I am about to have breakfast at our hotel, waiting for my toast to pop and imagining all the one million glorious ways I could and would shove all those delicious calories down my throat (basically minding my own business) when I overheard the following conversation from the table next to me:
Waiter: “any tea or coffee?”
Man A: “coffee for me”
Woman A: “same”
Man B: “English tea”
Waiter: with a smile “ok sir, plain tea?”
Man B: silence and looking confused “… English tea”
Waiter: “sure sir, would you…”
Man A: cutting him off, “just bring him tea” and giving Man B a look that says “just take whatever tea he brings!”
Man B: hesitantly nodding his head in agreement “… yes tea”
I empathised with Man B as I was reminded of a closely similar incident at the airport when I first arrived the UK. I had been sitting on the plane for about 10hours; which included the time to repair something or the other before we could take off. I was hungry because I did not eat much on the plane (somewhere in my head I was convinced I would find some spicy food, Nigerian style, in Heathrow. I was wrong!). I was also very tired as I already had a busy day prior to getting on that flight so the last thing I needed was the sight of Heathrow.
It was MASSIVE!
And intimidating. And scary. Suddenly, I realised I was very thirsty as well. I scanned and analysed all the restaurants I could see, zeroed in on one (just like The Terminator would have done) and headed straight for it.
The woman at the counter was not smiling, neither was I. So, I figured this would be a quick transaction.
Me: “I would like a bottle of water, please”.
Woman: (in a sharp tone) “still or sparkling?”
Woman: (in a sharper tone) “do you want still or sparkling water?”
Me: (looking a bit confused) “Please I just want water”. I was suddenly aware of the people behind me as well as next to me at the other counter and my anger started to build along with my slight embarrassment.
Woman: (raising her voice just a little and giving me a look that was not helpful) “I heard you but would you like still or sparkling water?”
Me: (shooting her a “girl, don’t play with me” as well as my “I-don’t-care-what-anyone-thinks” look) “what is the difference?” While thinking, “Really! God made two kinds of water?”
Woman: “sparkling has bubbles and still is normal “
Me: (feeling so angry it made me tired) “still water then”
And so, began my journey of self-discovery in the UK…
“Ignorance is a temporary affliction remedied only by asking the right questions” ~ Colin Wright
Some people ask few questions, some ask lots of questions, while some ask none. For instance, when we are at a restaurant, Bud would quietly read through the menu and quietly place his order without asking questions. He would also quietly get lost while driving somewhere new.
A long time ago, I used to be afraid to ask questions because I thought it made me look stupid and unintelligent. However, having opportunities to explain certain things to certain ‘intelligent’ people has made me really appreciate that no one knows everything.
Not knowing about something is okay, that is ignorance. Not wanting to learn or correct a misconception is downright stupidity.
Take for instance the first time someone asked me:
“So, are there lots of Lions and Hyenas wondering around your neighbourhood back home?”
I was appalled and upset someone would think that; as I have never, in my entire life, seen a real lion or a hyena except while watching ‘The Lion King’ of course. So, I would respond by saying something like:
“Yes, there are. I also have coffee with the queen every afternoon”
However, by the 3rd and 4th time I got similar questions, I began to realise that there is a certain ignorance about this subject in this part of the world (the West I mean). Most of what people in the UK see of Africa in the media is either the safari or poor-hungry-diseased and fly covered people living in mud/thatched houses wearing dirty clothes and unable to speak English.
Realising this helped me to start responding differently. I would talk about Lagos, where I lived all my life prior to coming to the UK, I would show them pictures on the internet (thank you google) and I would try my best to correct that misconception.
Just to be clear, the Safari is the photo on the left while Lagos, Nigeria is on the right.
Ignorance CAN be an excuse but NOT FOR LONG. So, when next you are in doubt or feel completely clueless about a subject, rather than wallow in the pit of ignorance or waste time digging a new pit of ‘alternative facts’, DO THE SMART THING AND ASK.