Monday, March 31, 2008

You're Telling Your Secrets to Everybody

Every first-time beholder has asked me if Volta Hall in the University of Ghana was a chapel. Hardly, isn’t it :) When I was a little student in Legon (and more fearless than now), I witnessed the most curious thing at Volta Hall. I would be greatly surprised if it does not remain a daunting feeling that one suffers as they walk up the two flights of stairs to the Porter’s Lodge. That’s when the hottest and hippest young women in Accra come gathering in the coolest clothes in earth. All made-up. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Sweet-smelling. Saccharine-smiling. Daunting, didn’t I say?

K.A.T., my roommate, and I were standing with the girls when a forty-something year-old man (who obviously thought he was a cool-looking dude) with blue shoes, gold pendants and a golf-course girth, made the long walk up the twin stairs. He was speaking loudly on the phone (something about Dollars, if memory serves). The tensest zone takes eight odd steps to cross over. He was halfway through and getting louder on the phone when the very phone began to ring. Now I can swear to you that I have seen nice, clean and dry skin suddenly and violently break into streams of sweat. He took the longest four steps in his life to the sound of a dozen sniggering beauties - and two boys :) We waited there for a very long time, but we did not see him come back.

I read a Newsweek (or Economist) article about two years ago about mobile phone usage in public. In Japan (or South Korea) commuters have silently laid down their own rules. At either rush hour, they do not speak much on the phone – it’s all text messaging. I imagined the author’s description of eyes intently glued to wide screens and frantically-moving fingers, and it looked a disturbing but beautiful scene of orderly robots. The slightest hint of a voice convo brings one hundred evil-eye stares and hostile whispers to hush.

Not in the city of Accra. Public-place phone calls are made on megaphones or worse. I hear everything you’re saying. And I was curious, but frankly unimpressed, to hear that your aunt is sleeping with the boy next door. I was also pained at the announcement of what you want to have for dinner at home tonight. And I am sorry that I laughed, when, looking at you, you! You just had the most-important business meeting ever held in the world. But did you look around you? I was not the only one laughing. We were all compelled to even stare at your shoes; we saw fraying leather when you sent us looking for gold. I have said enough. With almost every Accraian you walk past, you can hear one part of the conversation and deduce the other part. Imagine all the secrets you’re giving away, after working so hard to keep them hidden from ... your wife ... boss ... neighbours ... the press ... God ...everybody.


  1. i am just as guilty as the next person, good thing i learned quickly that i didn't want the rest of the world sharing all my conversations with me, three is a crowd ,(unless of course it is a conference call amongst girlfriends and i. )it would be cool to have that cellphone law in Ghana, while we are it, could we pass a law to keep all radios off in all forms of public transport. it is such a pain.

  2. Bentuma, it is just a social no-no created and respected by the people. Not sure if you can make laws on that, except maybe to regulate the decibels :)

  3. This nuisance is not only in Ghana but everywhere especially in Europ where 90% of the population uses's awful. I learnt ma vulgar language from a british man on a bus who was heartly mad at someone on the fone, europeans are extremly loud on cellphones.There must be a law to control this.

  4. Thankfully, you spared us your vulgar language. I would rather we used public pressure rather than laws to control the loud cell phone users. :-)


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