Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The Lives of Others (or...I am not my hoodie)

I began this post a couple of months ago but it didn't feel quite ready at the time. It does now.

I have a very short commute in to work now. Now that spring’s here (in a way), I’ve started walking in again. It usually takes me about 30-40mins, but this is probably because I walk freakishly fast for a woman (I’ve been told). Continuing the theme of Xena Warrior Princess you forced me to introduce in to my last post (y’all knows y’all selves) you should see me walking with other people – male and female. They are practically always panting for breath as I power on without breaking a sweat! Things to do, places to be, you know?

I was running slightly late this morning so I hopped on the bus as I sometimes do. I settled in to my seat on the top deck and didn’t feel like reading. There’s no point really as, based on past experience, just as I am getting settled into that ‘zone’, all too quickly the ride is over and I have to get off. Instead, I settled down for some guilt free, pleasant spacing out. The top deck of the bus was virtually empty, but at the next stop, a few more passengers got on. A young boy, about 17-18 if I was to hazard a guess, climbs up the stairs and sits about 2 rows in front of me. As he settles down and the bus moves off again, my nostrils are suddenly assaulted by the smell of his ‘cologne’. It’s cheap. And as lads that age are wont to do, he has been rather heavy handed with it. So much so that I can now taste the fumes at the back of my throat. I make a mental note of this, resisting the urge to gag. His phone rings.

‘Hi, Mum’, he says in his white-boy-trying-to-speak-black accent (as made popular by Ali G). ‘I’m on the bus now and I forgot the earrings, mum. Sorry’.
His mum speaks on the other end.
Boy – I was on the phone to the Probation and I forgot to take them
Mum speaks
Boy – Are you sure? Is that ok? I’m sorry.

He says sorry a few more times, and then hangs up and I’m strangely touched by the sweetness of the exchange even though I’ve only heard one side. A number of things strike me:

1. He’s wearing a hoodie.
2. He has some bling in one ear.
3. He’s clearly been in trouble (hence the telephone conversation with the ‘Probation’ alluded to)
4. He possibly has identity issues as demonstrated by the Ali G-esque accent and the fact that he ends a second phone conversation with the word ‘Safe’.
5. He loves his mother.

Suddenly, i'm curious to know his 'story'. Who is he? What has he done? What's his Mum like? Where is he off to? And a myriad of other questions.

I ponder further and it strikes me how disconnected we've all become from each other...Were we actually ever connected to each other? Who is 'we'?

I have a 'big heart' (that's just a stone cold fact, nothing else), and therefore have a strong and compelling need to connect with others on a level beyond the superficial. In my late teens/early twenties, i came to learn the hard way, that 'big-heartedness' is seen as a sign of weakness and it's human nature to attempt to exploit perceived weakness. And so i swung to the other end of the spectrum, and became 'well 'ard' as they say here in the UK. But i could never really deny who i am.

Repeat a pattern of behaviour long enough and it soon becomes a habit. Habits are notoriously difficult to break. These days, i'm learning to not be so hard. If i'm to be honest, it wasn't really a case of becoming hard, as it was a case of choosing to smother feelings of empathy or compassion by refusing to act on them. I realise now that my temperament/personality/character is crucial to fulfilling my purpose here on earth (and i do believe we are all born with a God-ordained purpose), and so i've learnt to love myself and free myself from the chains that come with comparing myself to others or wanting to be like others in anyway. I'm exactly who and what i need to be. Nothing more, nothing less.

I have this bad habit of staring at people. I do stare at people. Not because i have no manners, but because i have this need to look beneath the surface. Always. Don't get me wrong, i don't go around staring at random people. There is a method to my 'staring', i suppose. Being very intuitive and able to pick up on subtle nuances and signs that people give off, when i pick on on something, i need to explore it further and in the process of turning my focus inwards, i may forget that i'm actually still looking at the person as well as looking into them, in a manner of speaking. Yes, i do realise i'm probably painting myself out as some kind of weirdo, but anyway...

Fast forward to the present day though, i often ask myself what i'm meant to do when out of the blue i experience such rushes of empathy towards a totally random youth in a hoodie on the top deck of the Number 30 bus? And the answer just came to me right now - as much as i would love to go up to them, place a hand on their shoulders, look them deeply in the eyes and say something like ' i feel your pain' or 'would you like to talk about it' or something else along those lines...all i can do is pray.

