Last week, I came across a certain misguided man, and after my encounter with him, I pitied his wife mostly, who I imagined must have such ill luck, and burdensome task of living with such human. It is for this reason alone that I refrained from calling him foolish after he exhibited the mysoginist side of him that needed addressing.
I had just arrived from a six hour flight that was two hours delayed, with a cranky and sleepy toddler. The flight was a full to the brim 747 and so you can imagine what the luggage carousel looked like when we disembarked. I spent over an hour waiting for luggage. Anyway this porter saw me and asked if I needed assistance. I told him Yes please, thank you.
The first time he put me off, I saw him trying to collect baggage for about three more people. But I didn’t say a word. Obviously this was peak period for porters. Rather than wait with only one passenger, he thought he’ll try to hustle 4 at once. My luggage for some reason didn’t come out for an awfully long time, so this gave him a chance to get to work with others who got their’s in time. He helped a man put two suitcases in a trolly, but the man was ok to push the trolly himself. Apparently he just needed help with the lifting. So perhaps that was a loss. After a short while, I saw him load suitcases into another trolly for a more elderly man. He then ran to me and said he’ll just “help” the man to the door. If you know Accra Airport arrival well you will know that there is no door, even after you have passed customs. You walk straight out to a crowd of people holding up name signs. He gave me no time to respond because he dashed off with my baggage claim ticket and didn’t return for another ten minutes. By this time, two of my suitcases had rolled out and I had to ask two “innit speaking” Ghanaian guys to help me. When he returned, the third was already rolling out.
Now unfortunately, I didn’t get my fourth suitcase until the very last minute because someone had taken it off the carousel thinking it was their’s and didn’t think it wise to put it back after figuring it wasn’t. Anyway, this meant it was about 11;30pm by the time we got out.
The second time he put me off was when as we walked out on a sloppy part, all of my luggage fell off the trolly as he pushed. He offered no word of apology and of course at that point, there was no way of telling if anything had broken. When I told him to ride the trolly rear facing so that it didn’t happen again, he said he knew what he was doing and it won’t fall again. First hint of a man full of ego.
Before this time, while we waited for the last suitcase, he mentioned that Customs would delay me because of my plenty luggage. But he didn’t mention it by way of information, he said it irritably, to let me know that Customs delaying me would mean delay for him too. I casually answered that customs hardly ever stops to search me, majorly because they know that travelling with a kid means more baggage anyway. He said “wait and see” which irritated me, so I told him customs was allowed to search whomever.
As we walked out, he then went on to say that he needed to go and sign out since he had closed. Something about someone punishing him if he didn’t sign out. It sounded like a half done lie, so I asked him what he wanted me to do.
“No, I’m just telling you.” He mumbled.
Needless to say, Customs didn’t search me. But as soon as we left them, Mr Porter spoke again.
He asked if I had called the person coming to pick me.
I told him I didn’t need to call. That I knew where he’ll be waiting.
I saw disgust on his face when I told him I was going to the car park.
At the car park, the driver wasn’t there. When I spoke to him on the phone he was two minutes away. This was no problem for me. I told the porter to put my luggage in a corner so that he could leave. Then of course it was time to discuss money.
He asked me to give him what I had. When I looked in my wallet I had a dollar note and two 50 cedis. I wasn’t going to pay him 50 cedis for wheeling my luggage out obviously, so I joked about giving him 1 dollar. He frowned and said “it can’t reach anywhere, it can’t reach the work that I did.”
Second hint of a man full of ego.
Truth is, I honestly wasn’t even going to give him One dollar because, that’s about 3 cedis which can only buy you one apple. But I went on to ask him “Which work?”
I reminded him that the heaviest of the suitcases were lifted by people I had to beg when he went away doing his own side business. This challenge is what angered him, because suddenly, as though he had been wanting to say it all along, I heard him blurt out “you are an ungrateful somebody.” I was shocked. Ungrateful. For what? But I was already so tired, I stretched the 50 cedis to him and asked him to give me 30 cedis change. Then this foolish man said “go and find change and pay me”. It was a “i-will-show-you-today” kind of statement because he stood there, hands in his pocket, his tone oppressive, making side remarks to some security men who were standing around.
