Can You Hear Me?

[Phone rings]

Hello?

HELLOOO

HELLO. CAN YOU HEAR MEEE??

YES, I CAN HEAR YOUOUOU. CAN YOU HEAR MEEE??

YES! I CAN HEAR YOU TOOOO. HOW IS THE FAMILY?

WE ARE FINE. EVERYBODY IS FINNNEEE

Above is a typical phone conversation I hear every day here. I even do it myself. We use bad network as an excuse for our raised voices but even when the line is crystal clear we still shout. We just can’t help it.

Shouting is an essential part of communication in Nigeria. If you are not shouting, then surely what you are saying cannot be important. That’s why we see those jesters howling at each other in parliament, and why the voice-overs for Yoruba film trailers are always screaming.

There are exclusive phrases that must be shouted and not merely said or whispered, each with their own unique situations. “BLOOD OF JESUS!” is for when you are shocked or receive a fright. For instance, when you almost get hit by a speeding driver who doesn’t know their car came with mirrors, or when you see something scary, strange and unfamiliar. “JESUS IS LORD” is reserved as your first reaction when something unthinkable happens. Let’s say when your daughter comes home and tells you that she’s moving in with her boyfriend or that she’s pregnant. There are also “CHAI!” and “KAI!”. One is not exactly sure what they mean but they make lovely melodramatic punctuations at the end of sentences. However, they are rather electrifying when said on their own.

I love watching passengers yell at danfo bus conductors on the streets of Lagos. On Monday, I saw a woman arguing, no, destroying a conductor. She looked as if she was ready to eat him alive. She had a small fragile frame, elegant weaves and a well made-up face. Dressed to impress. And she was aggressive. Though the conductor, a man bigger and taller than she, kept throwing sharp retorts, you could see the unmistakable look of fear in his eyes. With flare, she pointed her long fingers at his face – hand gestures are essential when shouting – “YOU ARE STUPID! YOU ARE AN IDIOT! YOU ARE A FOOL!”

We even shout when using a microphone. I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to be the one with the seat next to speakers at a party or in a church. Ears ring for days after having to listen to a thousand “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!” and “HALLELUYAH!!!” coming from those humungous old school speakers with their volume as high as it can be. The primary purpose of a microphone is to project one’s voice, not just a fashion statement for the camera. No need to shout and burst eardrums.

Come to think of it, I wonder if the quality of the average Nigerian’s hearing is less than the world average. Perhaps that’s why we shout so much… Nah, we just love shouting.

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