This Or That

The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose – Barry Schwartz

I was going to ask what you would do with 3 wishes, but there’s always that one jerk “If I had three wishes, I’d use the last one to wish for 10 more wishes…bla…bla…bla…” they always ruin all the fun. So I’m going to keep this simple, not too simple I hope.

I was on my bed yesterday night lying down and wondering why sleep had refused to pay me its customary visit when I started thinking, wishful thinking as usual (I do that a lot). What would I do if I had a million dollars? Many people still live with the impression that they would become better persons if they had a more money, while that can’t be proven, it can’t be disproven either considering there isn’t any parallel life to compare it to.

I was going to ask you the question, but I know many of you will say things like ‘I’ll give some to charity” “I’ll pay my tithes” which are things easier to say when you do not have the money yet. Are you giving to charity or payi… I digress. That isn’t the essence of this article. I just came to ask you a simple question.  Not too simple I hope

You have to read the succeeding scenario then you answer the question.

I imagine I’m a god, I’m looking down on this beautiful expanse called earth looking for whom to pick for this experiment. My eyes rest on Tolu, he is a brilliant 28 year old man with clear plans for his future. He comes from a humble, yet hardworking family who have struggled to put him through school. Now even though he earns N120,000 monthly, he doesn’t live it, because it’s his turn to carry his family. He has a beautiful girlfriend of course, her name is Teni. He has promised to make things more permanent as soon as things began to look up.

That’s a brief description of Tolu’s life as it is. I hope I’m not boring you yet.

One morning on his way to work, slightly late, he arrives at a motor park he arrives at every morning of the week except Sundays and the chilly wind hits him square in the face. He doesn’t have time to think about that as he starts after the conductor who still owes him N50. He joins the crowd of passengers waiting to collect their various changes.

How mush be ya shange?” he hears the conductor bellow as a scantily clad female

450” she hisses back, smacks her lips and continues her gum rudely.

Take 500, give that brother 50naira

He would protest, but it’s a normal occurrence. He looks around for a place to change the money; it’s still early so businesses aren’t in full swing yet. A woman selling locally made concoction, another frying shrimps and leaving them open to the elements, two men huddle under an umbrella frying and selling all sorts of food to people who left home too early to eat and to those who slept at the park and finally a lone man operating a single lottery machine. All of them couldn’t help, wouldn’t help.

He takes a quick glance at his Swatch chronograph,  it cost him N19,000 his priciest possession. He was running late

Oga wetin we go do, na because of 50naira you dey waka up and down with your suit” that lip smacking and gum chewing again.

Such insolence. He waves her away, she could have this one. It’s her lucky day. She walks away. He goes in the opposite direction and continues to work.

Now let us fast forward 50 years later.

Tolu’s sitting on the front porch, sipping tea with the love of his life. It has been a long and rewarding marriage, he cheated on her once and apologised. She had forgiven him and it never happened again. He is a happy man with a son and a daughter, both married with kids. A four bedroom bungalow built from his sweat and a car each for his wife and him. His pension cheques were steady and considering his background, it was more than he could wish for at this age. Living in relative comfort, with the love of his life always by his side.

With no other life to compare his to, he has no regrets. It is as good as it gets. All he had to do today was drink tea and expect his grandchildren, they were visiting. As they run towards him later in the day, he nods his head at all he has accomplished.

Now I ask you to indulge me as I take you back to a scene you may have glossed over but was a turning point. Bear with me.

We are back at the motor park now, replete with layabouts, pools of muddy water and the same chilly weather. He’s been paired with the same lip smacking scantily dressed lady and his change is still 50naira. The four sets of traders still wouldn’t help with the change, but something’s different with him. This time instead of waving away the insolent girl, he angrily decides go against his principle this one time and plays the lottery for 50naira.

He picks 6 numbers; 9, 17, 17, 24, 28, 30. They are his birthday, his parent’s and his 3 siblings. The lottery man prompts him that the same number was picked twice, he deletes one of the 17s (a date he shares with his father) and replaces it with a 6, Teni’s day.

Let us fast forward again, 50 years later.

