The Seat Hullabaloo


I don’t like crowds. I struggle to be in public spaces.

I have been like this for a while now-and to be clear, a while is basically all my life. As far as I can remember, I preferred being alone. I didn’t like it at some point in my life but as I aged, I embraced it, loved it, and understood that there was, there is, nothing wrong with me. It hit me, gradually, that we can’t all be the same. If we were then the world would be such a horrendously boring place. Diversity is that thing that makes us, makes the world a beautiful place. So rather than bemoan my introverted, drawn back, in the shadows self, I figured that I’d do best to celebrate it. Now I know that it isn’t that bad after all, no, it is just me and I am okay.

So you’d know then that crowded events, and my definition of crowds is more than three people are tiring for me. I don’t like weddings, birthdays, parties, funerals, concerts, church gatherings, basically, I don’t like being at a place where there are more than two humans. And that’s hilarious because society has always put me in situations where I literally have to defy who I am. I have taught, worked as a communications person and worked in church. All of those jobs require me to wake up everyday and wear the ‘hallo people’ suit. I also have to take it off every night when I get back home. As if that isn’t enough I was born into a big family- eight full-blooded Africans, all outspoken and very extroverted. Also, in God’s own humour, I am the lastborn-the odds! Dad is a very public person so we are a very public family.

So then you must know that if I show up for your event I am either there under duress or you are really special to me and I am hardly ever coerced into anything. This Friday night, a few months ago, a friend had a gig. It was important for her-like humongous important. She’d asked me months ago to attend and I’d said I would even though at the back of my mind I would have preferred sending my spirit. But that would be a ghost, and I’d scare everyone, so I gathered up my courage, put on my ‘hallo suit’ and showed up.

I got to the said event a little after the start time. They had encouraged us to register online so that they’d know how to plan for us. I like people who plan, a lot. In our conversation, I asked friend whether it was okay for me to register, she said no need, she’d put my name on the guests list.

“Just show up!” She said.

I guess she knows me well enough to know that I only show up when I actually do. The rest is conversation, which I am very good at by the way.

So because I got there a little after the scheduled time, the place was already buzzing, almost packed. I got to the entrance, looked around and quickly realized that I would struggle to find a seat. I approached one of the hosts. We call them ushers in church.

“Hi! My name is Titus, could you please find me a place to sit?” I queried.

“Hi Titus. Had you registered with us?” Host asks.

“Yes I had, through Friend. She said she’d put my name on the list.” I replied.

Host unhinges her phone from her back pocket, scrolls through and answers back with a warm smile in the affirmative that I was indeed in the guest list.

“I see you are a pastor.” She says a little more reverend now.

I smile back in acknowledgement. I don’t like name-dropping and neither do I do well with titles and labels. I’d rather be just Mwendwa. It works just fine. Host asks me to wait briefly, walks to a lady who I guessed was senior host, has a conversation with her, occasionally throwing glances my way and then briskly walks back to me.

“This way Pst. Titus.” She motions.

She leads me to a seat on the second row of the auditorium. At this point we are all standing and the MC is saying something about ‘greeting your neighbour’. Those icebreakers that we do in church so that people stop looking like they got their faces dipped in lemonade. In obedience to the man on the mic, I turn to the guy seated next to me and extend my hand for a greeting. It is not a greeting in Africa unless we shake hands. My hand is stretched out, but the guy takes a split second to look at me intently as if wondering who I am. He finally obliges and shakes my hand. I am already feeling odd.

A minute or two later, he turns to me and asks, “Who told you to sit here?” I am not blessed with a poker face so I look at him, quickly editing and paraphrasing the raw response in my mind because we are in the house of the Lord and I don’t want to say something crazy. So I stutter, swallow a gulp of saliva; take out my handkerchief to wipe nonexistent sweat before I find the words to tell him that it was the hosts who told me to sit there. The man has a mean face, he must have been a bully in his younger days and clearly, and the good Lord hasn’t worked on him enough.

He comes closer to me and says, “You can’t sit here!”

I look straight into his eyeballs and say, “Okay! Where do you want me to sit? It is your ushers who said I can sit here so!” I say motioning with my hands.

“These seats are reserved. Doesn’t matter who said you can sit here! You can’t!” Guy says. We stand there, having this conversation that is now becoming unnecessarily emotive. I tell guy that it isn’t a big deal because; I actually don’t care where I sit as long as I find a seat. He says the seats are reserved for the pastors in that church. I tell him that is too much information and I don’t want to sit on ‘his pastors’ seats anyway.

“Just show me where to sit. I will be okay.” I say in a tone that I am now really struggling to control.

Guy motions to the head hosts and says a couple of words to her. She panics and starts looking around. I see her confusion and go to her. She has a name-tag but before I can utter a word she starts apologizing. “I am so sorry pastor. I am told that those seats are reserved. Please allow me to find you another place to sit.” She says repentantly.

“Nyambura!” I call her by her name, “Relax! Take your time. Find me a seat and don’t worry I’ll sit wherever you want me to sit. Sawa?”

She nods and walks away in haste.

I walk out of the auditorium and stand at the entrance. The event has now officially started. The auditorium is packed to the brim. There is even an overflow of tens of people milling around the entrance. I take out my phone and start scrolling through, keeping myself busy, trying not to get upset and resisting the urge to get into my car and drive back home. My patience pays off, a few minutes later; Nyambura walks to me with a smile on her face. She has good news.

“Pastor,” She says, “I hope you won’t mind sitting slightly off where we had kept you. Again, I am really sorry for the inconvenience.”

I nod in appreciation and follow her back in. I take my seat. From where I am seated, I can see where the Guy is seated. A few minutes into the event, his boss, and the host pastor and a friend of mine walks in and takes the seat next to him. I figure that I must have been seated on his seat.

Event goes on well and ends a few hours later. I am getting ready to leave and decide to say hi to my friend, guy’s boss. So I leave my seat, walk across the aisle and go where he is. Guy is standing next to him and must now be wondering why I am coming his way. Before he can say anything, my pastor friend sees me and stretches his arms ecstatically to give me a hug. We greet, exchange niceties, chat for a few minutes before I excuse myself. All the while, I can see how bothered guy is. He must have been wondering who I am. How do I know his boss? Could I have ratted him out on his wanting guest handling skills?

Any who, I leave and drive back home. But I can’t help wondering how differently guy would have treated me if he had known who I was or how I knew his boss. And then I think that if someone is going to treat you well because of your status, your title, your family name or whom you know then that says a lot about his or her character. Someone said that it is the way one treats his inferiors more than the way he treats his equals which reveals one’s real character. I agree!

You see it is better to be kind than to be right. People will remember, years later, how you made them feel. You don’t have to be rude to make your point. You can say whatever you need to in kindness. More importantly, try having a standard of how you treat people, whether they are your superiors or inferiors. And why cluster people into superiors and inferiors anyway? Aren’t we all God’s children? Treat people right, treat people well, be kind, after all, you never really know who it is that you are talking to at anyone point. Be kind-kindness doesn’t cost a dime we can all afford it.

  1. Interesting..!
    Am laughing but then it’s true that people treat others differently according to who they are…or who they know them to be.
    It’s a good advice to treat people good irregardless of status. Profound…

  2. Yes indeed,kindness doesn’t cost a dime. The holy book calls us to submit one to one another. My golden principle, don’t treat people in a manner you wouldn’t like to be treated.

  3. Great Piece @JustMwendwa. Courtesy costs nothing. Great lessons there. I like your choice of words…the sense of humour and how well you’re able to capture the readers attention. I look forward to reading the next write-up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.