I learnt some lessons from an incident that happened to me recently. Life is full of lessons anyway, never judge by sight, get receipts for your transactions, you never can tell, and finally, American police are very efficient.
My family and I just moved to a major city after spending about 11 years in a smaller city. When this incident happened we were still significantly in a transition period: trying to adjust both to the people and the new environment we found ourselves. My family and I are devoted Christians, hence you can be sure that when we move to a new environment, a homely church will always be top on our list of priorities! As a matter of fact, our last house was purchased because of its proximity to a church we were committed to. Ok, so we found a church that we loved, and we were able to recommend it to another family that relocated about the same time we did to the same city. She later told me…”we have been shopping around for a church too and this is it!”
To my story, on this faithful Sunday, my family and I hurriedly dashed out of the house, we were gonna pick our friend who is also still trying to adjust to the new environment, husband had travelled and we offered to drive her and the kids to church. At about 5/6 miles to church I noticed the car gas light came on and I quickly drove to a gas station closest to the church. At the back of my mind, I was thinking we can still get gas and make it to church before the praise/worship starts. My usual practice is to pay at the pump. I slide my card, at first I almost kicked the pump, the usual notices you see at gas pumps is “slide your card and quickly remove” my card got sucked at first try and I couldn’t retrieve quickly. I thought of fraudsters from nasty stories we have heard in times past who have a way of getting your numbers trying to play with these machines. Anyway, the transaction got cancelled automatically and I had to slide my card again. As my usual practice. I got a full tank. Against my usual practice of clicking the option of not printing receipts I was curious because of the initial hiccup, I thought to myself, I’d better get my receipt. Surprisingly, the message on the screen says…”pay inside”…so I gave up pursuing for my receipt thinking the stupid machine is ready for another transaction. By now, I was in a hurry to get to the church, “forget the receipt and run to church before praise/worship starts”, I told myself. Hurriedly I jumped into the car with my family and our guest dashing for the church as quickly as we could.
I found a tight corner to pack our car, the church is unusually crowded today, so many cars, people gorgeously dressed, there is something in the air, the lobby was lined up with assorted cuisine, yes the church is celebrating the dedication of a miracle baby girl. One of the associate pastor is celebrating the birth of his first child after 32 years of marriage! The auditorium was equally splashed with assorted colors. Oh yes we made it! The worship was about to start. Bukola excused herself to quickly go see Tobi in the children’s class.
“Here I am to worship Lord…with my holy hand lifted…Suddenly, someone touched me by the shoulder! It was like someone saying, “please come down from your lofty height sir, we know you’re closer to heaven right now…ehm…are you Mr Alaba? This was the chief Usher…yes, I am Mr Alaba. He was in the company of another friendly associate pastor…’yes brother Kunle’, he gently said…some policemen are waiting to see you outside oo’. The first thing that hit me was…what kind of joke will a pastor be playing with a member that is deep in the act of worship? True to their words, 3 mean looking policemen with 2 police car patrol packed in the church compound were waiting to see me. “Are you Adekunle alaba?” Asked one of them. Ah, yes. ‘May I have your drivers license?’ I handed it over to him. By this time, all sorts of thoughts were flashing through my brain while the crowded church members were minding their businesses(remember, we are still very new in this church even though I have had opportunity to hold the microphone twice during my short stint). I cannot remember any traffic light on our way to church. I thought, could it be from work? I don’t do drugs. I don’t club. I thought to myself, this must be a mistaken identity. I know that we drove all the way from Oklahoma to this new city two months ago, but it was more like a pleasure ride than a tedious one. A day’s journey took us an intentional 3 days, jumping from one city and hotel to another. Then I started thinking of stories that I have heard of innocent people going to jails for years and later to be declared innocent. I have spent 11 years in this country and the closest encounter I have had with the police was 2 tickets aside seeing them on TV during news…At this time, I could only reminiscence on the song of the blind Hausa man with his chaperon chanting “akoba adaba olorun ma je ka ri”(please don’t ask me to interpret that) as he was making his way through our street in Bariga several years back!
The Policeman brought me back to life…”Sir, did you buy gas this morning? Ah, yeah, less than an hour ago down the street. I stammered. Ah, well, did you pay? He asked. Yes I slide my card, not just once but twice. I answered. Can I see your receipt? He asked. I, I don’t have it(I stuttered…my usual practice of not picking up receipts at gas stations is about to backfire. I thought). At this time, I was so upset with myself, with the police and with the Gas station! How in the world could this people have found me in less than an hour? How did they pick my car out from these lot? How did they trace me here so quickly? How did I get myself into this with all these church crowd watching? Questions, question, questions. The policemen, I guess for some reason knew it was a misunderstanding, they told me apologetically to escort them to the store to take care of the problem. I was so confuse, I told them I couldn’t find my car keys and that it is probably in the church auditorium. I walked back in, my lovely wife was busy worshipping. I dare not tell her what was going on, else she will faint right there(kidding). She later told me after service that on her way to the children’s class she saw policemen and was wondering if the church had requested for their services for crowd control, not knowing that they had come for her husband.
Ok so I walked in and later discovered the key was in my pocket all the time. I drove to the gas station with a police escort and took care of the situation. I overheard the policeman warning the gas station manager to take care of their gas machine. I couldn’t imagine a stupid Indian man call 3 cops with 2 patrol cars to get a church member out from his business of worship because of $33 on a Sunday morning! It makes no sense! A sister later told me that it was in the news the previous day that some folks were going round gas station to get gas using other people’s pin. Later when I gathered myself together it occurred to me that the gas station machine must be truly faulty, there was no way gas will expend if your card transaction did not go through, and I am an Okie man, where I come from, if you want to pay inside, you will have to pay inside first before you can access gas. Thank God for his mercies.