Tolu enters his 8-bedroom villa, which also houses 2 maids, a cook and a laundry man but the house is still empty. He had just been in Abuja where he was conferred with a national honour. His family wasn’t by his side. He cheated on Teni but she didn’t forgive him in this life. He was rich and her advisers had talked up divorce, she listened to them and had made money of her own, off him.  He still hoped she would get back to her senses; she was still the love of his life. All hope however faded when the news of her death got to him, she had died in a road accident on her way to New York to catch a flight to Nigeria. His daughter was also in that car, she didn’t survive either. That was years ago and he had come to terms. His son was currently married to a Brit who wasn’t ready for children. No one knew when she’d be ready.

So today, he sits on his porch, sipping tea. The love of his life isn’t with him. Flowers and a Macaw keep him company instead.  He looks at the state of the art cars and swimming pool. He remembers this is just one of his many houses and nods his head at all he has accomplished. He may not have done well personally but a street had been named after him and publishers will beg for the right to his autobiography.

He thinks back at the day that started it all, the motor park. Then he thinks of how the favourite family soap had been interrupted for the lotto draws. How he made a beeline for the room in search of his suit when he saw the numbers he knew he knew but refused to believe until he saw them again. 160million naira. He had been paid in full after tax. It was the foundation for the success he now enjoyed.

He was proud of himself, and with no life to compare it to, he considered himself happy and a success.

In both pictures, Tolu is a happy man. If he had a choice however, with the gift of foresight, which would he choose?

You however have the gift of foresight for I have given it to you, I am a god.

So I implore you, use the gift I have given you, and choose one. Answer me this simple question, not too simple I hope

If you were Tolu, what would it be?



21 thoughts on “This Or That” by Joey (@brizio)

  1. A very very simple question.
    I will definitely choose the very rich Tolu. After the poorer foolish Tolu dies, who would remember him, with no autobiography and national honours. All men should aspire to make their mark in history.

    End some of your sentences with full stops, thats what they were meant for.

    1. @kaycee Thank you, I’ll be sure to pay more attention to that in future.

  2. I will choose the poorer tolu.What is money,fame without true happiness,joy,love,family,sharing…

    1. @Borry Thank you for dropping in.

  3. Awesome piece. Very unusual tell, and rarely used setting (the park and the change drama).

    I really enjoyed this.

    I spotted about 12 grammatical errors. Do something about them.

    And to the question for the gods: I say, give me happiness.

    Well done.

    1. @Chemokopi thank you.
      The grammatical errors I really hope you can point out if it’s not too much work. Gone through it and noticed one omission (the perils of a proofreader-less writer). I’ll be sure to be more careful in future

      As for your choice, he was happy at the end of both scenarios, just for different reasons.

      1. @brizio

        Okay, I decided to make this critique kinda detailed and I am strictly following the rules of grammar as I know it, and not considering the possibility that the errors in question were fruits of stylistic experimentation. Also I have used brackets to enclose my corrections in some areas. So here goes:

        {…that one jerk “If I had three wishes, I’d use the last one to wish for 10 more wishes…bla…bla…bla…” they always ruin all the fun.} ’10’, should be written in words. It’s neater and many linguists advice this.

        {Many people still live with the impression that they would become better persons if they had a [remove ‘a’] more money, while that can’t be proven, it can’t be disproven either considering there isn’t any parallel life to compare} The comma in “more money, while that”, is an error called a comma splice. It should be a semicolon because you are actually beginning a new sentence. If you still want the comma, then you should have a coordinating conjunction or phrase to properly join both sentences (or clause if you may.)

        E.g {Many people still live with the impression that they would become better persons if they had more money, [and] while that can’t be proven, it can’t be disproven either considering there isn’t any parallel life to compare…}

        or this

        {Many people still live with the impression that they would become better persons if they had more money, [and even] while that can’t be proven, it can’t be disproven either considering there isn’t any parallel life to compare…}

        {I was going to ask you the question, but I know many of you will say things like[,]‘I’ll give some to charity” [,]“I’ll pay my tithes”[,] which are things easier to say when you do not have the money yet}

        {I just came to ask you a simple question. Not too simple I hope[.]}

        {My eyes rest on Tolu, he is a brilliant 28 year old man with clear plans for his future.} Again, the comma in “Tolu, he is”, is a comma splice. A full stop would have worked best here. A semicolon would be appropriate too. To have that comma there, try this:

        {My eyes rest on Tolu, a brilliant 28 year old man with clear plans for his future.} Shorter and correct.

