This is a true story. Names, dates and locations have been changed.
It was a quiet afternoon in March 1995. She was visiting me as usual in the Training Centre, during break time.
Annogu looked at me and said “Tayo, I hope you’re not going to get so busy as you often do, and forget to come around on my birthday. Remember it’s on Saturday – 2 days from today?”
I looked up from typing on the computer, and smiled saying “Come on, don’t worry. I promise I’ll come and see you.” She said “Well you’d better. Or I’ll never forgive you!”
We both laughed. As I looked at her, I could not help thinking how far we’d come, less than three months after we first got together. She was now in her fifth month as an Industrial Trainee (IT) from a university in the east.
On hindsight, my initial misgivings about getting close to females (due to a nasty peeping tom accusation back in primary school), now seemed baseless. We clearly enjoyed each other’s company. And I looked forward to spending more time with her on Saturday.
As her birthday approached, I asked some of my more “girl savvy” colleagues for tips on what gift to buy for her. They mocked me for being so nerdy that at 25, I knew nothing about dating. I endured their jibes, and after reflecting on their suggestions, settled for a big box of chocolates, and a beautifully worded birthday card from the popular Asterix Super Stores.
At about 12 noon on saturday, I dressed up, and with the neatly wrapped gift in hand, read out the address she’d written on a slip of paper, to a taxi driver. He knew the place, and after agreeing the fare, we set off.
I was not to know I was in for a (scary) surprise.
About 20 minutes later, the taxi pulled over, and the driver said “Oga, na here O.”(I.e. “Boss, this is the place”). I paid him and got out, then looked round. For some strange reason, I felt like I’d been there before. But I shrugged it off, and taking my bearing from house 21, made my way up to number 35, written on the slip.
As I got closer, I felt a knot tightening in my chest, as the realization dawned on me.
“It can‘t be!” I told myself.
I looked again at her handwritten directions on the slip she had given me. Yes, I was on the right street, and at the right house.
But not only had I been in the house before, I had also met the owner. Only it had been at night, and for a completely different purpose. I felt like disappearing with the gift in my hand.
“How could this happen?” I asked myself. I wondered if she had known, and chosen not to mention it, but dropped the thought just as quickly.
She had told me she was staying with her uncle and aunt, having moved from her home state to take up the 6 month internship at the company. I just never thought to ask for her uncle’s name. “If I had, would I have still dated her?” I wondered. It was hard to say.
So, there I was…
Standing uncertainly outside the door. I no longer needed her to tell me her uncle’s name. I already knew it was Hama Elbon…my landlord!
I had been there 9 months earlier, to pay one year’s rent and sign a tenancy agreement for a 3 bedroom flat in his new block of four flats. This was so I could move out of the apartment I shared with my two graduate trainee colleagues.
There were 2 main reasons I was nervous about being back.
Firstly, on the night of my maiden visit, Mr. Elbon had expressed reservations about renting out to bachelors. According to him, most of them were “players”, who kept late nights and preyed on girls. Even though I was not like that, I was not sure he would jump up and down in joy, on seeing me pop up at his door to take his niece out
The second reason was that Annogu had once told me her father (a high court judge in her home state at the time), would frown at her dating someone from a different tribe. So, I worried that her guardians might share a similar bias. And I was not keen to face any tribal discrimination drama – especially not one that could cause tension with my new landlord!
But then I told myself, “The worst that can happen is they’ll say they don’t want a mere trainee, who also happens to come from another tribe, dating their niece. I’m certainly not going to run away with my tail between my legs!”
So I summoned courage and knocked.
The door opened, and sure enough I found myself looking at my landlord’s wife.
I greeted her, and she replied pleasantly, adding “Oh aren’t you the new tenant at our house on Abopki highlands? How are you?” I replied half-smiling, that I was fine.
Before I could say more, she looked at the wrapped gift in my hand and smiled broadly saying “So, you’re the one Annogu is expecting. She never did tell me the person’s name. What an interesting co-incidence! Sit down while I let her know you’re here.”
“Is oga around?”, I asked casually. “No, he’s been away on a trip, but we expect him back today or tomorrow”, she replied, as she walked away.
At that point, my apprehension rapidly faded away. The uncle was away. And his wife betrayed no noticeable reservations. What a relief!
And so it was that far from being a disaster, my date with Annogu turned out great.
We spent an enjoyable day at the leisure park, having ice cream, a nice meal, and sharing lots of fun stories – including how I almost bolted back to my flat, when I found out she lived with my landlord (she had also been shocked to hear her aunt say she already knew me).
I got her back home before nightfall. The uncle was not back (“Thank God!” I thought to myself). So I said goodbye to both ladies, and left.
Fear (when not controlled) can be costly in life – and especially in marketing.
In marketing products or services, the fear of rejection, disappointment or even embarassment can hold you back. For instance, making cold calls in person or on phone can be a psychologically tasking exercise. But people who succeed in marketing, learn to dig in and do it – in spite of any doubts or fears they have.
Letting fear paralyze you can deny you the success you need. Just like I realized in deciding to knock on my landlord’s door, the worst that can happen is those you approach will say “no”.
Last time I checked, NO never killed anyone. What’s more, you’ll never know if they won’t say YES, unless you try – will you?
So, don’t let the fear of what can go wrong keep you from taking the steps to achieve your dream. Or one day you’ll look back with regret, wondering what might have been.
Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain.
PS: This post was first published online via spontaneousdevelopment.com (now defunct) on Monday, September 17, 2012 8:00 AM