Finding your love on Accra-Cape Coast road: My experiences

I have never watched the “daterush” programme, aired on TV3. But given the commentaries I read on it, l surmise that it is about the media facilitating people to form conjugal relationships.

I find it quite interesting and would want to use this space to share my thoughts on the changing tapestries of wooing since the popularisation of social media, enabled by smartphones.

When l started my undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in 2004, social media was less popular, smartphones were uncommon, internet connectivity was limited in supply, and popular youth culture that deconstructs discussion around sex and sexuality was on a low key.

But more significantly, the less proliferation of social media, particularly Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and the others meant that there was more chance of talking to someone than what l prefer to call “technological soliloquying”

In the absence of smartphones, we (and humans in general) were more conscious about the presence of the other; more willing to talk than now that social media has invaded our space.

In the world of social media, we are all more prone to talking to ourselves, fixated on phones, than talking to the person sitting next to us.

With the advent of social media, we have progressively moved towards becoming virtual beings and less of social beings. This has been exacerbated by the current coronavirus pandemic, with its social distancing and remote work as preventive imperatives.

As virtual beings, it is easier for us to have 2000 friends online, out of which only about 2 percent would occasionally call us to say “hello”.

Given that humans can hardly bond intimately beyond 120 persons, social media has deepened a creeping social death (to borrow the term used by the Jamaican-American sociologist, Orlando Patterson).

This is not to cry over spilled milk. In fact, social media has yielded lots of advantages. It has largely democratized the frontiers of expression and increased cultural creativity.

But in terms of wooing a woman or man, social media’s narrative is different from my experiences in 2004.

In 2004, whenever l travelled from Kaneshie to Cape Coast, l most likely shared a seat with a female student heading towards the same destination.

In many cases, before the bus moved, we would all stay cautiously, possibly strategizing how to break the ice, which often led to a verbal intercourse.

But when the bus set off, and given that the Accra-Cape Coast road was then under construction, we would take advantage of nearly five hours drive to test the opportunity cost of our mouths.

For some of us, we begin with, “Obaa, greetings. Are you heading towards UCC?” If she answered in the affirmative, we added, “Which year are you?” This was a strategic question because it helped us to stay true to the logic that “Monkeys play by sizes.”

If the person was our senior, we hid our disappointment and pretended to be interested in tapping into her experiences. So, l would say something like, “UCC is tough ooo, how did you make it up to this point?”

If she realised her intellocutor is a junior fellow, she talked big and made herself more mysterious and inaccessible with all the hyperbolic stories about the academic rigours in the UCC.

On the other hand, if this woman was either our mate or junior, then bingo. At this point, l would ask, “Which hall are you affiliated with?”

If for the purposes of fate, she mentioned “Adehye Hall, the only female hall at the UCC, l would say, “Royal papa paaa”.

This would lead to another round of conversation. I would say, “I am a blooded Casfordian and your husband, you know. I am also a true gentleman, as a result.”

At this point, the lady would smile shyly and pretend to sleep. But, hey, a Casfordian would continue, “Do you know we have an alliance?”

The lady would say, “Definitely”. Then at this point, l would say, “Excellent, things must be set right. We would not allow the fishmongers the Atlantic Hallers to colonise our territory.” This was for me to take advantage of the rivalry between Casford abd ATL.

We would move the conversation to our respective academic programmes. Usually, l would be quick to say, “I am a student of African Studies, with special interest in Africa.”

The tautology was to strike a chord and to spice up the conversation. If she responded that she read Home Economics with Food and Nutrition as her major, l would say, “Oh, that is excellent. I would definitely visit, because Casford’s kitchen isn’t in good shape”.

As the bus moved on, l would take advantage of the bad road to swing well, including swinging to her side. But also being cautious l was not misconstrued. When my intentions were being unveiled, l would simply say, “Sorry” .

However, when the bus slided sideways, she would also hold me and also said, “Sorry”. We had a chorus response to our “sorrys”, which was, “No problem”. With this “No problem”, there was assurance to intensify the benevolent, but mutually reinforcing mischieve.

All this showed a certain level of mental awareness as we journeyed on. It was also obviously comfortable to know that we could be social.

We would engage in this verbal intercourse with a sudden stop in the swings, as the bus hit the tarred road until we got to Tantere. From Tantere, we would take a taxi to campus.

On campus, l would help her take her luggage to her hall in Adehye. This is against the background that l would be struggling with mine. But how could l dent my Casfordianism! l would combine African masculinity with an overstretched Casford gentility to do all for the lady.

Unfortunately, we would hardly meet again. I would never even make any effort to locate her afterwards. After all, l was more selfishingly concerned with a travelling partner than l life partner. So, l would simply make myself invisible to the lady.

But in all of this, there was a potential to locate the heart of a potential spouse.

These days, it takes about 3 hours to journey from Accra to Cape Coast: the journey is shorter. What is more, once on the bus, everyone becomes busy fidgeting with their phones. People even hardly exchange greetings these days on a bus.

Also, we have lost our sense of awareness. Before recent times, most of us travelled on a long journey of Accra-Cape Coast with our senses wildly awake in talking and watching things around.

It was easy to spot any bad driving and potential accidents to be steady. But these days, our senses are nearly dead with the advent of social media. It would be great for psychologists to explore how the death of our senses induces sudden panic and its impact on us.

So, while we cannot recapitulate the spectre of my days on Accra-Cape Coast road and UCC (except the swings which l am told Christ forbids), young men and women have a hard time stricking conjugal love through sincere and genuine social verbal intercourse. Vertual beings are less real than social social beings.

But l wish them well. Let them use social media productively to support human flourishing.

Satyagraha

Prempeh Charles

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