And so tonight, Lord i pray for the youth on the bus, in a hoodie, with a earring, wearing cheap cologne. Be with him and his Mum. Help him get his life back on the straight and narrow. Watch over him and keep him . In Jesus' name. Amen


Miss Definitely Maybe said...


Naapali said...

awww no! DM beat me. How????

Naapali said...

I bet she did not read.

Miss Definitely Maybe said...

LOl Naapali be a gracious loser after all a silver medal aint bad at all...
Undacovasista sometimes when im in a public place I wonder about the 'real lives' of the people around me.Chance encounters, some peoples day/moth/life have been changed by those brief fleeting chance encounters, sometimes jus smiling at a person makes a difference without leavng you looking like a wierdo.

Naapali said...

awww Ms DM, don't vex with me. I am sorry I cast aspersions. I was just peeved to have been beaten.

I do agree with you that sometimes a smile, a word of encouragement, even though it sounds cheesy "have a nice day" when said with feeling and empathy carries.

UCS why the softening now? I know a life lived undercover finally gets to even the most 'ardboiled girl (or man as even the 'ardman Transporter got all mushy).

You know having a heart is not a sign of weakness but a sign of life.

Naapali said...

okay it is time to leave now before Naijalines comes here to cast aspersions :-)

It sure feels good to beat Shubby doo to a comment.

UndaCovaSista said...

@ miss definitely maybe - I understand what you mean about a smile making a difference, and i agree, but what i'm trying to describe is something slightly different...
Thanks for stopping by

@Naapali - See comment above to Miss DM re: the smile.
Having a heart is truly not a sign of weakness as any person with a modicum of Emotional Intelligence would know. The sad thing is that EI is not common currency in the world we live in, unfortunately.

Ms Sula said...

I so understand what you are saying. I used to belong to a group prayer back in the days (like wayyy back when I was still a "christian") and once the preacher told me that I had the holy gift of Compassion... So I totally get the experiencing of other people's feelings... Sometimes it's quite bothersome... I once cried in a bus in Houston because of this young black mother who was so very obviously upset. I had to write down a "You're not alone. Keep your head up" on a piece of paper and hand it to her...

Sometimes, I wish I could turn it off though.

UndaCovaSista said...

@naapali - Sorry. I also meant to add I CANNOT believe you've seen the movie The Transporter (or rather that you would admit to it!)
Someone once referred to Jason Statham as the Jean Claude Van Damme of our generation. That made me laugh out loud!

UndaCovaSista said...

@ms Sula - THANK YOU! You know that in describing your experience you've helped me gain even more clarity on mine.
I know what you mean about switching it off as well. Wow! Thanks for sharing that.

Naapali said...

I see Jason Statham more as a Vinnie Jones that can use silverware than a Jean Claude. That was a low blow to England's reigning 'ardman.

Now Daniel Craig, he is 'ard and 'ot.

I do understand your compassion/empathy genes.

Shubby Doo said...

@Doc naaps - you have no shame... i'm asleep for a couple of hours only to come back to find you have hogged this space... see number of comments & you talk of aspersions... lol

@UCS - i will come back and comment l8r jare... my boss is here... btw well done with this new template... it fixed the problem and it looks great.. me likey!

Shubby Doo said...
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Shubby Doo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shubby Doo said...

Not sure if it is the same but I sometimes feel disengaged from people… maybe it is bcos I’ve been in the UK for so long.

It’s like so sort of depersonalization & psychic numbing from all around me. I hated putting myself out there only to be met with an indifferent or a nasty attitude. In school I found I was set up for a lot of jibes because I was the black African girl with the weird accent asking questions or saying na├»ve things. When I started working I fell down a flight of stairs @ a London tube station in the morning rush hour and no one helped me.

So I adjusted. I get you being well ‘ard (but I have to laugh as the term reminds of our dearly departed dog from EastEnders)

I only tend to really stare in tubes because of the close proximity…there is no window to distract me…always I want to know more.

Where are they going?
Who will comfort the pregnant woman with swollen feet without a ring on her finger? Will the love last for this couple kissing?
What troubles will this child’s communicating in sign language face and what will he overcome with pride and joy?

It’s like a film…a multitude of characters I will never truly know because I’m the main protagonist. B4 I used to walk past with a deadpan expression.

I’m older now… I realise that some of these people may unwittingly be my foils… so…sometimes I smile… sometimes I help (e.g by paying for a mother with a child in distress to use the bus bcos she didn't have any money and the bus driver was going to kick her off despite the fact she was pleading)…sometimes I just start talking…it’s all communication…that way I get to wish them well on their onward journey.

