Forget some of the lukewarm service waiters or patrons in Nigerian restaurants give clients; what about the brash behaviors of Nigerian punters at foreign restaurants?
Nigerians loved to be served hand and foot at restaurants or eateries. When we go out to eat, we expect to be treated like kings and queens. Even a chap, who only plans to spend only N50 on a plate of food without any meat, wants to receive a 1000 naira treatment. And why not?
I once went to a buka somewhere in Ikeja called “Image Is Nothing”, and after “demolishing” a huge plate of rice featuring beans, and downing a huge bottle of Harp, I decided to chill, sit where I was for a while, to let the contents settle in my stomach before hitting the road. Some customers who had ordered their food were sighing as they looked about for vacant chairs in the over-crowded buka. I didn’t care – I wasn’t moving an inch because I was very full, and had even loosened my belt; besides I had just paid a ridiculous 400 naira for my food, as so I deserved to seat in my chair till thy kingdom came.
One man walked into the buka with a strut like he owned the joint. He was dressed in an Igbo “Isi-agu”outfit and a red cap, and carried a brief case. Immediately he steps in, the dude starts barking orders. I counted at least 7 demands he made of Ma Mise, the buka owner or Pascaline her waitress.
“Pssst…Pascaline make you bring water make I drink…”
“Madam, this una food no sweet at all. Una sabi wetin salt be, at all?”
“How much meat be this? Oya come collect this plate make you put extra soup”
“This fufu strong like Olumo Rock.
“Bring me water for wash-hand’
“Abi una nor get tooth-pick. This una strong meat don scatter my teeth”
“Abeg na wetin be my bill”
It was N100. He was livid – “Una dey craze? Una done become LCC wey wan collect toll gate fee?”
Needless to say, he didn’t tip Pascaline.
He muttered a curse under his breath as he collected all his change, he turned and was about to exit the joint when he noticed something. Pointing nervously at a “horn and red feather” hanging on the wall, his voice shook a little as he said “ Na wetin be that thing” Ma Mise didn’t look like she had a ready answer or was about to tell the truth. She shot Pascaline a deadly look, when it looked like she was about to answer, so Pascaline quickly shut it.
Alarmed, the man dashed out of the buka, like he was running for his life as he screamed “I no go de come chop here again. E don tay since I dey wonder how you de get plenty customers but your food nor sweet”
Suddenly my food had digested, and I decided to beat it all as well. Similarly, a man who had ordered a plate of spaghetti suddenly shoved it away like he was seeing worms on his plate instead. An elder man chewing on a chicken leg spat it out immediately in a dazed state. Customers started thronging out of the joint immediately shouting obscenities and pointing to the “otumopkor” (jazz) hanging on the wall.
Na wa for Naija people sha. They never cease to amaze when food is concerned. The worst in people come out when they are at bars or eating out.
One of the weirdest things I have come across is from people who go out for drinks in those open-air, pepper-soup joints. You see a group of guys sitting at a table having drinks, with many empty bottles of Gulder, Star, Harp or Stout on the table. A naïve waitress once tried to clear the table by removing these empty bottles so as to create space for the new orders, but had her hand slapped away by one of the drinkers “ Make you comot that your dirty hand! U de craze? Oya go bring me another cold 33 beer”
Someone once explained to me that these empty bottles, now numbering about 30, were left on the table for certain reasons:
- To ensure accountability and ensure that the bill is calculated accurately: The bar-tender or drinking palour madam would not be able to manufacture phantom amounts in her head when the bill is being calculated, as the number of empty bottles will simply be multiplied by the price to deduce the amount, thereby eliminating cheating.
- Social status: Other drinkers in the bar would be able to see that the guys on the table filled with empty bottles are “ballers” who have spent a huge fortune on alcohol, thereby increasing their fame and social standing. Don’t laugh; P.Diddy used to do this too. With bottles of Ciroc Vodka, not Golden Guinea Lager though.
Nigerians also carry their crazy behavior abroad too. Funny enough, most of the incidents I know about have occurred in Chinese restaurants, don’t ask me why. I think, it is because most Chinese patrons have shot fuses, and do not suffer fools gladly. There also seems to be a historical relationship between erring black customers and angry Asian store/restaurant owners. Study the first scene in the 1993 gangster movie “Menace II Society” where a flippant Korean/Chinese store owner said something bad about actor Lorenz Tate’s mother.
One time in London, I and a couple of mates wanted to get something to eat around 11pm, after a night of tripping. One of my pals, Oke suggested one Chinese restaurant/take away joint on Golders Green high street. The restaurant had a buffet section as well where you could select a bit of everything on the menu for about 7pounds. Everything you served yourself had to fit and be sealed into a small Chinese take away pack which was also provided for at the joint.
How much food can you possible stack into a take away pack, right? Wrong. It was that day that I found out that some Naija guys could insert a house, a car, a cow and a bag of rice into a take-away pack. The Chinese owner watched and swallowed nervously as Oke and one of our other friends UD stacked fried rice, Singapore fried noodles, Chow Mein, then mushrooms, deep fried Won Tons, spring rolls, Mongolian beef in oyster sauce, beef in broccoli, Cheng Du chicken, crispy skin duck, General Tsao chicken, Kung Pao chicken, lemon chicken, Salt and Pepper squid, sweet and sour pork then top everything up with Hoy Sin sauce.
Oke looked at my own pack and laughed, as he explained “That is not how it is done. First you put the chicken and the beef, then you squash it in before you add rice and noodles in all the crevices between the rice and noodles. You squash them all in, then add spring rolls, then top it all with sauces.”