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Let me quickly add, that in Nigeria, where I come from, I won’t pay a porter the equivalent of #1600, NEVER, except it is “dash” money. In all of the airports I have ever paid high amounts for porters, it was a fixed price that went to the airport handlers, with receipt to show for it. But to a semi-tout porter, wearing a dirty green reflector jacket? Mba.
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I was still trying so hard to understand the go and find change statement when he turned to the security men and began “reporting” me as though I was his disobedient child. He told them that I was ungrateful, recounting how he had stayed with this woman (me) for over an hour, waiting for my luggage. He dipped his tongue between English and Twi but I could pick out a few words, like small, nonsense, young, girl, and his body language said a lot more.
He went on to tell them I was very rude, after everything he had done for me. I had no clue what he meant by that. He pointed at me in such demeaning way, saying he had “my type” at home and so would not take nonsense from me. Ladies and gentlemen, this is where I lost it. Whaaaaaaaat? My type at home? My stomach revolted with distaste.
I dared him to face me and speak to me instead of the security men.
He kept referring to me as this woman, pointing at me with the up and down motion of his hand, like a thing he could not speak to because – lesser human. Yet, earlier it had been him approaching me, same woman, asking if I needed a porter because of the possibility of making money.
Standing before me was a bloody coward, no doubt.
I told him firmly not to use that tone with me. “DO NOT”
Again he took my response as being blatant, rude, disrespectful, for even having the guts to respond to him. I mean who can blame the coward, after all he has my type at home!
I stretched the money to him again and asked for change.
He started getting really upset, stammering. This was when I thought about his wife, and how many slaps she may have possibly ever received from this man in the name of respect.
I asked him where he wanted me to find change. Me, an arriving passenger carrying a cranky toddler. But even minus toddler, so that having a baby doesn’t excuse bad behaviour, I wondered at his refusal to find change. You could tell he wanted to “show me” because he didn’t check his pockets, he didn’t make any effort to ask the security men, he just wanted to show this woman.
An elderly security man told me to calm down and not talk. I told him “Baba, tell your man to calm down instead, because I have only said a few words and you feel the need to advice me to be calm, but this guy has been spitting dust here the whole time, so please face him and tell him to be calm, tell him not to use that silly tone on me. I am not his child, I WILL NOT HAVE IT.”
I was furious. There was a lump in my throat and it nearly came out as a tear.
One of the security men took the money from me and went to a recharge card seller to make change then brought it back. The money exchange happened with the security man acting as middle man, because Mr Porter in all his gloriousness didn’t want to swallow his pride and take money from this woman. Thinking about it in retrospect, I should have held on to the money. I should have waited to see if he would have gone without getting paid. This happened in all of three minutes and when it ended, I thought about how differently the scenario would have played out if I was a man or if there was a man with me. If I was travelling with my husband for instance, one, there would be no talk of him being ungrateful. There would be no talk of him going to find change either. And I can tell you that if my husband had slapped his hand with one dollar, there would be no back and forth arguments. The most he would have said is “oga add something to it”
It is truly a wonder that I have to be grateful to a man for a service that I am paying for because well, again he has my type at home, and I needed to respect the supremacy of his maleness, the speciality of his specie. I needed to recognise my place as a common type and not speak “anyhow” to his royal maleness. It is the reason why he kept on saying “after all he had done for me” because in his sick mind, he moving my luggage required me grovelling on my knees to thank him. Must be in the same domineering school of thought as such men who think buying a girl a drink means access to her body. Foolishness.
This man wasn’t shabbily dressed like most of his colleagues, which is the reason why I jumped at the chance of him helping me, but this goes to show that wretchedness is not by poor dressing. If a man would demand respect not because he’s earned it but because he thinks it’s his right for being male, I do not want to share space with such despicable human. I hope my 20 cedis serves him well.