        {“How mush be ya shange?” he hears the conductor bellow as a scantily clad female[.]}

        “450”[,] she hisses back, smacks her lips and continues her gum rudely.

        {“Take 500, give that brother 50naira”}. I think a neater way to write “50naira” is “N50” or “Fifty Naira”. Really, I think so.

        {A woman selling locally made concoction, another frying shrimps and leaving them open to the elements, two men huddle[d] under an umbrella frying and selling all sorts of food to people who left home too early to eat and to those who slept at the park[,] and finally a lone man operating a single lottery machine.} ‘Huddle’ needs to be past tense because it is not the activity the men are engaged in. That has been done. Frying and selling are the activities that need to be in the present. The comma I inserted before ‘and finally’ helps the long sentence to be clearer.

        {He takes a quick glance at his Swatch chronograph, it cost him N19,000 his priciest possession. He was running late[.]} Again, comma splice.

        {“Oga wetin we go do, na because of 50naira you dey waka up and down with your suit”[;]that lip smacking and gum chewing again.} There should be a break after the dialogue and in this case, the pause needs a stronger punctuation like a semicolon. A full stop can even work. Don’t you think?

        {All he had to do today was drink tea and expect his grandchildren, they were visiting.} Comma splice.

        {This time[,]instead of waving away the insolent girl, he angrily decides go against his principle this one time and plays the lottery for 50naira.} Without that comma, the reader is forced to read again to be sure he didn’t miss something. It reads like “The time stopped”, “The time bomb”, you know, like ‘instead’ is a direct noun or adjective attached to ‘time’.

        {He picks 6 numbers; 9, 17, 17, 24, 28, 30.} You are introducing a list so semicolon should be a colon. And as regards my talk of numbers, this would have been neater this way:

        {He picks six numbers; 9, 17, 17, 24, 28, 30.}

        {They are his birthday, his parent’s and his 3 siblings[‘].}

        My opinion bro. Nothing says I can’t be wrong. Although I tried not to.

        Well done.

        1. And yeah, I go with grandchildren.

        2. @chemokopi Thanks. What I would do with a proofreader like you. I have to agree with almost everything. Not only that, I did get to read up on comma splices and run-on sentences, and even though not all the corrections you made were exactly run-on sentences, you have thought me something new, and for that, I’m grateful (see what i did there?).

          1. Hehehe…I did see what you did there, nice! It’s good you read it up o; critics are not always right. Thanks. And you are welcome too. :)

        3. I learnt something here, nice @chemokopi, and I think “yesterday night”, should be “last night”….

  4. Flowers and macaw my foot…give me teni my love jor…

    Nice story

    1. @Topazo, Thank you for reading. Your kind words mean a lot.

  5. Yeah very uncommon setting…..nice work,
    Life isn’t really about money but one need its anyway

    1. @bigclip thank you for reading and commenting.

  6. Ehmmm! Phewww! Unique piece I must say.

    As for the question, well, I go where money and fame goes, although I may change my mind later…

  7. I liked the idea behind the story, and I found it reasonably well written too, @brizio. Well done.

    I wish there had been more showing rather than telling, though – in other words, rather than just recounting what happened in both circumstances, I would have had dialogue, or the thoughts in Tolu’s head allow us to infer what had happened.

    And I’d go with love rather than money.

    1. @TolaO Thanks for reading, I think every story should have a bit of both (showing and telling). I did try to do a bit of showing without making the story too wordy.
      I’ll however pay more attention to that in future write ups. Thanks once again for your contribution.

  8. @Brizio
    I enjoyed this, but why did u have to force unfortunate events upon the part of the rich guy? Nevertheless, for the sake of a hundred and sixty mill- bearing in mind my personal opinions on love-I think I can suffer a few inconveniences.

    1. @drzhivago. If the two directions had an identical amount of bad fortune, then the choice would be very obvious. ‘Forcing’ the unfortunate events on the rich guy only served to make the choice tougher.

  9. @brizio, very beautiful piece here, and please the former is preferred jare… Nothing beats love, real love I mean.

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