True Yahoo! Stories… (UNLEASHED)
Apparently, I have been away from here for a couple of weeks now because of that thing they call “Mental Block” or should I call it “Early Life Crisis”? (I’m still very young biko!). I’ve actually been in a secondary purdah trying to figure out a whole lot of me, and how to become a better me lately, a whole world of things creating a whole level of shink in my armour but I’ve been through worst. I actually realized in a scary way that I’ve been on a spot for so long but I’m not about to start gisting you about that now, let’s just go back to my life as a Yahoo! Boy.
Warri was amazing in that year of our Lord but life in Warri was crazy. From the very first night I spent in the room of that “Good Samaritan”, to the day I left the beautiful and ever-alert town; it was one-day, plenty drama, every day. I remember watching two grown up women start a fight because one was trying to separate two kids that were fighting, saw a referee and a player abandon a match to fight right on the Ekpan football pitch, under the Ejeba Express bridge, toddlers arguing about who shot among two soldiers judging from the sound and size of the guns they held, a mother threatening to break bottle on her child’s head if he doesn’t return with a bicycle he lost during gambling (the child was barely ten years old), and being practically told “you no dey steal?” by a thief that was caught in the act; funny thing is that the thief didn’t even attempt to run, he just dropped the clothes he was stealing from the lines and walked away. All of this and more happened while preparing to write the PTI entrance exam from my Ekpan hideout in Warri 2003. While I was enjoying the beautiful chaos in the heart of the South South, I got an interesting piece of news from “Crazy Being” aka Asurf (he wasn’t Asurf yet that year). A new Internet Café “Pinnacle” just opened in Ipaja and he’s got a job at the Café to work with a new Mr. Paul that didn’t know Babaolowo. The news was interesting neither because of the new Mr. Paul, nor because he didn’t know Babaolowo, but because it was the beginning of controlled but uncontrolled access to the internet for him.
You see in those years, the Internet was only for “those who know” and access to it wasn’t “a dime a dozen”. Thirty minutes in front of a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) powered by a Celeron processor that is probably slower than a mink on a 512Kbps Downlink that is being shared by not less than 20 people at that time sold for N100 (One Hundred Naira) or more in Ipaja. N100 was a lot of money in 2003 even for the empowered, we usually plan and contribute to go for night browsing which was valued at N300 to N500 depending (depending on the particular café), now imagine a jobless, out-of-high-school, unprivileged lad having controlled but uncontrolled access to the Internet. The value of working in a place where you have restricted access to the Internet but you still have it anyways for the better time of the day and probably unlimited at night was invaluable. Somehow I found a café in Warri and I had the longest 30mins chat ever with Crazy, we were excited and eager to explore, learn and become bad and boogie at it.
I returned to Lagos on that fateful day the Adams Oshiomole NLC went on the June strike in 2003, the streets were empty and I had to trek from Berger to Iyana-Ipaja because there were no buses. The bus driver that brought me from Warri practically refused to go further than Berger because there was rumour of riot in Yaba and Ojota so we all had to trek it. I followed a dude that kept encouraging me to go through Oshodi, he was sure cock sure there will be buses there going to wherever I want even in the midst of the chaos. I followed like a lamb being taken to the slaughter, only to realise he was just looking for someone to suffer the suffer with him. He was heading to the Cantonment, I was heading to Ipaja and I could have taken the Agege axis, find and Okada to link Iyana-Ipaja from there, but I sheepishly trekked like the Israelites and watched him say goodbye immediately he got where he was going. He was kind enough to show me the route through the cantonment to Oshodi, thank God I always travel light, I would have sat down on the floor until sanity was restored but I made it home and still found some energy to go link up with friends before the day was closed.
Yahoo! Yahoo! was gradually becoming a thing so the café was a beehive when I found it, I braced myself and found the diminutive figure of my Crazy in the haystack trying to sort things out for more than one customer at a time, he quickly tore away from the customers and spoke with excitement about almost everything at once. The computers around were looking like scarecrows with bulging CRTs but compared to having nothing at all, they were the best piece of machines alive since they could grant access to the internet. I looked beyond the crowd, saw the opportunities that was laid before us to explore and I was ready to roll. Did I mention that my older cousin (Dr. Wale) who at that time was living England and wanted to invest in Nigeria was also working on setting up an Internet café? Tboy (my eldest brother) was working on the set up and was poised to manage the whole thing. My staffhood at the intending Internet cafe was guaranteed and apparently without a salary, it was there in the immediate future, the closest my reality could embrace was “Pinnacle Internet Café” that was strategically located beside the community bank, which was beside the world famous “Owode Market” in Ipaja, Lagos and I was ready for it.
More access to the internet got the plot thickened. I was learning everything so fast and wasn’t slowing down. The streets were getting abuzz with stories of different formats, style and categories and none of it was happening beyond my reach. My speed on the keyboard was remarkable, I could type 30 words per minute on my father’s Typewriter at home and was coasting on about 40 words on the rusty but soft keyboards in every Internet café in Ipaja. The chatrooms, the mails, the submissions and delivery confirmation, the wins and the confirmation of receipt were all in my face, and most importantly, the delivery of anything and everything that was accessible internationally on www.ofree.net in the mails or at the door of my father’s house or Crazy’s at Fagbemi Street in Ipaja was the talk of the town. Every university in USA and Canada knew who I was, Essays and Poetry competitions were the easy rides, I was writing more than I was reading and it always felt like I haven’t even written a thing, especially on the “Power of Purpose”.
Everything between having extra access to the internet at Pinnacle to getting Austars running was pretty much the rehearsal because when Austars came, I became the doyen of all things Yahoo! on the internet in Ipaja. Now I could say in touch in touch with Cathy without blinking, chat with Eniola by the minute and dominate the internet from Ipaja. It wasn’t the moment the first item was added to cart, the first order got placed and confirmed or even the first post was made, it was almost impossible to keep track of how it went from there but I’d try to the stories beyond your wildest imagination.
I’m Abidemi Babaolowo Oderinlo