If not, then like you, I pray as I part company with them.

I hope some do the same for me.

Shubby Doo said...

@doc naaps...you say 'Now Daniel Craig, he is 'ard and 'ot'...

1stly...is there something you r trying to tell us doc?

2ndly...i beg to differ...something is not quite right with him as the new James Bond but i loved him in Munich.

@UCS - i loved the Transporter... nothing do me jare!

i think my work here is done...3 comments to naapali's 5...the world is now in a better state of balance!

Afrobabe said...

Oh Lawdy...not first???

Afrobabe said...

Hmmm…Unfortunately I don’t feel that way towards them..I see them and quickly cross the street..I am the slowest walker out there, don’t care how late I am but when I see those young men I become a Kenyan long distance star!!!

Those young innocent boys loving their mothers are the same young boys stabbing other people’s children and putting other mothers through intense pain…the dead ones were also loved by their own mothers!!

The society makes you tough here…I actually feel more carefree in Nigeria…

Naapali said...

@ Shubby
- my manliness is in no way diminished by acknowledging another man's. I still recall your drooling over Ms. Bellucci:

"Funny I just finished watching Tears of the Sun with Monica Bellucci… that woman is shaped from Aphrodite herself… Her face is one of alluring vulnerability and innate strength. I think her beauty, fullness and sensuality is similar to that of fellow Italian Sophia Loren. IMO the only current star to come close is to this again is Angelina Jolie…"

- re your falling down stairs in a tube station, pele. I would have helped you, not solely because helping damsels in distress brings out the chevalier in me but it is the right thing to do. I confess my memories of the UK are of a COLD, impersonal place where human contact is minimized as much as possible except in the violent clashes that make the news headlines.

@ Afrobabe
- true boys that stab others have mothers but those boys have something missing in their lives. This probably includes love, expectations and values.

Shubby Doo said...

@doc naaps - drooling ke?...not quite but you got me sha... i'll just say mine was a well qualified statement. yours was... er... 'ard and 'ot. LOL

how come you didn't add the bit where i said 'i aint gay'? :-P

but i do agree your 'manliness' is in no way diminished by acknowledging another man's

awww...thanks...wish you had been there to help :-)

naijalines said...

*Coughs and Clears her throat*
I can see a lot has been on here.


Six comments...Chei!!! Yeah the word 'drooling' comes to mind. Any excuse to come back and add even more comments abi?

Talk about 'casting aspersions'...someone has obviously been too generous in their 'casting' here.

An old adage comes to mind:

A man who has two wives (or is thinking of taking a second wife)
must learn to spread himself evenly:(

Now...what was your lovely post about again, dear iyawo;-) ?

UndaCovaSista said...

@all - I almost feel like i have to do a sequel to this post. The thing about these occasional heart baring posts i do is that whilst i'm not too concerned about being understood (because i understand the point i'm making), i am concerned about being MIS-understood.

This post has to do with ONE boy, on ONE day, on ONE bus and the feelings i experienced towards him in the context of Ms Sula's comment above.

Regular readers know by now that i am a Christian and i would like to add that as a result, i am filled with the Spirit of God. 1Corinthians 12:8-10 lists the gifts of the Spirit and the ones that apply here are the gift of knowledge and the gift of helps.
Here's a link to an article that explains this clearly and concisely ( i think), just in case anyone not familiar with the concept wants more info


In the spirit of not casting aspersions (haha) may i also point out that this is not directed at anyone, i just felt the need to be clearer.

naijalines said...

I did enjoy reading your post. I think you can only be you. But I get your point about switching off.

Can't help agreeing with erm... *cough* ******* though. It is more important to show we're not afraid to be human as in doing so, we acknowledge our humanity to ourselves and to others.

Having said that, it probably wouldn't have been appropriate to say something to the young guy. Contrast that with Shubby's account of her own experience which left me reeling as I can just see it...the UK can be freezing cold...no arguments about that.

You 'fancy' Daniel Craig. Kai!
He is 'ot and 'ard, definitely. I would hire him for just one mission which I'm sure he'd have no trouble accomplishing:-)

naijalines said...

Chill out sista,
I don't think anyone has misunderstood you (though 'can only speak for myself, of course)
Where is your sense of humour:-)

UndaCovaSista said...

@Naapali - JS has well and truly cornered the market for Z rated action flicks in the noughties. A title previously held by JCVD in the eighties...
DC is 'aaaaaaaaard. Not to sure about 'ot. He looks like Vladimir Putin

@Shubby doo - i know exactly what you mean by being disengaged from people. This country will do that to you, sadly. I experienced the exact same attitude and it made me go 'oh ok, is that the way things are done here?'.

