Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How I Survived Christmas and Other Stories - Chapter 3: Love from China

Leye - Every other Wednesday. 

Chapter 3: Love from China

Photo: Ask Joanne

I think elevators should have a feature to cancel out selections. When you press the two button by mistake when you really wanted the third floor, you just press two again - if you’re not already on the second floor and if the doors haven’t opened yet - and the erroneous selection is cancelled out. Imagine the sheer joy of defeating the evil mechanisations of that kid who presses all the buttons just before they run out of the lift. You just calmly press all the floors again and the buttons go from green lights back to no lights. Calmly. Yeah right. Anyway, I think elevators, or lifts, if that’s what you call them – I’m Nigerian, I use both names – should have this feature. I think it’s a great idea.

Ideas. I come up with them all the time. Like the time when I was still a young boy and I came up with the brilliant idea to have a box like a VCR, connected to a TV, only that it’s just a big hard drive recording live TV all the time so that you can pause the programme you’re watching while you go to the bathroom. This was way before SKY and DSTV etc. My brother who is a lawyer even got me patent application forms. I took one look at the long forms and laziness took over. It wouldn’t be till years later before I started kicking myself for that one.

But I still ended up with a patent. Yes, that’s right. I am a patent holder. The Anti-Piracy Product Verification System. APVS. That particular invention was because my father, a medical doctor, had told me how he’d almost died because he’d been treating himself with fake drugs bought from a reputable pharmacy. This was in Nigeria. I immediately started thinking of a way to detect counterfeit medicine. I soon came up with APVS.

So, APVS assigns a unique randomly generated number to each packet of an APVS protected drug. I’m talking true randomness. Generated from atmospheric noise. It don’t get more random than that.

When you buy the drug and break the seal, you find the APVS code inside the packet. With your phone you text the packet’s unique number to a special short code phone number, you know, like those text to donate adverts, and you get back an instant response.

If the medicine is legit (like the kids say these days) you get a response telling you what the code corresponds to: 50, 200 mgs Mindyourbussinespronol in 20 strip blister packs. Manufactured by Godknowswho Inc. Expiry date blah blah blah. Distinguishing features blah blah blah.

If there is dodginess afoot, you get one of two responses:

‘The APVS code blah blah blah blah, has not been recognised. Please try again or contact the fake medicine police on blah blah blah.’

Or, if the number is genuine but it has been previously checked for authenticity, you get a response something like: ‘The APVS number, blah blah blah, has previously been validated on [insert date] by [insert phone number]. If you did not carry out this validation, please contact the fake medicine police on blah blah blah.’

Now, in addition to the validation messages, you also get a reward for validating your APVS protected product. You see, each time the text response comes back positive, your phone number automatically qualifies for a monthly loyalty raffle draw in which cash is won. At the time I proposed the equivalent of $1000 to the Nigerian government.

Good idea, no? I think it is. Even the government thought so when I pitched it to them. They are doing it now, in Nigeria, years after I proposed it and years after I obtained my patent. Oh, and it has nothing to do with me. The government, it would appear, pirated an anti-piracy product.

That was my first big heartbreak ever. I’d scarified years of my life, my money, and my first marriage to that business. But rather than cave in and accept defeat like a loser, I saw the outcome as a sign to stop doing business with the Nigerian government, and then I caved in and accepted defeat.

I should mention, that was all before smartphones, hence the seeming obsession with sending and receiving text messages. If I’d come up with the idea today it would have been an app. There’s an app for everything these days.

Anyway, what does this have to do with my journey to recovery? Well, between deciding to call Cold Shoulder and actually calling her, I met up with a friend I could be honest with. Honest here is an euphemism for ball my eyes out, wallow in self-pity, be totally pathetic in front of.

But She never judges me. She used to be a girlfriend, till I broke it off because I wanted to be with someone else who, it turned out, wanted to be with me because She was my girlfriend at the time. Long story, but once I broke it up with She and hooked up with the new girl who wanted me because She was my girlfriend, new girl no longer wanted me because I was no longer She’s boyfriend. I learnt an invaluable lesson then. I must tell you about the female hostel lesson as well one day.

Anyway, I digress. So, She and I had coffee, and as I already predicted would happen, I said too much, was way too open, revealed way too much, and in the end became so self-conscious and embarrassed that I secretly planned to never see her again. I mean, she saw me cry. Only a little. But there were tears. I never cried over her. Wait, that’s just one way to look at it. She never made me cry.

