Are you the kind of person who struggles to tell someone what exactly you want and expect them to do, even when you are paying for the service? There you are, at a restaurant waiting eagerly for your steamed rice, and chicken curry to come through so you can dig in. And then the waiter comes with an aroma of what smells like delicious rice. When he puts the curry down, you realise it is vegetable and not chicken like you had ordered. As politely and gently as possible, you let him know what you ordered for. He then says he is sure he heard you say vegetable. You explain that you saw the menu, asked him what vegetables the vegetable one had and decided to settle for chicken. He says he probably misheard you. You insist you were clear, and then he says, “You see madam, we do not even have chicken right now…” At which point you wonder if he truly misheard you or decided you would have to do with vegetable.
If you are like me, you will console yourself by saying the vegetables won’t kill you and they look good anyway. If you are not like me, you will insist on chicken curry even if they have to catch a cock and kill it first, or else you change your order. See, I wish I could be like you. I don’t know how many times I have tried to put my foot down and insist on what I want instead of settling for what the service provider is insisting on giving. I have failed most, if not all of the time. This thing grips me especially when I am at the clinic and the salon.
The past few times I have been to the clinic to get help for an ailment, the doctors have prescribed a dozen medicines for me. Because I do not like popping pills, the list is usually alarming. The doctor diagnoses a bacterial infection manifesting through a cough and then goes ahead to prescribe an anti-biotic for the bacterial infection; a cough syrup to stop the coughing; painkillers to deal with the slight pain I mentioned in passing; and something for flu, even if I have none. Why? Because, he says, this type of cough tends to come along with flu. The anti-biotic should deal with the root cause of the problem and clear everything else, shouldn’t it? Why then am I getting an armful of medicines? I have purposed over and over to tell the doctor that the anti-biotic on its own will do as I am not in terrible pain but my mouth just won’t open because the brain is usually telling it not to offend the doctor.
The same thing happens at the salon. In fact it did, just three days ago. I wanted to trim my hair, a little nice trim. I told the barber explicitly so. He did his first round of clipping and asked if the height was right. I asked him to cut just a little more. He decided to change clippers. I watched as large chunks of hair fell. The alarm bell went off shortly after. It seemed like he was cutting too much. I wanted to tell him to stop cutting but I thought I would be getting in the way, and perhaps I was seeing wrong and he was the expert not me. I paid dearly. I now have what is close to a shaolin cut on my head. And unfortunately, I do not look as striking as Danai Guirira or Florence Kasumba – they of the Black Panther fame. This keeping quiet when I am not getting what I want will not do, and yet somehow, I have failed to open my mouth and put my foot down.
Time to go for “learning to be assertive” lessons.