Life is about learning and i'd like to believe that the majority of us eventually come full circle. As you point out, we become more self-aware with age. We have a better understanding of why we are the way we are, and as a result of this, why others are the way they are and do the things they do too.

As per Wellard, i restrained myself there as a concession to non-eastenders watching folk (lol)

@Afrobabe - I too get apprehensive when i come across certain types of youths in the street when its dark. And i know the stabbings and shootings are a big thing over here at the moment. However, i'd like to confine this to the context of the post i.e. it was one boy, on one particular day.

Ms Sula mentions in her comment (and i'm sure her ears are burning,i've mentioned her name so much!) how it's not sth you can turn on or off. I also realise its not random. It comes with a purpose i.e. to act where action is feasible, otherwise to lift the person up in prayer.

UndaCovaSista said...

@naijalines - You're right that it wouldnt have been appropriate to say anything to the boy. There was nothing to be said...The incident happened in March, i said that prayer for him last night...i dont believe it was a coincidence.

As per chiliing...well, i'm just being me (sth you also recommend :)) i.e. when i feel passionate about sth, i will t'enu mo until i am satisfied that i have been heard.
I suspect my sense of humour will re-emerge in my next post :)

@shubby doo - Oh, and thanks for being the first to compliment my new template...

Naapali said...

DC is 'ot and 'ard

I am feeling your new template

This makes comment #7 if anyone is counting :-)

kay-shawn said...

I join you in saying 'amen' to your prayers for the youth in the bus. May he be alive on his next birthday.

naijalines said...

You feel 'everything' on this blog, Don't you. No long thing...quite simple really;-)

naijalines said...

And I hope '7' is your lucky number. Or you can keep counting. It's not funny...so stop laughing.

Naapali said...

@ Naijalines
- u know love has a multiplier effect and it grows so as the song goes "we are in this love together..."
- u know how to reach me so I will stop now as I do not want to hijack UCS blog, if I have not done so already.

- pls forgive me, to the tune of that other song.

@ everybody else
- sowwwwie

archiwiz said...

Amen...as well... Reading the comments on this post reinforces the feeling of wanting to go home and stay there. The West has hardened so many people that its appalling.

UndaCovaSista said...

@naapali - Thank you

@kay-shawn - Thanks and Amen to that too...

@naijalines and naapali - Far be it from me to get in the middle of a Naapali/Naijalines smackdown..:)

@Archiwiz - There's no place like home, for sure....

Bunmmy said...

sometimes i forget about my own stories when i stare at a women clinging to 3lil kids and a baby strapped or the agbero trying to obtain someone and wonder what made them this way, what lies underneath

30+ said...

Hello UCS, I wuz here...

Hope to be back to read properly soon.

miz-cynic said...

fantastic post....rily!people tend to take advantage of nice people....lil wonda the saying....the girl is good...apa lon jebe(which means goodness=stupidity)

simeoneomobaba said...

i totally feel you here...i had/have that thing in me too but i just had to learn to mind my business except when the person seems willing to talk ....otherwise, the prayer route is just ideal
as for staring at people, its just me and its exactly what you described

rethots said...


UndaCovaSista said...

@bunmmy - exactly...

@30+ - 'sup girl

@mz-cynic - Thank you. Never heard the saying, but i get what you mean...

@simeonomobaba - i wouldn't even consider saying anything unless i knew the person to be honest. In the absence of words, now i just pray...

@rethots - thank you

Waffarian said...

"I have a 'big heart' (that's just a stone cold fact, nothing else), and therefore have a strong and compelling need to connect with others on a level beyond the superficial. In my late teens/early twenties, i came to learn the hard way, that 'big-heartedness' is seen as a sign of weakness and it's human nature to attempt to exploit perceived weakness. And so i swung to the other end of the spectrum, and became 'well 'ard' as they say here in the UK".

Isn't it funny how human beings can turn a good thing into something bad?Yeah...thats the way it is, although, I have learnt to accept the fact that yes, so many people consider me as "weak" cos I have faith in the goodness of human beings. I can say "I am sorry", I can forgive, I can help...even those that do not deserve it. I accept that many will always say i am "weak"...

and so? I am who I am...I can not allow others to dictate who I am in this world. Yes, I am weak.

AMEN! for the troubled chap and many others in the world.

You are sweet. Be who you are...fuck em.