Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

Travelling light is one principle I have always practised as a young chap in business. A customer had just made payment for the purchase of a generator.

I looked at my wristwatch; it was 3.30 PM, so, I quickly dashed to the bank to make a deposit.
On entering the banking hall, I was met with a rowdy atmosphere. I could tell two people had a clash from the heated exchange of words that lingered for some minutes.

One looked officially dressed and chubby while the other, was casual, his eyes looking red; his skin was littered with scars, a sign that he was most likely a street guy.

He could not speak English fluently like the other man but was he was so pissed at the behaviour of the man who succeeded in bypassing the queue in a bid to get attended to, on time.

As the tension doused, the casually dressed fellow began to lament to those who consoled him, how difficult life has been for him, having to take care of himself, his ‘girlfriend’ and two children of the proceeds from his hustle as an “Agbero” (tax collector).

He had been trained as a carpenter, but was not getting jobs steadily, so, he decided to be an ‘Agbero” as he had friends who also lived off the streets.

One thing that hit me was the fact that this man prioritized his children’s education which was his major reason for being at the bank. He needed to pay his children’s school fees to avoid embarrassment from the school authorities.

He wished he had finished school. He was able to attend primary school with the encouragement of his uncle as his parents were not so keen on education. His father was a peasant farmer and his mother a fishmonger.

He proceeded to secondary school, but his academic journey came to an abrupt end with the demise of his uncle. His parents, not having the financial wherewithal to sponsor his education, decided to enrol him as an apprentice in a carpentry workshop.

This marked the beginning of a turbulent journey in life for him. He got in contact with a girl down the street who was also struggling to find her bearing in life as a hairstylist and they liked each other enough to begin a relationship which so far led to the birth of two children.

While he was still narrating his ordeal, the man who had jumped queue had completed his mission and was leaving the banking hall. There were hisses and murmurings here and there as he made for the exit door.
Just then, I got a phone call from my boss; he asked to know my whereabouts because, according to him, a fight ensued between tax collectors and motorcycle riders around the “Alakuko” axis, not too far from my shop. I told him there was no cause for alarm and he hanged up the call.

“Different strokes for different folks”, I said to myself as I compared what I heard with what I had just witnessed. Here was a man who prioritized education while others were out there busy putting up a show of force, probably under the influence of alcohol or hard drugs.

These people subject themselves to harsh conditions, standing under the sun and in the rain to collect levies and at the end of the day, lavish their petty income on hard drugs, alcohol, betting, and womanizing.

Within a short time, I was done with my transaction and headed straight home.
My experience at the bank has taught me yet again not to judge a book by its cover.

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