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01 Nov Written by 

Out of Place

I thought I had dialled the wrong number when recently I called my sister and heard a song instead of the generic ring-tone. I cut the call, looked at the phone screen, and dialled again.

‘Do you realise you now have a caller tune?’ I asked, knowing she’s not particularly inclined to entertain her callers.

She was horrified. Someone must have tampered with her phone, she said. The natural suspect was our young cousin who had an itch for reconfiguring phone settings. But I soon realised we had the wrong suspect.

Almost everyone now has a caller tune that begins with the prayer, ‘God bless Nigeria’, rendered in a child’s voice just before Onyeka Onwenu comes on the line to sing ‘One Love’.

I, too, have the caller tune and I do not remember ordering it. What generosity from my GSM service provider. Coming around October, I take it as a 53rd independence anniversary giveaway, courtesy of the National Orientation Agency?

I do not mind the choice of song. I love my country and indeed wish upon it showers of blessing, and I believe in a strong, united Nigeria. If covertly imposing a caller tune on me is a strategy to nudge me towards patriotism, well. I do not mind the imposition. Adverts are intrusive, shoving ideas into your head and if possible, hearts.

My grouse is with a song, any song, taking the place of the ring-tone. I have so far disregarded the appeal to subscribe to Davido’s latest hot single ‘Skelewu’. I do not love my caller so much as worry about putting them through a spell of boredom whenever they call me. I hope to be rewarded in equal measures.

It is a phone, not a jukebox. When I call, I expect to hear that monotonous ring, not a melody; there are all kinds of devices that cater to that need. And no, when I call, I do not want to hear prophetic declarations by a pastor. For my spiritual needs there are places of worship. It is not in a garden where a group is picnicking. And it is not on a public bus where there is a clear sign, ‘no hawking, no preaching’. How does one emphasize this point without setting off a rant about indecent proselytising?

There is a place for everything. Ideally, there is a place for everything.

If you are a man, if you identify as a man or have a particularly masculine name, it’s creepy to put up a picture of your fiancee on your profile on Facebook. There are more ingenious ways to show possession. But then, all is fair on Facebook.

Also, artificial flowers do not belong in the cubic interiors of living rooms or any closed space for that matter. It is a room, not a garden. Potted flowers in a room give the illusion that plants now grow on concrete, on hard, cold tiles.

In the manner Caucasians are quick to blame adult psychosis on childhood incidences, I recall my father returning from work one day, years ago, hugging a gigantic synthetic flower whose large leaves I had to wipe along with the furniture. I campaigned endlessly for it to be removed, but his attachment to it was as strong as my resentment of it. One of its sprigs is broken, without my help, and some leaves have since become dog-eared. Hopefully the whole plant will shrivel and die soon.

Even if natural, I resent plants cohabiting with me as much as I do insects. We wouldn’t think them so benign if they could creep up along the wall, as they would if we would let them grow, and tickle us at night. Artificial flowers is the permanent solution to continuous growth; arrested development. They have no aesthetic value, no natural scent, they cannot be caressed.

The rubbery, often mismatched, garland at the feet of a pulpit is a distraction. The dining table is often too crowded to accommodate a vase. There is simply no place indoors for artificial flowers.

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