If I was screaming for my life, I would want someone to save me

fear

“Help! Someone please call the police, he is going to kill me!”

Those chilling words penetrated by sleep in the early hours of this morning.

I live in a quiet neighbourhood, the most exciting thing that happens here is that my one neighbour really likes his dubstep, but we don’t complain because it’s dubstep.

However, last night our quiet little block of flats was woken up by a woman being attacked.

I heard a terrified scream, then another voice spoke, he was menacingly violent and then all of sudden I found myself shaking with fear in my bedroom. I thought someone had broken in downstairs and was attacking the lady that lived directly below me.

Three things happened very quickly.

One. I called the cops and they told me to stay calm and they could be along shortly.

Two. I called my “frack I think I might get murdered” contact — he was asleep, so no answer. Shit.

Girl screams again. I hear glass shatter.

Three. I grab a cricket bat my other neigbour had left lying around the other day and head downstairs to help. But before I do this I tweet to the world and let them know I am about to do something incredibly stupid.

Luckily I am not alone, my other neigbour heard the screams too and she is also out and we both confront the guy who looks murderous and ready to hurt someone. He calls her all sorts of names and gets very aggressive. We get girl away from him and get out. Cops show up, and he gets aggressive with them and they send us back to our flats and deal with him.

All this happened in the space of 30mins to 45mins. I stood in the middle of my hallway after: I was shaking with fear but somehow haven’t passed out or let it overwhelm me. Somehow I am sort of okay. I am still clutching the bat, I am not letting it go, I take it to bed with me.

Of course I was tweeting as this happens because if I was indeed going to get caught in a crossfire of domestic dispute at least someone needs to know. I have been asked by my Twitter friends, why I went downstairs after calling the cops. Why didn’t I stay put?

Here is why:

When I heard her bone-chilling screams and decided to go against every single instinct that said to me hide under your bed this instant, and pray for a miracle.

“You never investigate”, I heard myself saying.

“You call the cops and you hide.”

All that was true.

Then I wondered, if it were me or one of my sisters or my girlfriends on the other end of that scream, wouldn’t I want someone to save them? Save me?

So in the midst of crippling fear I summoned up courage and went to save her, knowing that the chances of success was slim because let’s face it the man that incited her screams was not to be trifled with. I went anyway and so did my other neighbour.

I don’t know who the girl was or what happened but she was hurt and bleeding and terrified and that should be enough for anyone who could to try and help.

Lessons learnt:

Violence is a dangerous reality, people are effed up and fear is both crippling and empowering.

Tonight we ate cake and didn’t care: the startup edition

Cake

Tonight, I ate cake for dinner and I didn’t care because I work for a startup and having dessert for dinner seems like the only reward at the end of particularly bad day.

I am dead inside, but that’s okay I had to pay a price for what lies at the end of the finish line and my soul is a small price to pay for what is to come. Yeah, right. This is the sort of bullshit that dedicated startup worshipers feed themselves and they sit and think it’s okay that they have no friends, or not having any semblance on a personal life makes them that much dedicated. It does not.

We believe in the product and we are building something amazing. I can’t wait for the world see. That’s pretty much how everyone who works for a startup feels. You join a company and give up yourself. A company drone you will be.

I work for a startup, most of my friends work for startups or have startups of their own. I am not sure if it was by design or some cosmic accident but 90% of the people I deal with on a daily basis are involved in some startup world (tech or otherwise). In someways this is a good thing because they get my daily woes and the many problems that make up copious glasses of wine. When you work for a startup wine becomes a food group because if we are being honest it is much easier to end the day with a glass than have to factor in feeding yourself with everything else.

For the special, the startup chosen, we find it hard to understand why our “normal” friends can’t just see it. We don’t understand why they are bored of our obsession with this supposed best product ever built. Especially for the tech startups, how can these people these non-geeks not want to just be consumed by this little win that the tech world is losing its mind over? For us, the good soldiers we get it and the loss of these people who don’t, makes perfect sense.

A friend of mine told me that working for a startup does damage to a person’s psyche.

“It fundamentally changes who you are and the things you want,” he said. “If you are not careful it will ruin you.”

He has a startup and his startup ruined him, but according to him, it is his burden, his curse and his gift and they are bounded together. Interestingly his company is successful and by all accounts he should be happy.

“It’s the sacrifices,” he says. “You have to ask yourself, what are you willing to give up?”

What am I willing to give up? Am I willing to give up myself? Am I willing to give you my friends? My comforts?

For some very strange reason the idea of working for s startup seems greatly romanticized. People think that working for startup means you get taken on a romantic date, you get to make love and live happily ever after. No it is actually the opposite. The realities of starting a business and working for a startup is you get screwed and get left for dead on the side of the road the majority of the time. There are no “it’s not my company, I don’t have to stress” — when you work for a startup who stress like it’s your company you don’t get the rewards of ownership but you feel the pains of it. You have no identity beyond the startup, your sense of self gets incredibly warped that most days when you look in the mirror all you can see is a product of an environment that is not your making. You become consumed by company mantras without your permission and soon interrupting your life and your happiness and your little wins for the bigger picture become the norm.