The Chinese man was listening to Oke explain this to all of us, and swallowed again as he was becoming increasingly agitated. A bunch of Nigerian guys serving themselves in this manner is bound to ruin any buffet business.
We watched as one of our other friends started applying Oke’s advice by topping up his already full pack and holding the top with his palm to prevent the bulging food from spilling out.
Alas the Chinese man couldn’t take it anymore, as he ordered us out of his restaurant, barking “You take money back or leave shop now!”
We decided to “cut our losses” and “leave shop now”, rushing into the high street with our take away packs spilling their contents all over the ground, with the Chinese man behind us shaking his fists furiously.
Nothing prepared me for the incident that occurred in a Chinese restaurant in Houston, TX.
A couple living in America had the wife’s parents come and visit them from Nigeria, and so decided to take them out for a meal at a Chinese restaurant.
They walked into the restaurant and were ushered from the reception to their seats.
Ma Ugbaogu the mother-in-law, to the amazement of all present, stood up, called one of the waiters and pointed to a big yellow goldfish in the aquarium, as she said in the best foreign accent she could feign “I want that one. Make you prepare it well well and put lots of pepper and cut onions too.”
Ma Ugbaogu had thought that the aquarium was a tank for ordering “Point-and-Kill” fish. Turning to her husband for affirmation, she continued in Igbo “Azu nke na-atu uto.” (This kind of fish is usually tasty).
The Chinese restaurant people were not amused though, and they make it known – “You leave store now.”
As the now embarrassed couple was exiting the restaurant with their parents in tow, one of the visibly upset Chinese patrons at the door sarcastically muttered to them “I am sorry for your mother.” Hmmm, I wonder what it is with them and abusing people’s mothers.
Sometimes the bad treatment may be uncalled for. I and a female Nigerian friend of mine Yolinda once went to a local Chinese joint somewhere in a “razz’ part of North London. Let me describe my friend, she was one of those unconventional, cant-be-bothered type, tom-boyish type of girl who did absolutely anything she wanted. If you took her out to eat, she would remove all the jewelry on her hands and fingers, and get busy with the food. She was a cheap date’s worst nightmare, as she tried almost everything on the menu. Yes, I mean everything. And she loved buffets; that way she could keep going again and again, until she had tried all they had to offer. Many a time, she hardly finished what was on her plate, before going to get more food.
When we got into the joint, we noticed that the buffet table didn’t have as much variety as most upscale Chinese restaurants. Yolinda went for the first round, and got some soup and rolls. She sat down, pecked at it and soon got bored with it. As she sat down with her half-finished plate of food, she noticed that none of the waiters came to take away the plate. We also noticed that there were no stacks of clean plates by the buffet tables. Obviously this restaurant was set up in a way to deter customers from staying too long or eating too much, by not providing clean plates.
Yolinda was pissed off when she noticed this, so she started wiping her plates clean with tissue napkins from our table, or from the table next to us, when she wanted to go for another round. She did this for a couple of rounds, but the plate got too messy eventually. She now wanted more food, and needed a clean plate so she could have fruit, ice-cream and cheese-cake, so she hailed a waiter who was passing by. The waiter “eyed” her, sighed and ignored her! You can imagine a Chinese person “eyeing” you! I couldn’t believe it; he really wanted her to get lost!
Sometimes these waiters bring out the worst in customers. Overzealous restaurant staffs seeking to curry favour for a tip end up rubbing off Nigerians the wrong way. A pot-bellied Nigerian banker in his late 40s went to a popular joint somewhere on the Mainland to eat during his lunch break. He took off his blazer, hung it on a chair and ordered a huge, huge plate of pounded yam and ogbono soup, garnished with round-a-bout, shaki, ponmo, snail and ogunfe (goat meat). The massive amount of food was brought to him by a youngish, inexperienced looking waiter, whom he chided for bringing him cutlery which he rejected. He asked for a basin so he could wash his hands as he wanted to eat the poundo with his fingers. He also asked for an extra plate, so that he could separate the numerous pieces of meat and assorted from the soup to allow him maneuver properly.
He started eating the food, visibly enjoying it, and almost rushing it in his excitement, when the waiter came up to him and said “Sir, there is a big soup stain on your tie.”
The banker looked down from his delicious meal, and saw that his neck tie had a soup stain on it. He tried wiping it with his clean left hand, but only succeeded in spreading the sticky stain further in a way that ogbono does.
Visibly he irritated, he hissed and threw the tie over his shoulder, and continued with his meal, using the pre-molars on his teeth to tackle a stubborn piece of cow-leg, while now being mindful of the drooling ogbono.
He was now about to tackle the ogunfe, when the waiter tapped him rigorously on the shoulder.
When he spun around, the overzealous waiter said “Sir, there is another big stain at the back of your shirt.”
True to word, the tie he had flipped over his shoulder earlier had inflicted a massive palm-oil stain at the back of his white “T.M. Lewin” button-up shirt.
He wasn’t grateful for the latest piece of information though, as it had interrupted his appointment with the ogunfe. So he barked out this instruction to the bewildered waiter “Get lost and allow me enjoy my food in peace or I will slap demons out of your face!!!”
Looking at the floor, the waiter meekly said “Ok sir; let me get your bill.”
Always knew that I would clock g’s/
“But welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order please/
Got to serve you food that might give you cancer/
Ice Cube (Bird in the Hand, 1991)