Yesterday I was with a friend whose nieces were refusing to take simple instructions. According to her 4-year-old niece, my friend had misquoted “the seventh rule” and therefore she (4-year-old niece) was right to disregard the command so to speak. Later I wondered how many rules the little girl had had to memorise to be able to say that her aunt had them mixed up. Every institution has a set of rules or code of conduct that determines how its members are required to carry themselves. At Mfantsipim School, you could not ask anyone what the second rule said. Forget Rule Books! I suppose there was a rule book on the Hill. Personally, I do not recall being given or reading anything of the sort. To me and many other old boys, there was only one rule on the Kwabotwe Hill:
A BREACH OF COMMON SENSE IS A BREACH OF SCHOOL RULES!
All the siesta, inspection, lights-out and more “rules” were covered by this single sentence above. It is the entire embodiment of all the rules.
In addition to “the school rules” above, there were several other traditions that prevailed on the Hill. Take for instance the “Shooter” tradition. The Shooter tradition saw its adherers live strictly by the book in the hopes of becoming a prefect someday. One of its main features was well-ironed clothing. It was rumoured that the lines in an Assistant Headboy Domestics’ trousers should be able to pass for a bread knife. There was also the “stepping” tradition, “Compe” tradition and the senior boys’ favourite “Live your life like Jesus” tradition. Don’t ask me what those are. Do some research.
One tradition resonated and stuck with me and I find myself a practitioner of said tradition even now. I like to call it the “two handkerchief” tradition.
Its dictates were simple: you were required to carry two handkerchiefs on you at all times. It was the first thing a senior would ask you for if he was looking to get you on charges of having breached a rule. Before Mfantsipim school, I was already used to always having a handkerchief on me but two handkerchiefs? Why did I need two handkerchiefs? I asked myself back then. I decided I would always carry two to fulfill the requirement but use only one. Just carrying two handkerchiefs wasn’t quite enough by the way; they had to be neatly ironed. Carrying an unironed or unkempt handkerchiefs constituted a breech of common sense and we both know what that is: A breech of school rules.
The true benefits of carrying two handkerchiefs only hit me after I had left school.
We all agree that there are certain days the sun decides to burn really hot. On such days I am happy to have two handkerchiefs on me. When one handkerchief gets wet I can easily switch to another without having to sweat it, literally. It can be really frustrating to have to wipe off your sweaty face with an already wet handkerchief; it is very uncomfortable. Two handkerchiefs keep you dry longer than you would ordinarily be on an extremely hot and sweaty day.
At one point in time or the other, we have all had the displeasure of sitting next to that trotro passenger with a running nose. More often than not we wished to magically disappear from our seats or had our noses stuck out the bus in the event that we sat next to a window; we didn’t want any contact whatsoever with his germs. I encountered one such guy the other day. Fortunately, he had a handkerchief when he had to blow his nose. “Whew! I got saved on this one”, I thought to myself. Imagine my surprise a few minutes later when I saw him use the same handkerchief to wipe sweat off his face. I immediately felt nauseous. Why anyone would do such a disgusting thing to himself beats me. If I were him -or perhaps if he were me I should say- he would use one for his face and the other for his nose. Having two handkerchiefs on you helps you stay sanitary all day long.
On more than one occasion I have had to offer my handkerchief to a lady who was either sweaty or had spilled something on her dress and surprisingly had no tissue in her bag. It is usually advised that you stay clear of a female’s handbag, reason being that the female handbag is equipped with anything and everything ranging from what you can imagine to what you cannot even imagine. Shocking that there wasn’t tissue in there. One such lady protested, “What will you use if I take yours?”. I only reached in my pocket and brought out another. Having two handkerchiefs on you could easily score you some points with that lady you have been checking out.
I have won the admiration of many because I carry two handkerchiefs with me at all times. The mere fact that I have not one but two neatly ironed handkerchiefs on me alone has people looking at me with awe. Some guys in church approached me the other day. “Why do you have two handkerchiefs everyday?” As it turns out, they had been watching me for a while and had realised that every time I reached in my pocket for my handkerchief, I would bring out two and neatly tuck one away. I told them it was the gentlemanly thing to do and today the tradition goes on. I see some of them carry two handkerchiefs every other Sunday.