“Excusez-moi, s’il vous plait!” The female attendant snapped at her colleagues.
The three men standing in line shared a look.
“Dayo, that was for your benefit o.” George leaned in and whispered to him. Yunusa took two steps to the left, away from George and Dayo. “I don’t even know you guys,” he said.
They were at an amala buka and were waiting to be served. George, who was a regular there, was always talking about how succulent the pomo was and Dayo and Yunusa had decided to come and find out for themselves.
“I see what you mean about the pomo,” Dayo said, looking pointedly at the girl who was serving them.
She was dark skinned, with an oval face. She wore a hijab, the veil muslim women screened their head and faces with, but hers was open at the face.
She had soft brown eyes with long lashes, her nose was a little fleshy and her lips were full. Although the hijab covered her bust, it was easy to see that she had an ample bosom.
“Don’t be stupid.” George chided him.
Back at their table Dayo would not let it go.
“Why do you think she did that?” He asked.
“Search me,” Yunusa raised his head from his meal. “I am used to attempted foneh, but French? Na wa!” He shook his head.
“I don’t know what you guys are on about,” George said. “You think because she’s here selling amala she can’t be in school? Biko don’t make me laugh, there’s pepper in this stew.”
“Bottle water or pure water?” Another attendant walked up to them.
“One Coke, one Sprite and one water, please.” George ordered.
“What the hell is bottle waturr?” Dayo asked when she was out of earshot.
“It is foneh for water in a bottle,” Yunusa said with a straight face.
“Georgie, this place is high class o.” Dayo said, taking in his surroundings for the first time.
It was a rectangular room with six tables at one end, and the food service area at the other. The tables were glass topped and arranged in two rows with an aisle in the middle. There were smaller aisles branching off to the left and to the right allowing access to the tables on either side. Each table had four chairs set around it, and the restaurant was half full.
Between the tables and the service area, to one side were two glass faced branded chillers for soft drinks and water. Opposite the chillers was a row of four sinks with taps for washing hands. Next to the sinks was the entrance. Two other doors opened on either end of the rectangle to provide cross ventilation, and two industrial fans, strategically positioned, helped to circulate the air.
“High class, low class, no class… Amala joint is amala joint.” Yunusa said.
When the drinks came, the attendant offered them drinking straws which they turned down.
“Have I told you guys why I don’t use straws outside?” Dayo asked, food in his mouth.
George and Yunusa shook their heads.
“Once ehn, I went to a restaurant. I think it was during NYSC. You know how those food places are arranged on camp? Ehen. I was served my food without cutlery, and after waiting a few minutes I decided to go and find out what was delaying them. I went to the back of their tent at Mammy market and saw one of the girls there rinsing straws.
“I did not care if they were new straws, used straws or recycled straws. By the time another one of the girls gave me a spoon, I had seen enough.
“Since then, whenever I see straws offered outside, I remember that day.”
“Ol boy!” George exclaimed, “na God dey save person. Me, it’s toothpicks that I can’t use at restaurants.”
“What happened?” Yunusa asked. “Abi you see where dem dey wash am too?”
“If na wash, e for better.” George said with a grimace. “I was at a buka, I can’t remember where, but it was an amala place like this. You know how they will put toothpicks on the tables for people to take from? That’s how one man, after using a toothpick, returned it to the container.”
“You guys are just nasty.” Yunusa said.
“You think I made it up?” George asked him.
“No o, I believe you.” Yunusa answered, hands raised, palms facing George. “Just last week I was at my mechanic’s. It was morning and I was hungry, and this woman came to sell food to them. All these women that carry food about on trays.
“I won’t lie, the stew smelled nice. You know those Yoruba palm-oil stew wey dem no dey grind the pepper finish and dem go fry dry? Ehen. When she opened the pot, the oil was dark and bits of fried fish peaked out from the stew.
“I bought rice, beans with fish and pomo. When I bit into the pomo, it was tough, so I finished my food first. I tried the pomo from another angle. This side was softer, but still too tough – unless I wan swallow am without chewing, and that kain pomo fit tear person throat.
“She saw my struggle and offered to change the pomo for me. No be so she give me new pomo and, as I dey look her koro-koro, she returned the one I had bitten from into the pot of stew.”
“Stooop!” Dayo exclaimed.
“Dey dia nah,” Yunusa replied.
George looked from Yunusa to Dayo and back to his unfinished meal. The congealed creamy gbegiri and dark green ewedu soup with lumps of dark amala did not look so appetising anymore. George himself looked like he was going to be sick.
“Wetin dey do you?” Yunusa asked him.
“E be like say I don belleful.” With that George went to wash his hands.
“Guy,” Dayo said when George returned to the table, “na God dey protect person. There’s a woman on my street who sells wanke or wache, I don’t know. This beans and rice combo, ehen, she only sells at night from 8pm. Guy, if you see the crowd ehn, you go fear. Yet each time I pass-by I notice she has her right foot up on the table. Yes, the same table where her wares are displayed and people don’t seem to mind.”
“Maybe she’s displaying other wares,” Yunusa said with a grin.
“Please why are you like this? George asked him with a smile. “Na to find woman wey go dey cook for person for house remain. I no dey for all these buka and Mama put wahala.”
“Na so o,” Yunusa and Dayo chorused.
“Guy, if una don chop finish make we come dey go.” George said.
Shortly after, they settled their bill and left the restaurant.