Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Funny things happen!

Locked up in a toilet

(Off the Cuff column of 28 April, 2005)

Locked up in a toilet

It would probably be right to say that a majority of mobile line users in Nigeria carry phones they cannot use, so to speak. Phones that are receive-only. Phones that have no calling credit, texting credit, or flashing credit. Phones that are not virile, that are impotent. That are as dead as Mungo Park if nobody calls them.

But then having an impotent mobile phone can be very costly. And very embarrassing too.

Take this case. A man last week was attending an international seminar at a five-star hotel in Abuja. According to the version of the story told by the Nigerian Tribune, the man needed to use the toilet and went in search of one. He found it and did his business. Then it was time to go back into the seminar room, but there was some unholy connivance between the door latch and the door frame. Result? The door wouldn’t open. And you know, the toilet doors in these hotels open inwards, and so it is of little use trying to kick them open should they decide you deserve a temporary imprisonment.

Now, the poor man tried all the tricks he could, and had to resort to banging the door and shouting in the hope that someone would hear him. Very sadly, there was no one nearby to hear all these. One whole hour went by. The man probably took a seat on the covered toilet and decided to meditate over the problems of the nation, Nigeria.

He had no other choice than to resign to his fate, abi? He was so unjustly imprisoned for 90 hours during which time he missed all the meat of the seminar he went to attend in the hotel. Maybe he travelled all the way from Lagos to attend the seminar only to end up studying the graffiti on the walls of a toilet room. And to think that all his colleagues at the seminar would think he had a very bad case of constipation. 90 whole minutes!

All the while that he was going through this ordeal, the gentleman had a GSM phone with him. But there was no credit on it. No texting credit. Not even flashing credit!

Now, do you realize that the course of the story would have been different if there had been even flashing credit on the gentleman’s phone. He could have just very easily kept on flashing somebody until that one would get annoyed and call him back. He would have just then very easily explained his predicament to him and a rescue operation would have been carried out earlier.

But there was no credit on his phone. Not texting credit. Not even flashing credit..
Can you see what lack of credit can cost? Can you imagine what would have happened if Governor Ngige had no credit on the GSM phone he used to contact the outside world when he was being abducted that first time?

Of course it is understandable the way credit flies off phone accounts. Admittedly, insisting on having abundant credit on a mobile phone in Nigeria at all times can be a licence to grinding poverty, especially if you are one of those who cannot keep their fingers off a phone when it is full of credit. At the current tariffs being charged by Nigerian operators, no credit is sufficient for all the calls that one is required to make from time to time.

But people should learn the culture of minimum balance. It is used in the banks. However broke you are, there is a level below which you cannot go. Begin to consider a level below which you cannot go in depleting your credit balance. You can, for instance set as low as N100 level as your minimum credit balance. Once you get there you consider yourself to be out of credit. But then should there be an emergency the N100 credit is enough to call someone and say “please help!”

A man who is the head of the home must never put himself in a situation that he cannot reach anyone when his household is in distress. A friend said he found that it was simply impossible for him to keep his hand off his phone if there is any credit on it at all. But then he fashioned out another way to take care of unforeseen circumstances. He has a N500 recharge card stashed in a corner of his wardrobe exclusively reserved for emergency situations when there will be no access to call centres or recharge card vendors.

That solves some of the problem, but not the sort of problem that confronted the man who was locked in the toilet. The sure solution is that your phone should never be completely drained of credit at any given time. Even if it is flashing credit, retain it. It may save your life.