DISPATCHES – If You Drink, Don’t “Daddy”
DISPATCHES – Not long ago I read something in a Nigerian newspaper that made me laugh aloud. It was a letter to an Agony Aunt, and it read something like this:
Dear Agony Aunt
Please help me tell my wife that alcohol is good for my health
I instantly tried to imagine what could have led to such a letter. Here’s what I came up with: The poor man comes home one day to find his beloved bar, stocked with every brand of alcohol from every country under the face of the sun Russia, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain, America, Iceland, Turkey, Turkmenistan etc empty. He cannot believe his eyes, so he thinks it must be the fatigue from the office that is making him hallucinate.
Without putting his brief-case down, without kicking his shoes off as he’d normally do, he simply takes a few steps backwards, out the front door, down the walkway and back to his car. Then he begins to walk towards the house, pretending that he has just arrived from the office. He walks into the house again, and looks at his beloved bar. It is STILL empty.
There is no single bottle left there. His 2006 McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia; 2004 Vina la Rosa Don Reca Shiraz, Chile; 2003 Ruhlmann Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Frankstein, France; 2005 Pierre Andre Bourgogne Chardonnay Reserve, France; Chateau Pey La Tour, 2005, Bordeaux Superieur, France; and 1999 Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache, everything, GONE! He pinches himself, kicks himself twice, rubs his hands over his eyes, and looks at the bar again. Nothing has changed. It is still EMPTY!
He feels faint in his legs all of a sudden. Then he remembers the 1961 Chateau Palmer Margaux, only two nights old in his possession that one bottle alone set him back $3,499. He’d left it sitting proudly on the topmost shelf of the bar, for such a Friday night as this. It is gone. Gone! He is about to scream for his wife, when he thinks he can hear voices from the kitchen. With wobbly legs he makes his way towards the kitchen, to confront a sight that can make a grown man shed tears.
There in the kitchen is his entire family. His darling wife. And his two cost centres Junior and Sapphire. And his twin nieces who are holidaying with them. And Solomon the German Shepherd. And the two maids. Everyone is in the kitchen. Sprawled on the floor. And what are they doing?
They are emptying his bar! What I mean is this: each of them is holding a bottle from his collection, and emptying it into a giant basin on the floor of the kitchen. To one side is a mountain of bottles that still hold their liquid contents. On another side, another mountain, this time of already emptied bottles. His wife is the Supplier, passing the bottles to the house-girls for uncorking. The girls gleefully uncork the bottles, they are evidently finding it very exciting, here’s their chance to finally have a go at what Oga has been doing every night for the past God-knows-how-long. When they finish uncorking the bottles, they pass it on to the li’l ones who promptly tip the bottles into the basin, giggling as they do so. The entire room is thick with alcohol vapour. Solomon is lying down, grinning stupidly and sweeping his tail across the floor, clearly inebriated by the alcohol that hangs in the air.
They are all so busy at their task that they do not notice his presence. After pinching himself a dozen times just to confirm that this is no dream, he clears his throat. Everyone, Solomon included, looks up at the same time.
-Daddy! Junior leaps up to give his Papa a high-five
– Daddy! Sapphire screams
– Uncle! The twins say, very cheerfully
– Darling! His wife exclaims, happy to see him
– Welcome Sir! The maids curtsy
-Woof! Says Solomon, wagging his tail with a little more vigour
He looks at all of them as if they are mad. He wants to ask, in his most gentle voice: “What is the meaning of all this? Are you people all okay? Or have aliens kidnapped my real family and replaced them with you?”
But before he can talk, the twins have opened their big mouth. Most of the time they speak together. They always say the same thing.
“Uncle Daps! Aunty F said you don’t want to grow old. Is that true?”
By now his confusion has reached the critical portion of the confuse-o-meter. Meanwhile, they are not even done with him yet.
“Yes, daddy, is it true? Mummy says you want to kill yourself!” That is Sapphire, in her high-pitched voice. This is a girl that just started talking when?
It is finally one of the maids that helps him out
“Oga. E no good o. Make you allow Madam and de pikin make dem enjoy you now, eh? All this bottle of shayo wey you keep for house, na food? Eh?”
Junior delivers the final nail in the coffin, the final line of the commercial:
If you drink, don’t ‘daddy’? And if you know that you want to ‘daddy’, then don’t drink! Weapons of Mass Intoxication are therefore hereby banned in this house!
It is at this stage that his legs give way beneath him. It can’t be happening. This is not his family. These ones are aliens!
That letter to the Agony Aunt is written from his hospital bed, where he is undergoing treatment for shock and hypertension, occasioned by the loss of (he has calculated it) nothing less than four million naira worth of his hard-earned money invested into the finest drinks on the surface of the earth. He spends his days wondering if he should have insured the bar. Madam and the entire family are of course taking good care of him in the hospital.
- Tolu Ogunlesi is the 2013 CNN African Journalist of the year, as well as a two-time winner of the CNN Multichoice African Journalism Awards