I was born into a humble home run by a single mother and her son who was but a year or two older than I. As children, we never thought we were broke, but we were pretty aware that we didn’t have a whole lot.
More important than this, we knew the worth of a Shilling before we ever felt the need to ask for one. So, while mildly oblivious of our own financial state, we were deftly able to assess those around us without passing judgment.
Not judging, however, does not mean not feeling. I can’t speak for my older wiser brother, but I felt the sting every time anyone unjustly flaunted their supposed wealth in my face. From rich cousins and their new toys to schoolmates and…well…their toys. As I grew older, it was politicians that made me sick. Scam and con artist thieves that they were, they made my stomach churn audibly. And not because they were doing wrong, but because they dared rub it our faces. They dared rub their premature, soon-to-expire, undeserved trinkets in starving people’s faces; shamelessly.
I raised my chubby little 8 year old fist and shook it, swearing revenge.
Fast forward to 2010 and I guess I’m doing better. Financially at least. So much so that I can comfortably afford a few things here and there and have access to a relatively swanky vehicle – let’s call her ‘Silver Six’ – that we occasionally drive around the city. She’s a byproduct of a lot of very hard work and as such, she’s quite a looker. Normally, we prefer to drive the more tenacious and weathered DiaspoMobile or use public transport. Sometimes, you’ll even see me commute in my 2010 Shoe-baru Leg-acy. But on a good day, Six will muscle her way onto the roads and glide around the city. Because of this, she requires fuel.
So it was that I decided to go put something in her tank yestermorning before taking my 2011 Feets-ubishi Evolution to town. It was early and I knew most of the staff at the Petrol Station, so I saw no need to get out of my baggy comfy PJs. I simply slid into some slippers and pimp strolled into the car. As I pulled into the station, I spied 3 bragadacious gents standing around a metallic red Toyota Starlet that was blaring out P-Unit’s ‘Kare’ in deafening decibels with an earthquaking bass. This is at 7am, mind you. The guys in question were dressed in the finest imitation brands; they were draped in Cucci linen with matching Guci shoes, toting Lewis Vutton man bags, and donning Dolshe Gabbana sunglasses as they popped their Amarni collars on the hard working staff at the Petrol Station.
I could tell by the staff’s scrunched up faces and mean mugs that they were none too happy with these 3 showoffs standing around their tiny loud ride on roids. The 4th member of the posse was in the shop buying sodas and cigarettes while peeling through 1000/= bob notes, supposedly looking for change. I wanted to wonder why they would even bother ‘stunting’ so aimlessly. But I was too busy scheming on how to silence them.
So I pulled Six up right next to their vehicle and dwarfed it immediately. Then I walked out in my pyjamas and slippers with no regard for their little charades and greeted all the staff there, jovially. We joked about as I waltzed into the shop where the guy had already picked out my Embassy Lights and laid them on the counter. I pulled out a few crisp bills and told him the change was for his holiday lunch. I tipped the other two guys – the one that pumped the gas and the one that cleaned the windshields – similarly, got in the car and then looked over at the little Starlet with the 4 grown men squeezing into it.
Clown car full of clowns; I drove off.
For a second I felt bad: as though I had unnecessarily peacocked or something. I’m not a humble guy but I like to think I’m relatively principled. I spent a second deliberating whether or not they really deserved it. Then something dawned on me. Whether or not they were there, I’d have done the exact same thing. I’d have still joked around with my boys at the station, I generally tip most workers on holidays and I’d still have done all this in PJ’s. They just happened to be there. And whether or not I felt like I needed to do it, it would’ve happened anyway; karma is a vindictive hag and her fight was with them that day. Now, had I turned the speakers up and done donuts in the parking lot while throwing money at them, that would’ve be one thing. But…I didn’t. Any embarrassment they felt was of their own making.
They say ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’ and this is what happens when you haven’t quite got it, but really want to flaunt it. As I said before: be humble until you can’t be outdone. Even if we allow for the possibility that they were just having a good time in a car that belonged to each and every one of them, they were doing it at the expense of the less fortunate around them.
I thought back on the little angry 8 year old iCon sitting in the backseat of that 1985 KZW Toyota Corolla shaking his pudgy fist at imaginary oppressors and realized he would’ve done the exact same thing too. I high-fived him and felt a renewed sense of purpose: I felt as though I owed it to the have-nots to excel and crush the pretend-to-haves with moral awesomeness and such. But I also had to remember to remain level headed and not forget where I came from.
After that brief, corny moment of clarity(with an accompanying Twitter rant), I climbed into my Toe-yota Feetz and went about my day.