Ghanaians love funerals, weddings and outdoorings. On these occasions, they always have to get a new outfit. Sometimes a different one for each day of the occasion. This is where tailors come in. All they have to do is sew the outfit and get paid. But no no no, they want to be paid all right, but its for just being tailors.
If you have had to deal with this lot, you can attest to this. If you cannot then you probably are a tailor: “All of them [tailors, seamstresses, let’s add repairer-men for good measure] are a different breed of humans, whose sole form of sustenance, is the frustration and anguish they cause their clients”.
No other way to explain their behavior of refusing to deliver on their promises. Whether in their heads they are lesser gods or what, you can’t tell. They always expect clients to act obsequiously towards them. When you want your stuff, you have to go to them hat-in-hand. Any other approach and they stonewall you. Keep pushing and they enter into an intricate game of hide and seek with you. A game they never lose. Except to other tailors.
Tailors probably learnt customer service from civil servants. A tailor or seamstress [now they all call themselves fashion designers], will be working on your attire whenever you go calling. Even if you don’t call first, they always know to pretend to work on it. Its like a sixth sense they all develop. Soon as you leave, they switch to the next caller’s.
If they ever call you to come for it, do know you are going to watch them make it right before your eyes. Whether to impress or what you can’t tell. When they do manage to finish before you get there, the end product is always different from what you requested.
A tailor I know took it all to a whole new level. He called me really early in the morning to come for my shirts. This was a guy who had been moving from shop to shop just to avoid his clients. This man had turned into a nomad.
Walking to where he was supposed to be now, I was still nursing doubts. Not till I saw him did I believe.
I wasn’t the only one. There were quite a number of people, all coming for their stuff. We all sat as he went through a jute bag.
Anyone who had happened to chance upon that scene would have assumed the tailor was a ‘returnee’ giving handouts to his ‘ground-ridden’ relatives. The looks on our faces would have given this much credence. We all looked apprehensive and downright expectant. Even kids have never looked at candy that way.
Seeing your stuff, he called you and with a snide look [to him he was showing us he was a man of his word after all] handed it over. The joy of receiving what is rightfully yours was too much to contain for some. A woman burst into tears. One man getting his shirt, hugged the tailor and swung him around. Had the tailor not pushed him away, would have kissed him I’m sure. His lips were puckered and searching. A lady practically grovelled before him.
He kept at it until there were just a couple of us left. We were all fixated on him. Nothing could distract us. Deep down, we were all nursing fears of not getting our stuff.
Some of you might be thinking, why didn’t we accost the tailor? Answer is simple really. He looks like Schwarzenegger in his prime. Not the dottering macho man we now see. I am referring to the 5-time world bodybuilding champion. He was taller than Arnold too. Over 6 feet this tailor. More than our clothes made us stay put. Life is worth living.
Hearing my name, I skipped joyfully towards him. Hardly had the tailor called my name than he broke into tears. I froze mid-step. At that very moment, three very angry women entered. Seeing them, the other customers [there were four of us left now] backed away a little.
The tailor’s tears surprised the women. Whatever they had been wanting to do forgotten for the moment. It was obvious what they had been planning though. Wearing t-shirts and jeans with a cloth tied over it. Red bandannas wrapped around their heads. They looked like they could take on five Schwarzeneggers.
Seeing such a big man bawling so frenetically, we all stared and wondered. What could scare him so? The tailor wasn’t just crying though, with unintelligible sounds he kept making placatory gestures at the three women who had entered so unceremoniously.
After the tailor had calmed down somewhat, the women proceeded to explain issues to us. From their account, they had given their fabrics to this tailor three months ago. He was supposed to sew their outfits for a friend’s wedding. They were the bridesmaids. In those three months, they had seen him only once. That had been in the market. And even with that, soon as he made eye contact he took off. They had not seen him since then. They had just gotten the news that he had set up shop here. Dropping all they had been doing, they had rushed over.
The ‘wanna be’ bridesmaids had been out for blood, but seeing the tailor in tears had thrown them off. With some pleading from us and a promise by the tailor to get them their things on the morrow, they left. He [the tailor] showed them pictures and all.
No sooner had they left than the tailor resumed his cocksure attitude. The cowering buffoon was gone. He resumed rummaging through the jute bag and gave me my stuff. Getting my shirts, I was so happy I didn’t bother to try them on. I went straight home. Trying them on at home, I realized two of them didn’t fit. I decided to take them back later that evening.
I got there a bit late. I was almost at the container when I heard some sounds coming from inside the shop. I hid in the shadows and kept watch. Usually I don’t do this but curiosity got the better of me. Lets just say the tailor intrigued me. I didn’t have to wait long. After a couple of minutes, the tailor came out from the shop with two other guys [just as muscled as him].
They proceeded to lift the container and put it on a truck [the kind with four wheels that porters use in the market]. The truck had been placed in the shadows. Afterwards they tied the container to the truck. I couldn’t hear what they said to each other next, but a scuffle broke out between the tailor and his two buddies. A shove here and there and the two other macho guys left. The tailor, now alone, started pushing the truck away. It looked tough, but slowly he made headway.
Watching him leave, it suddenly hit me what was happening. The poor ‘wanna be bridesmaids’, never to be bridesmaids it seemed.