And you know the cherry on top of the cake; after that day I began seeing him and Eleanor hanging around dark places together. Talk about life not being fair.
Every Sunday morning, without fail I go to Adum. Rain or shine I do. It is not to worship or for any religious function. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Christian. I observe the sabbath and all, but on Sunday mornings; I observe a whole different kind of sabbath. I go to buy fose [secondhand clothing].
No, I can’t go on any other day. Sundays are when they break bulk. They cut open all the many many bales of discarded white man goodies. Whatever you want, they’ve got it. One thing though, I am not the only one who knows this.
I might not have mentioned it earlier, but I’m a business man. The clothes I buy are for sale, not for me. I do wear a couple, but usually I sell them. It turns out these guys were also into the same kind of business. They were undercutting me everywhere. With my customers, my suppliers even my middlemen chale. I will go see my clients and they will tell me they’ve bought shirts already. It wasn’t just that, they seemed to know my every move.
Gradually, I had stopped being the go to guy on campus. My rep was at stake. A confrontation was needed. To do that I had to prepare. I tried all avenues open to me, but nothing seemed to work.
They had come prepared. Checking them all out, I realized only one was really a threat. He was dressed for the occasion.
1. A baseball cap with the brim folded to hide your features. Passers-by who know you shouldn’t be able to recognize you. No one should know the source of the goods [this code I had already broken, war is war]. Keep them guessing.
2. A tank top so you can try on whatever you wear without having to take off what you are wearing. The suppliers should never know you are selling [they will increase the prices]. Trying it on throws them off and helps you know how good the product is.
3. A pair of shorts. That is what all the sellers wear. You fit in better and give the impression that you are one of them. They lower prices then. Optionally, you can wear sweat pants. It is also accepted.
4. A pair of black bathroom slippers [chalewote]. This is to prevent anyone in your hostel who sees you leaving thinking you are going to town [hide your sources remember]. Wear anything nice and a kokonsa girl out to pray will see you and tell others. This starts a chain of questioning. We don’t want that.
5. Finally, a backpack. You need something in which to put the goods. Also it gives the illusion of you not going far. Backpacks are commonplace on campus.*
This guy who was a threat, he had nailed the fose seeking gear down pat. Except for one thing, he carried a duffel bag instead of a back pack. That annoyed me even more. A duffel bag meant he knew he was going to get a lot of stuff, that was proof of his efficiency. It also meant, he didn’t care about the secrecy of the business. Anyone seen carrying a duffel bag at dawn arouses suspicion. All he cared about was getting as many goodies as he could.
My tank top was cut with a really deep V. Sweatpants were a size too small and didn’t get to my ankles even. Had on a bucket hat, casting a nice ambient shadow on my face, making me look like a ninja turtle. Backpack was a vivid red and new [really huge too]. To round off the look, my chalewote’s were real old. It felt like I was walking with my bare feet. And oh, I had on really thick socks. Black ones.
With the strutting around done, we all took our positions around the sellers. The atmosphere was tense. This is what we had all been waiting for. All the others could sense the tension between duffel bag and I. They had all managed to convene on one side, leaving duffel bag and I on the other side.
This is where it gets tricky. Most novices make the mistake of trying to spot a good buy and going for it. The trick is to gather them in handfuls and check them out when the scuffling dies down. Also, you don’t dive in as soon as they spread them out. You wait for the others to rush in and toss it up. You are better able to gauge where the good stuff are.
So while the novices charged in as soon as the sellers spread them out. Duffel bag, me and a couple of other veterans just scoped it out. Then duffel bag vanished. Man, he was a sight to behold. He was everywhere at once. I couldn’t keep track of him. His movements were economical, none were wasted. Each move was part of an intricate dance with the fose. He had his bag wide open, slung over his shoulder. Picking up the fose in handfuls, he threw them without looking into his duffel bag. He never missed, each throw was a three pointer. Jordan would have been jealous. Never seen anyone show such skill.