You won’t leave, you can’t leave because yourself worth seems to have morphed into this place, you suffer from Stockholm syndrome because this is home and you convince yourself that this product, this thing that is being built cannot be built without you, even though it can and most certainly will be built without you. My friends and I have these conversations and I see the patterns, no startup is the same but the threads of what they demand is. No one forces these on you, it just happens, and you feel like a defector if you don’t think this way. The ones you leave are traitors and you are a good little soldier for staying. It is the most effed up psychological warfare known to man. Entrepreneurs have it worse because for them defecting means failure and how can they fail, how can they sum up their worth if they are marred by this failure.

It isn’t all doom and gloom and it is all getting f*cked while your back is turned. There are moments when your Stockholm syndrome isn’t in full effect, when you become part of something that you can see the rewards. When you share and create something so amazing even your non-startup friends want you talk about it. The days when you have a sense of achievement so high that you eat real food, the day when you’re toasting to a job well done not drowning the demons that keep you awake every night. There are days when you think “I am xx years old and i just did this, how cool is that?”. Those days make it seem like paradise, in those moment, you are not dead inside, humour is genuine and not twisted by battle scars. In those moments you simply work for a company that is taking over the world and you couldn’t do anything else.

Those days are rare, but they do exist.

Tonight, I ate cake and didn’t care because today is the day in-between.

Dancing with strangers and meeting Princes in Lagos

Lagos Mainland

I would be doing Lagos a great disservice if all I talked about were its humidity, the impossible traffic and the hints of sexism that befell me on my last trip (more on this in another piece). I think if I were to truly explore what the delectable city had to offer and laid it bare Florence and the Machine would come to mind: “sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell”. This is a sentiment encapsulates an unforgettable experience.

I have been here often enough but I don’t really know the city, when you think about it really can you truly know a city? The city I currently live in still harbours great mysteries for me, the city I grew up seems to be so far away that its stories don’t belong in my head anymore. But I digress.

Like an inescapable dream Lagos comes to life in audacious yet subtle ways. One of the pleasures of this trip was a restaurant called Terra Kulture, nothing special by most counts but I find that I couldn’t stay away (there was free wifi). Tucked just a few ways away from the famous Bar Beach, the African themed restaurant is a fusion of art, entertainment and food. The premise for it seems is to provide top notch Nigerian cuisine while serving its customers need for culture, with the occasional plays as well as housing a gallery with exhibits from some top photographers. The whole place comes together quite nicely, like a perfectly executed dish of intellect, perfect mixology and soul food. Here the ladies meet for their weekly book club, whether books are read or it’s an excuse for a gander at the bar is anyone’s guess. I have a favourite dish here, and ate it every day I was there: Ofada rice (a sort of locally grown rice served with a spicy sauce) accompanied by fried plantain (yum yum) – it is a taste duet that sends your taste buds into an orgasmic adventure.

Ofada rice

One night after losing my resolve, I relented to go party. I danced with strangers and was proposed to by a supposed Prince. In the same breath a man claiming to be an oil tycoon promised me the world if I would only permit him a dance. It’s a strange thing venturing in the night in Lagos. I mean who could resist a Prince and an oil tycoon, me apparently. But you get the gist, the drinks will follow and the rich will play.

Unlike my last trip I decided to forgo my preconceptions and make my way to the Mainland, a place my father would rather I did not go. Lagos is vast populace and like most urban areas it has its problems, unfortunately those problems are laid quite bare for the world to view. The city dwellers don’t seem too perturbed by this; their city is still the greatest in the world and there is no telling them any different. As I made way through into the jungle of broken concrete it plays out like an unfinished dream or one deferred. The dreamers are still dreaming but its workings are incomplete, they have made their peace with what will come but I don’t they know what that is. Some believe it will never be complete and that too is okay. For the few in the know, the overpopulation and traffic is just a small price to pay in a bigger dream that they can taste on the precipice — and so they solider on.

I feel that too. I dared a trip to the beach on one the days with a friend, as we surveyed the surrounds she said to me “you feel that?”

“What?” I ask in confusion.
“The city.” She replied simply.

The ocean was waging a war against the shore, its waves crashing fiercely and the city behind us hummed in choreographed aggression. It took a moment but soon it was clear, the city is more than the pretty views, yes there pretty views here, the food (which is to die for) or cheap liquor. The city is a beast. While most tourists would go to many big cities for the sights and landmarks, this is not that city. There are sights here; I am told I am yet to actually go to one. What this city has is culture, an experience and gravitas.

Lagos, pack your malaria meds and get ready for ride of a lifetime.