She listened to me with just the right amounts of pity and pragmatism expertly timed and delivered through short expressions of agreement and occasional observations. And when I was done-done, (because I’d managed to control the tears and I’d ran out of ways to make myself look even more sorry (as in pathetic) and I’d shut up), She paused for effect, starred into my eyes like she was looking for signs, and she asked to see my tinder profile. I didn’t have one.

Tinder. Online dating. App dating, to be more precise. It’s just something I’ve really never gotten into. For me, it’s just one step away from hook ups and I don’t do hook ups. By hook up I mean blind dates, when your friends try to match you with their friend and all you gain out of it is a sobering insight into what they really think about you. You mean this is the type of person you think I can pull? I mean, to be honest, hook ups are reserved for the sorry friends unable to find a partner on their own, correct? No? It’s just me then. Ok. Moving right on. App dating. What do I have against it? Well, for one, and like I’ve already said, for me it feels like just one step away from hook ups, and it’s not necessarily a step forward. And also I just can’t bear the thought of random strangers swiping left on me. I just can’t deal with that volume of instant judgement and rejection. Even from anonymous swippers. Especially from anonymous swippers! From strangers!  

She, however, was having none of it. She had me put in my PIN, found four different dating apps on the app store, then made me put my password in again to download them. With me relegated to the role of mere observer, I watched as she selected pictures from my Facebook and fill out my profile. She didn’t have to ask me for my age and stuff like that. She still knew a lot about me. She only looked up and studied my face when she was going to write my app profile. My selling pitch, as it were. But even then she wasn’t seeking help. She turned back to the screen and wrote:

‘I enjoy long meaningful conversations, red wine and red meat. I will compromise on the latter two but not the first. I’m old fashioned. I would like to take time to get to know you, so forgive me if I seem to be taking my time at the beginning.’

She finished and looked up at me. That short-long stare again. Studying my face. Like she was searching for something she might have left out. She was right about the long talks, the red wine and the red meat. She knew me only too well. I would have reconstructed the last sentence, but she wasn’t seeking agreement. She looked at the screen and clicked save and that was that. I was officially on tinder. Ladies, begin swiping. Swipe away! Oh yikes.

Then a day later, what happens? I get this from Apple. Someone had tried to log in to my account from China. CHINA!!! The message on my phone asked if I wanted to approve the access. Hell no!

A little thing on my iPhone called two step verification saved me. It’s a security feature that protects access to my devices even if someone has my password. It does this by requiring me to approve access on another device or through another agreed method. I never knew it would actually really stop a would-be hacker gaining access to my phone and the nuclear code saved on it.

It was a sign. Needless to say, I changed my password. All my passwords. I finally accepted the folly of using the same password for everything. I now must remember a dozen or so passwords – I’ve devised a method. But how did someone in China get my password in the first place? It came to me super-fast. The only thing I’d done different was install dating apps. She would be disappointed so I didn’t tell her, but I closed all dating app accounts and deleted all the apps. Bye bye tinder and kin. See you later, anonymous women randomly swiping left on my radiant smiling face. Hasta lavista would-be hacker in Jiangsu near Nanjing hoping to steal my top-secret secretes from my phone.

Tomorrow I meet up with Cold Shoulder. Not only has her number not changed, she also answered my call by saying my name. She still has my number on her phone. As far as signs go, that’s a good one, I think. Do you?


  1. Enjoy your posts - make me smile. So does Caro Ramsays so finally I bought her books, succes :-) Always nice to "meet" new writers (new to me that is).

  2. I would like to congratulate you on your excellent taste Anon!

    1. Thank you :-) I really do enjoy the books by the way. Will buy the rest (read two so far) asap.

  3. Leye, I adore you.You are one of the few people who make me appear normal! I hope Cold Shoulder was welcoming.

  4. Wow. Boy, am I glad I met my wife the first day of high school and stuck with her ever since. Look at all the trauma (and excitement?) I missed out on! Leye, you give good blog.

  5. Frankly, my friend, I think it would be best all the way around if you concentrated your efforts at the moment on finding the perfect puppy. :)

  6. Leye, I love your posts. Today I offer a conundrum to ponder. "I would never want to join a club that would have me as a member." – Groucho Marx Some men seem to prefer women who reject them. It's an inclination that stymies me. Just saying.

  7. It's all fiction :-). Apart from the patent, the ideas, and the notification from Apple that someone in Jiangsu near Nanjing in China.