For a couple of seconds I stared and admired, until one of the novices bumped into me, shocking me out of my reverie. Shocked into action, I had time to spare for no one. I got to picking. A little while later, the pickings were done, and everyone was soon sorting out their bunch. Duffel bag had the largest bunch. I came in second, not a close second mind you. Yeah, he was that good. He had some of the choicest stuff too. He was all smiles as he approached the sellers. He haggled real well too. With still more smiles he reached for his wallet. Suddenly the smiles vanished. He just kept patting himself. Rummaging through the bag, casting glances around. It seemed he had lost his wallet. The look on his face was priceless. It was a cross between fear and confusion. the whole tough guy facade was gone. You could tell he couldn’t understand what was happening.
The sellers, suspecting foul play on his end had started issuing threats. Poor duffel bag. He had actually teared up. No one made a move to help him.
A QUICK RECAP
You do remember when I said I bumped into him earlier. The time we were all strutting around. Well, I picked his wallet then. Why leave the results to chance? I knew I wouldn’t be suspected too. Every true veteran knows to hide their wallet when they come buying. During the scuffle, pickpockets jump in and use that opportunity to work. He would just assume he had fallen victim to them. Besides it was his own fault. He was cocky enough to put his wallet in his breast pocket. Hiding it would have cost him nothing.
Having paid for the stuff and being done packing. I walked up to him and with a smile handed over his wallet, saying to him; “Next week wati”.
With a dumbfounded look, he watched me walk away.
Before you judge me remember: “All is fair in love and warfare”, and business is warfare. MUHAHAHAHAHA.
I have always wondered if there is a difference between nicknames and guy names. Guy names are the names you get tagged with when you mess up, and nicknames are well.. nicknames. During my time in high school and Uni, I heard nicknames that well, the owners must have been on something when they chose them. It wasn’t the names themselves that baffled, it was more the circumstances leading to their creation.
Let’s take my dad’s friend for instance, the man’s nickname was “plain face”. I asked my dad why and he goes like: “can’t you see he has a plain face”. This explanation would have had nothing remarkable to it if not for the fact that my dad ran his hand over his face as he said “plain face”. This is nothing compared to this though.
In my first year of uni, my roommate had this girlfriend called “gunshot”. She earned that name in Secondary school. How? Asleep during a morning class, she farted. Someone screamed: “gunshot!” and the name stuck.
A friend from Prempeh college was also called Akon. Why? Not because he looked like the singer, but because he looked like a guinea fowl (akonf3m). To make the name easier to pronounce, they shortened it to Akon [such consideration for our non-twi speaking friends]. Another example was this guy called cabbage. The reason is exactly what you are thinking, because he looked like a cabbage. You wouldn’t notice the resemblance, but as soon as it was pointed out to you, you begin to wonder how you missed it.
These names, though given to ridicule, usually take on a life of their own and end up being used as expressions of affection. Some people become so enamored with their nicknames that it overshadows their names. Causing them untold embarrassments later on.
This Stephen guy in my neighborhood for instance, the guy started affecting an accent. To make fun of him, we all took to calling him Stefan. He assumed it was in appreciation of the “good english” he spoke. so what did he do? In registering for the NOV/DEC exams, the “DONUT” used Stefan. It so happened that he didn’t do so well in his WASSCE and needed the NOV/DEC results too, to enter university. Different names he was told, so not possible. He took to calling himself Stevo after that. Being such good friends, we followed suit.
Another friend was called suicide. How he got that name, no one knows. While visiting his kid sister who was in senior high school, her friends started hailing him. One of the teachers hearing the students shouting Suicide! Suicide! assumed something was wrong and rushed to go call the headmaster. The teacher, out of breath when he finally found the headmaster just said: “suicide!”. The headmaster also, on hearing ‘suicide’, assumed the worst and called for a quick inspection of the various dorms [this raises the issue of how gullible SHS teachers are. To be discussed another day]. The search proved futile as there was no corpse to be found. While the inspection was going on, the entire student body had been assembled in the assembly hall.