19 January 2017

Hafiz Adewuyi

Queuing into the new year at Genesis Deluxe Cinemas popcorn shop

On the Friday before last New year's eve, I decided to drive all the way from Yaba to GDC at the Palms, Lekki, just to go see a movie. My hope was that by going that far away and for a slightly more expensive cinema than nearby Ozone, I would be able to boycott the razz crowd that often characterises the former. How wrong I was!

The Palms Shopping Mall, Lekki

Right from the parking lot, it was obvious that I had made a silly decision. It had been ages since I last went to the cinemas on a Friday night, so I didn't really know what to expect. My thoughts were that since it was a working day, the cinemas would not be highly populated. I failed to factor in the realities that apart from the fact that it was a Friday night when people like to let their hair down, it was also the holiday season and a lot of companies were on break.

Lucky enough, I did not have to drive a full-circle around the park before I located a parking spot which was barely enough to fit my car. I entered the mall to find that the number of people on the cinema floor was representative of the congestion in the car park. Everyone had come to see "The Wedding Party", Nigeria's highest grossing movie of 2016. Fortunately, that was not the movie I had in mind.

I proceeded to join the ticket queue which was about 15 persons long. On the bright side, it was moving pretty fast, all thanks to no one but the curt male attendant. From the look of things, he did not have a moment to spare empathising with anyone for anything. The items below nicely sum up his behavioural scripts for his duties that night:

  • collect money and give tickets to those people who have cash and the movie they want to see is available
  • redirect the ones who don't have cash matter-of-factly to the ATM's downstairs since as they can see, the POS is not working
  • tell those who want to see exhausted movies matter-of-factly that they have to wait another hour or so for the next showing

I can honestly empathise with the guy, though. He was the only one serving the massive "Wedding Party" crowd, so he literally had no time to spare on niceties.

I happened to fall into the POS group as a cashless guy now. My former employer CEO did well to inspire in me, a conviction that a cashless society is a good thing for the economy; that all the monies hidden in soak-away holes and overhead Geepee tanks are partly responsible for the poverty in the country. That if only everyone was kind enough to put the money in a bank instead of a ghana-must-go bag under their beds, then the world would have enough money going around for the most important things.

So, I had to walk all the way down to get my last 2000 Naira from the ATM. So sad was my situation, I did not even have any money left to get a soft drink after paying for the movie which happened to be exactly 2000 Naira. At least, I was going to get free popcorn, and that would be good compensation for the trouble, or so I thought. 

I was way ahead of the time for my movie, so after buying my movie ticket, I went to kill time by roaming idly through the aisles of Shoprite. About ten minutes to movie time, I returned to the cinema floor.

I walked from one end of the humongous movie snack queue  - which I met on arrival - to the other, just to be sure it was actually one contiguous queue. The queue was about 40-person long and I'm not even exaggerating. I had my aha moment when a look at the popcorn stand revealed that only one of the 3 popcorn machines at the snack shop was working. Grrrr!!! That's exactly how my internals felt at this point.

To cope with frustrating situations like this one, the usual go-to for my brain is to go into problem-solving mode. You can imagine the kind of ridiculous business ideas my brain processes every day; there's a business idea in every corner you look when your country sucks this much. So I more or less just ask myself, "ok, what do we do about this now"? In a few seconds, I got the perfect idea for the management of the cinemas. 
"All they had to do to win in the battle of the cinemas was to up their customer care game by dedicating a couple of their staff to help movie-goers get stuff from the shop into the cinema halls. This way, no one has to lose part of their hard-earned fun time in the name of free popcorn which I never stop wishing would be without that inedible shaft at the bottom. Simple enough, innit"?
Please, snap me back and out of my daydream. In real life, I ended up going into the movie about 15 minutes late, and that was only because the cinema projector was turned on over 10 minutes after the scheduled movie time and they did not skip the ads o. At the end of the day, all I can tell myself is, "life is not a daydream brother. If you can't open your own cinema, then you can as well go and hug transformer".

Revisiting that day now, I find it poignant that despite the fact that the management of the cinemas extended no gestures of empathy for the plight of the movie-goers who had to queue for over half an hour for a free box of popcorn plus the ones who were paying for their stuff o, nobody threw a tantrum the entire time I was in the queue. Everyone was civil and polite. It's like we Nigerians "ti gba kamu", as my (Yoruba) people would say. We're resigned to our ill fate and we just can't be bothered to ask for more. 

"After all, everyone is just 'managing' in this recession, so where do you want the more to come from"?

So, the man who triggered me and thousands of other people to go on this 500-words-a-day-challenge (or a bot that acts on his behalf) sends me daily emails which contain prompts of what I should write about each today. Today is the first time that I will be following it simply because I think I have good enough content that matches the prompt.

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