Alas, I have recently discovered that I am growing old. This is obviously far better than the alternative, and sometimes my filters fail me because of my age. But still, it was quite a shock.
And it was not the obvious signs like grey/white (silver) hair that did it. I have those coloured hairs indeed, and in wonderfully shocking places. And I've been balding for years now, so it can't be that. It was not the fact that I was a latecomer to new music, although that happened too with Ebony. It was not the strange creaking sounds whenever I moved; it's developed into a daily game now, trying to identify where each sound comes from.
No, none of the above made me confront my mortality. I finally figured it out: I have become horribly intolerant. Is that a natural progression in old age? I'm beginning to think so.
Now, it's difficult being intolerant in Ghana. There is so much going on in our daily lives that demands comment, so much that wears you down, so much going on that makes you say, 'Ebei'! And if you are going to be intolerant of all of them....well. Lateness, waiting, noise, slowness, infinite stupidity....these are a few of my favourite intolerable things!
I find I am intolerant of people who make absolutely no effort to crack a smile. I'm not asking for a full frontal blazing smile showing all 100 teeth. But, depending on the circumstances of course, the slightest of efforts would be most welcome, and would almost certainly improve any atmosphere. And yet I appear to be surrounded by people who seem to have a policy of, "We're all going to die, so why smile??" And it's worse when the person is serving or selling....and believes that a harsh demeanour will induce more sales.
I hate the use of the word 'Passco' by people who receive forwarded WhatsApp messages that they have received before. We all forward stuff on social media, stuff that we believe others may enjoy. We have no way of knowing whether some of our contacts have received those forwards or not. So if you receive something that you have received before, do you really need to point it out? The person who sent it didn't know you had already received it, did they? Enjoy it again, or not, and just shut up!!
I am generally intolerant of drivers in Ghana, but I am truly intolerant of slow drivers. I honestly believe that they are as dangerous as drivers who over-speed. These are the drivers who decide to take a Sunday afternoon drive on a Tuesday morning, at 5mph. They will annoy you, irritate you, frustrate you, make you a bad Christian, and make you scream words that you didn't even know existed. These are the people who have firm faith in the fact that the slower they drive the faster they get to heaven.
I have always been supremely intolerant of noisy eaters, and it is getting worse with age. I understand that our culture dictates that you cannot eat things like crabs, pork trotters/knuckles, bones (all types), or snails, without adding enthusiastic sound effects to the whole meal. But still, why do some people make it sound like the whole animal is slowly making its way down their throat, while facing resistance all the way? Ebei oh!
And it's the same when I travel and I am unfortunate to sit beside a noisy eater on a subway, train, or bus. A burger with onions and fries, or even crisps, can sound just as disgusting as a demented piece of pork knuckle. I'm not even going to go into the smell. Thank God the menu on an aircraft is somewhat restricted. I say somewhat because some have been known to bring along their own version of 'takeaway'....
Mobile phones? These evil gadgets were the subject of a post a couple of weeks ago, but I have to mention the noise created by mobile phones in a noisy country. Just when you think it can't get worse some idiot will begin shouting into their phone, at the cinema, at a meeting, in church, in a shop, sitting next to you, anywhere....in the bedroom?! Seize all their phones I say, and cast them into mobile phone hell!
I have also been very intolerant of lateness and that's because I had parents who were sticklers for timekeeping. But it really gets to me when brides are late for weddings (or maybe they are granting a condemned man a few more hours of freedom), when events start a couple of hours after the advertised time, when church services start late and then drag, when live radio programs run over into the next show and make that show start late.....the list seems endless in this wonderful country of ours. You ever make an appointment with a Ghanaian artisan? To meet at an agreed site?
We are surrounded by perpetual latecomers and therefore we are overjoyed when someone is only slightly late or actually on time. We are so used to the non-existence of service that when someone offers us real service we speak about it for days afterwards, and then post it somewhere on social media (like some twit I know who has a blog). Is that not mediocrity?
Strangely enough I have also developed an intolerance for mediocrity. Now I know this covers a wide spectrum of 'things' in this country, and I suppose I should be used to it by now....but still. It really hit me during the days (and nights) of extended 'dum'. My neighbourhood would erupt in ecstasy whenever we had unplanned 'sor', you know, more power than expected. Sometimes we were happy just to have power at all. And the sound of screaming happy children was a wonderful symbol of the lowering of standards (if we ever had standards to lower).
The most upsetting of my intolerances (is there such a word?) is the cynicism I have adopted towards friendship. I almost expect to be disappointed by friends these days, and I believe most of the fault for that lies with me. The rose-tinted lenses I have always worn when looking at my friends have really slipped. I should not have been wearing them in the first place, to be honest, and I have no one else to blame. And yet there are still those who bolster my belief in human nature every single day. I thank God for all my friends and acquaintances. Some, however, should not even be allowed to rewind one of my cassettes.
I know I sound like a cantankerous old fart. I'm not there yet, believe me. And there is hope for us in Ghana, in so many other ways. Like what happened at a traffic light in Accra the other day. There is a beggar on a crutch at the Opeibea traffic lights, and I always give her alms, one of my 'regulars'. This particular day she hobbled up to my car and I didn't have anything to give her. My car was some way back from the lights, and yet when they turned green and I drove through them, this woman was standing at the lights....and she waved at me....with a smile, a big one.
I heard a phrase this week that brought up everything I've been feeling recently. A news story described a system as being too old to be hacked. Too old to be hacked? No idea what that means....but it sure sounds like something I've seen in a mirror!
By the by, one surefire way of telling when you are getting old is when you can't find your blood type anywhere....and then you discover that they stopped the assembly line some time ago.