Message from the Morning Man: Want some garbage?

Hand holding garbage in plastic bag

Most kids believe their father to be the greatest man in the world. A superhero who can do no wrong. As they grow older and wiser, they start to realise that their perfect dads are actually humans with flaws.

As a kid I felt the same about my dad, but growing up and getting to know him has actually strengthened my appreciation of him as an extraordinary man.

Those few of you who may have met him will agree that my father doesn’t talk much, but everything he says is important. He’s funny and intelligent without trying, but perhaps the word that describes him the best is ‘calm’.

In fact, my Popee no dey panic for any reason. In any emergency situation, you can be certain that my old man will be the coolest dude in the room. I’m sure if Armageddon went down right now, that guy will act like he’d been expecting it.

It’s an aspect of his character which I’ve always tried to emulate, and I’ve always wondered how he pulls it off. Well, one day, he explained it to me.

My Dad has never liked driving in Accra, because of how people behave in traffic.

About 2years ago, on one of the rare occasions when we came here, I remember we had just come out the GIMPA entrance when a rickety taxi came out of nowhere, driving down the wrong side of the road and nearly smashed into us. My dad had to sharply apply the brakes to avoid a collision.

To my surprise, the cab driver rather started yelling abuse at my dad! I was even more surprised to see Popee winding down his window. Was he about to show his temper for the first time to this insolent cabbie?

A part of me hoped so.

Instead, he stuck his head out of the window, flashed a big smile at the insolent cab driver, gave a jolly wave and said, “Hello, Otsiden?”, like he was greeting an old friend. The cab driver froze for a moment, obviously confused by my Dad’s reaction, and then he resumed his tirade of abuse as we drove off.

After a few moments of strained silence, I asked my father why he had reacted in that way to what the driver had done.

He said, “Kojo, you have to understand, people are like garbage trucks. We carry a lifetime of anger, frustration and disappointment around with us like garbage, and we are always looking for somewhere to dump it.

“I don’t know what was wrong with that driver today, but when he burst out like that, it was only because he was looking for some place to dump his. If I had responded with anger, then he would have successfully dumped his garbage in MY truck. I would have gone the whole day feeling angry and frustrated. And I would certainly have taken it out on you and the rest of the family too.”

I realised that this was what my father had been doing all his life. He was cool and calm every day, because he never let anyone dump their garbage in his truck.

The lesson for me that day was that every time someone made me angry, they were actually taking advantage of me, and dumping their stress and issues on me. It was up to me – not them – to make sure this didn’t happen.

My dear friends, this will happen to you several times today. In fact, everyday, people will attempt to dump their garbage in your truck. The moment you react in anger, you know they have succeeded.

Defend yourself with a kind word and a smile. And be quick to use it. Don’t hesitate. Smile first, ask questions later, because, in the end, nobody has the right to dump in your truck, and the people you care about do not deserve to be on the receiving end of your bad mood.

My name is Kojo Yankson. No dumping here, please!