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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

lace-on learned


So I hate tying my laces. For some reason this stage in my early childhood development was skipped. I had no idea how to tie my laces for the longest time and to tell the truth I just didn’t care. What I would do all through school was to make a little knot at the end of both laces so that they wouldn’t come out through the holes. This would be done once and only once at the beginning of the term, I would make sure that the shoes fit nice and snug and then I would forget about laces forever.

I finally learned in 4th form or some other ridiculous age. I learned about the two bows and making them cross each other and then taking one under the other and back over and having these nice little rabbit ears hanging down. My rabbit however was always the first to be caught by the hunters. A few steps later the knot would come loose and I would have to bend over and do it again. And then again. And then again. And this is what my adult life became reduced to, tying laces over and over and over. I promised myself that when I grew up I would never buy shoes with laces again, I guess I’m not growed up yet.

I (like the archbishop of Canterbury) got a pair of leather shoes the other day, I thought that I’d just buy them laced then take them to the friendly neighbourhood cobbler and have them just as I wanted. On Saturday I went out with them. I met a guy I haven’t seen in a while, he was on a bicycle and we began talking about how long it had been.

“siku mingi sana, kwani ulienda wapi?” its been many days, where did you go?

“Nimekuwa tu, sijui mbona hatujaonana” i have just been around, i don’t know why we haven’t seen each other.

“Ni siku mingi sana, sijakuona tangu tuibiwe kura” its been very many days, i haven’t seen you since they stole from us the election.

At this I had to laugh. Straight up tribal profiling, and you know the weird thing about it, most times it works.

So I get to the cobbler and I take off my shoes and give them to him
“Shida ni nini?” what’s the problem?

“sitaki laces, unaweza nitolea alafu ushone na hapa ndio laces ziende” i don’t want laces, can you remove them for me and stitch over there so that there are no more laces.

“na, mbona hautaki laces?” and, why don’t you want laces?

“inanichukua mud asana kuzifunga.” They take me a long time to tie them

He took the shoes, shook his head and told me, “uvivu utawacha.” You will leave laziness

First he tightened the laces to show me how the shoe would be if he carried out my maniacal request. Then he asked me to put my foot in it (oh I did) and obviously my foot would not fit in there, I had to destroy the back part of the shoe just to get half in. When I was in he asked me to take the shoes out again, I had to hold on to the destroyed part and pull(it’s not actually destroyed just would be after a month of forcing my foot into it.) he explained , the way you would explain to an ignoramus, that laces are there for a reason. he showed me some rubber shoes, the lace less kind with the sponge in the middle, the bladder kind of thing and made me imagine the shoes without the rubber. well of course it won’t work, the rubber is there so there’s some elasticity and if you take that away the shoe will quickly get…MIND BLOWN. He informed me that if I wanted shoes without laces I should have bought shoes without laces and that I shouldn’t question the manufacturer.

“hakuwa mjinga akiiunda.” He wasn’t stupid when he made them.

Point received.

I went to watch Iron Man 3 with some friends. It was a really good movie, funny all through. We had gone to watch it at the Imax cinema in 20th and quite honestly it’s an experience. At the end of the movie we followed the crowd of people going out and instead of being deposited in the plaza we found ourselves walking down stone steps to the street. It was confusing, disorienting. We had no idea what had happened, was the lobby turned into a street while we were in there? Then we got down and there was some kind of music video shoot going on.

Well I had no idea it was a music video shoot, all I knew was that there were cameras and lights and people on bicycles pedalling up and down Mama Ngina street. One of my friends makes movies, he’s the one who let us know what was happening. How could he have known? We askd. Well there were no scripts out, there was a lot more cast than crew, another reason was given that I can’t remember right now. Then he told us it must be a really expensive shoot. The lights they were using are hired for almost 100,000 shillings a day. Just the lights. In a addition there were all these people there the cast, the crew and someone had to jump through all the hoops in the world to get permission to shoot here. Standing there I learned another dozen things I didn’t know before.

This is something that could repeat itself over and over. Every time I get in touch with a career that I know nothing about I learn 10 new things in 12 sentences and it’s a great feeling. It’s also a feeling that reminds me over and over that specialisation is the most efficient thing that ever happened to the human economy. Its great as a concept, you learn how to do one thing. You be the best you can be at milking cows, another will be the best at feeding them, yet another at slaughtering. In the end we have the fattest, tastiest cow possible. What happens to the cow after that depends on the economic system in play but all of them without fail need this kind of specialisation.

I remember reading an article about trust, the guy was talking about how much we trust strangers in the world we live in. I read on curious about what he meant, aren’t we less trusting nowadays? His reasoning was though that 100 years ago we knew all the people involved in taking care of the cow. We knew the feeder, his uncle was married to our cousin, we knew the milker(isn’t he the chief’s son), we knew the slaughterer(the guy who’s going to get drunk right after this correct.) Now look down at whatever it is you are eating, chances are you have no idea who did what to it before you bought it. For all you know maybe some psychopath want’s to poison all the beef eaters. But you trust. You trust in your milk and your meat, you trust in your m-pesa transactions and your bank account, you trust in hundreds of angry, irate drivers each day. People you don’t know and never will and all of them hold your life in their hands. Tell me we aren’t more trusting of strangers.

And all this trust in the world because of specialisation. He didn’t have to explain anything, that cobbler, a person turning down money has good reasons for why he’s doing it, pride in his craft. But I’m glad he did. he made me want to learn a new skill, to want to do something outside the box of specialisation I have put myself in. I’m not sure what yet but it pays not to be comfortable. So go out and learn about something you have no idea about, its fun. Maybe I'll finally learn this laces thing.