to not make a permanent decision out of a temporary situation...even if that situation feels like you are being bashed by Mohammed Ali in his prime! It is a cliché, but it is true!

PS: I moved to the new house again out of desperation. I hope that in a couple of months, I won't have to move again. Ain't nobody got time for that! 

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