I electrocuted … almost!!!!

An apartment in my compound became vacant and I was given the privilege of first refusal. I had been in mine for more than ten years and persons who visited me there were always asking, ‘are you still in that house?’ The new place would be more spacious, more dignified but more expensive both in rent and maintenance. Eventually I decided to move. Raising the money was a challenge. We were last paid for the month of January. Out of the blues, a senior colleague, ‘Dele Sogbesan called me up to be a Rapporteur in a workshop in Lagos. The pay was not bad and I eventually paid the rent.
Moving posed a lot of challenges for me. I needed to do so many things but did not have money. Fortunately, all I had to do was transfer my stuff from one apartment to another in the same compound. So I called up some Hausa boys that live around my house. They had all become friends, I think because they like the way I treat them. They appeared for the job, six of them. They started moving the chairs. I was dashing from one end to the other. At the other end, one of them signalled to me that we should move a cushion chair inside the house. Ordinarily, I should have declined. I was going to pay for their services. So why work with them? But I agreed and took one end of the chair. He drove hard at me and forced me back. Before I could explain that he needed to use some sense to get an easy angle through the door, he had slammed my thumb into the door post and the chair crashing into the poor thumb. I am not using it as I type now. The pain shot through my nerves and I dropped the chair and fled. One whole side of the thumb was all thick with blood and the more than half of the nail was black, blood had gathered under it. The pain was killing me. I knew I could not locate my first aid box so I ran for a nearby chemist’s shop. News had spread fast, and the Hausa-woman neighbour there was calling out to me. She was mangling some leaves between her palms to cover the injury. No way! I ran for the clinic and bought Hydrogen Peroxide, cotton wool and the much hated iodine solution. The pain kept me out of the rest of the main event.
There was so much to do and there were so many hands that were causing more damage. Eventually, we were done. That means they had moved out everything and left most of it at the mercy of the weather. The rest of the day went on slowly till evening came. I was taking what I could into the house a little at a time. Three kids that helped me with the parking, a set of triplets, were there again in the evening. I had not ‘settled’. The last of the triplets was my favourite. He did not look like his elder brothers, and was taller and better looking. I always called him Three. People call him Eta meaning the third. I still do not know his name. We decided to get my television antenna. We succeeded in doing that and conveyed it to the new location. This new place was not far from the NEPA wires. We lifted the pole and rammed it straight into the wire. His brother called out to us just before we hit the wire. Yes, we hit the wire and there was current in it. I would later understand why there was no spark but at that moment, I could not believe I could be so dumb and careless. We quickly lowered the pole. I did not want to underplay the weight of the error so I made it quite clear that I had goofed and the boy understood that danger had only inadvertently been averted.
When I mounted the pole the first time, months ago, I found that it would not rotate when the remote control was used in the house. It needed some measure of freedom at the base to turn freely. To solve the problem, I mounted the antenna on a short chiselled wood which I stuck loosely into the pole. That effectively bridged any flow of current into the body of the metal pole. Besides, the manufacturers had mounted the fingers of the antenna on a plastic framework, making it such that hardly any of the conductor components had contact with another. So, indeed, the current came through but was checkmated. We survived. I tremble at the thought of holding a metal pole resting directly on a naked NEPA wire.
The weight of what had happened hung with me for the rest of the evening. One handicap on the right thumb (you never know how useful that thumb is until you hurt it and cannot use it) and one life-threatening experience, and having checked on Caesar, I went to bed.
I woke up not knowing where I was. It was raining. It took almost a minute to realize where I was and the implication of the rain. I dashed outside. My generator was in the rain. Caesar saw me and jumped out of his cage only to be held back by the leash and driven back inside by the pelting rain. I went for the generator. I hurt my finger in the effort ( I had forgotten about the wound). Finally, I half carried and half dragged it out of the rain. As I went back inside, I had a sudden idea. Why not put the buckets in the rain so they could catch some water. I really had no need for rain water. There is a bore-hole in the premises. Perhaps the only advantage was not having to go to the tank behind my apartment to draw water. Into the rain I went again and finally, I was done. Going back inside, I cannot say what I stepped on but in a second I was sliding heavily and forcefully to the ground. The door had an iron burglar-proof door aside the actual door. It was open, the lower edge jutting out. I slid straight at it ramming into the edge just above the ankle. My underfoot hit another object leaving a swelling under the foot. I did not hit my head on the step behind me, miraculously but you could have heard the sound of my bum as it thudded on the wet floor. My weight is a little over 80kg.
Picking myself up, I examined the leg in the morning light. There was a nasty gash, beginning to bleed. The pain was maddening from all over the body. I ran for the hydrogen peroxide and iodine I bought the previous day. I put some of the fluid in a spool of cotton wool and placed it on the raw injury. God! I yelped and bounced up and down the sitting room. For the fear of God, I did not dare put the iodine on. I dragged myself into the bedroom. There were too many questions on my mind.
I am never the careless type. I do not leave much to chance and I do not take chances. I do not like anything that brings me in unnecessary confrontation and I never dare people. How could I make so many mistakes in such short time? I was still trying to find where my Hausa helpers dumped my certificates and other documents and was needing things I could not afford because of the tight budget salary irregularity is causing. Eventually, I fell into a fitful sleep.
Since then, I have had time to reflect on some of the lessons of this experience. I have always been a compassionate person and I do not like to see people suffer. I have learned to see the other side of the popular opinion. I do not only see the pain that the armed robber causes, I also see the agony of a robber’s mother who lives in the knowledge that one morning someone would tell her that her son had been killed. I see the years of hope she went through from the time the boy crawled to his first words and his first day at school. I imagine how it feels for the beggar when everyone overlooks him and he is blazing hungry. I feel for the well-dressed man who loses his money and has to convince people on the sidewalk that he is genuinely in need of help. I feel the pain of the lowly worker always making way for cars but knowing he might never own one. I even feel for the student in my class having the desire to excel without the opportunity or the intellectual ability to do so. Most of all, I hate the sound of the cry of a man in pain.
For the whole of this week, people have told me (especially my young students) that they like the swagger in my walk. They have no idea that it was the least I could do to prevent wincing with every step. The thumb has not been mine all week. I find that it is perhaps the most important of all fingers. I have been unable to fasten my buttons, sign the many forms of students going on teaching practice, turn my key in the ignition, swipe my dog Caesar when he bites my hand, the list is endless.
But what happened? Did I lose all these? No. I simply put so many other things ahead. I just forgot that there is pain all around me. A week ago, I went with a friend to the General Hospital to see someone who had taken ill suddenly. All the memories of the period my father was in hospital came rushing back. I recalled the sudden cries of pain as someone is bereaved and the shock and disbelief that accompanied such deaths. We left the place and I forgot again. Now there is the reason these things were happening.
i. I am reminded that my life is not mine but given to me for service.
ii. I am reminded that the distance between me and eternity is one second or less.
iii. I am reminded that everyone of us is one freak accident away from a handicap.
iv. I am reminded that pain does not belong to some people. If I do not have it, I have been spared it.
v. I am reminded that in spite of my broke ass, I have been magnificently blessed.
Now, I am looking out for what worthy cause to which I could dedicate time and talent. I will be glad to consider your suggestions. There are more lessons I have learnt but these I will keep to myself.


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