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‘Having a good time’

I’ve a confession to make. I never danced. Yes, NEVER. Ages back friends who tried to pump some dancing sense in me ended up frustrated. I was the hopelessly odd guy out. (Maybe, that is why wedding invitations coming my way have dwindled to a trickle!) I’ve no intention of testing the agility of my limbs anytime soon; lest they go into a six-month lock down!

Sometime back a couple of childhood chums who, despite having seen more than their share of full moon cycles still had their nights on the town,  were complaining; “Dancing isn’t what it used to be!” What was dancing supposed to be! “In the old days every dance movement at least had its own name and strict execution.” So what! Dancing isn’t some “greater than,” “equal to,” sort of formula. You move to what you think is the beat of the music and that’s it! (Coming from someone who never danced, that doesn’t hold much water, does it?)

The past few days in this city have been quiet boisterous. One couldn’t help noticing how Addis Ababans celebrated the holidays. Meskal is a purely religious holiday. But we turned the eve into some local version of a Rio de Janeiro carnival! So much booze flowed and every other guy seemed to be drunk. Well, what is a holiday without temporarily drowning your troubles in booze and some flesh-and-bone romantic adventures?  Despite the gloom that seems to hang over us 24/7 people were trying to have ‘a good time’ and any philosophizing would sound heartless. Of course, when heavenly matters ‘come down to earth’ with such speed, it isn’t a very nice picture to watch. But then, one way of having a good time is having a few drinks!

‘Having a good time’ these days has its challenges. I mean, having a good time isn’t about haggling over the latest political issues, or the latest politicians’ issues. Ha! Simply, it isn’t about serious matters. It is about throwing your arms 1800 and shouting, “O my God! What a life!”

That was what people were after on the eve of Meskal. Trying to say, “O my God! What a life!” Even unaccompanied women were quite a presence. Times have changed. It is nice to see that women these days don’t need male accompaniment to entrain themselves. A few years back seeing a lone lady in some watering hole, or a young girl alone in a cinema hall would have been considered close to some sort of social treason, if there is any such thing. No more. Things have changed beyond recognition.

A friend as was telling me about this incident on the eve of Meskal. This very well-dressed young lady who was alone in a bar seemed to have drunk a little too much. Her high pitched laughter drew the attention of almost everyone and according to my friend it was so hearty no one felt offended. After sometime a gentleman comes, wishes everybody a happy holiday and practically carries her to the car. He was her husband!

Say, the couple are before the court. The unsmiling judge who didn’t try hide that he was at odds with the world is presiding.

“So, what is the case?”

“It is drinking problem your honor. My client is filing for a divorce”.

The judge turns to the man; “You want a divorce?”

“Yes, your honor.”

Now the next question would probably have been something like “On what grounds?” With this judge, it isn’t the case.

“You must be the first husband to file for a divorce in a drinking problem case; maybe it is smart of you. I’ll not grant you request. I give you three months to lay off the table and start mending your broken marriage. It is not hard.”

The lawyer explains;

“Your honor, the drinking problem is not my client’s.”

“Then whose is it? Mine!”

“It’s his wife, your honor.  The problem has become so…”

“Wait! Are you telling me the wife has a drinking problem?

“Yes, your honor; my client could stand it no more and…”

“Lady, is what they are saying the true? Do you have a drinking problem?”

“It is not that serious, your honor.”

The judge has had enough. A marriage is on a slippery slope because the wife drinks too much!  What has this world come too! Deep inside he probably says, “What a weakling of a husband is this man! He shouldn’t have come to me. He should have picked a broken broom handle and chased her out of the house all the way to the South Sudanese border!” It is sad that there are persons supposed to be well-oiled in twenty-first century thinking who still wallow in the Stone Age when it comes to the gender issue.

I think, another aspect of having a good time was (Sorry for the ‘past tense!’) trading jokes; jokes that knew no bounds. You joke about anything and the world ends up laughing its heads off. Well that isn’t the case these days. Times have really changed. I remember a friend saying some years back “You know, we’ve deprived of our sense of humor!” Well, that wasn’t some doomsday rant, a lot of which we seem to have these days. (Browse your TV channels and you find numerous Amharic ‘religious’ channels where ‘the prophets’ predict we were at the cliff’s edge and a slight nudge would see us flying through the air. Folks, I’ve to tell you the most recent one was your last you New Year! So much pessimism! Weren’t they supposed to lift our hopes with, “This too shall pass; the greener pastures are ahead of us,” or something to that tune!)

A fellow we know was recently having a nice time with a few friends. Things went fine with everyone trying to live it up. Then alcohol happened! The slurs came in bits and pieces and the red lines we silently agreed upon were being crossed. This guy we’re talking about gets a little nostalgic. After all, what’s having a good time without some ‘good old times’ talk! He browses his memory files and up comes a hilarious joke from yesteryears. He tells the joke expecting to hear the loudest laughs of the day. Indeed, everyone in the group laughs; well, almost everyone. One who happened to be his closest chum of all was a study in a messed portrait painting of some unrecognizable being. He was furious! He didn’t utter a single word. He simply got up and went, taking decades of friendship with him. He has since told our guy that their friendship was as good as dead.

The guy tried to apologize, wishing there was some way he could take back that ‘damned’ joke.  On second thought, telling that particular joke in these horribly sensitive times wasn’t only foolish, but overly inconsiderate, too. But he wasn’t in full control of his mental faculties!

Times have change. There are limits to how friendly you could be. Indeed you’ve to think twice before a starting, “Once there was this guy who…”

Maybe his friend wasn’t at fault. A lot of us would have felt the same way had the joke been directed at some social group we align ourselves with. Look, if you joke about my height maybe one or two short guys might take offence. But, definitely that wouldn’t bring the house down. But if you mention my roots and throw one or another joke, you might offend a lot of people. Google and see jokes about Ethiopia; that’s how painful jokes could be!  I mean, you could have declared a ‘scorched earth’ policy had it been a country behind those jokes.

So, having a good time these days comes with a lot of challenges. Still, try to have a good time. It’s worth the try.

 

Contributed by Ephrem Endale
Contributed by Ephrem Endale