Check Please!!

Na'im Pickett - Senegal


March 21, 2017

During my travel days with Nyles, we visited a popular tourist village called Toubab Dialaw and we stayed with a friend of Nyles' named Aliou Thiam. Aliou, a jeweler in the area, was kind enough to show us around and made sure that everything was fine with our stay. He showed us a local restaurant on the beach that many of the hotel guests went to. We went there later that night, ate, and afterwards got our bill. When we tried to pay, the waitress told us that she didn't have change and that we could come back tomorrow for it. I don't know about you all but that didn't sound normal to me. Usually when you buy something from an establishment, they almost always have change in the register or they would be able to get change for you at a nearby bank. Since the all of the boutique (corner stores) were closed because of how late it was, we had no option. Growing up, my mother taught me to not leave a store/restaurant without my change (or correct change) because once I walked out, there was no going back to demand for the lost change. So, when the waitress asked me to come back the next day, it immediately raised a red flag in my mind. However, I understood that I was in a different country and the culture is different, and let it slide. We came back the next afternoon to ask for our change and they still did not have it, and again told us to comeback later At this is point, I felt like I was being cheated so I was frustrated the rest of the day. Nyles and I decided to eat there again that night (the crepes were A1 so we had to back), and we ordered more food than the last time. Before we get a chance to pay our bill, a group of Canadian guests from the hotel were trying to pay for their meal(s). We noticed that it was taking a while for them to pay and overheard the waitress ask them to come back the next day. In my head, I started to think about whether or not the waitress was being honest about not having change. I thought about it some more and realized that she might be cheating people out of their money, especially because they were hotel guests. It made sense because if the hotel guests were only there for a couple of days, the waitress could just keep stalling until they left (or didn't want to be bothered anymore). The Canadian group left and now Nyles and I were the only two left, at 1:00 in the morning. Before I go any further, keep this in mind: Nyles had exactly enough money pay for his food (2000 CFA) and I only had a 10,000 CFA bill and it was the only money I had for transportation back to my village; the bill was 6000 CFA. Finally the waitress asks us to pay and we asked her if she had change (of course she didn't). So we were all stuck in the restaurant trying to figure out what's next. The lady told us to give her the money and come back tomorrow (mind you, she already owed us) and we declined, so she told us to wait for her manger/owner of the restaurant who supposedly had change. Another hour passed and finally, the manager came. We tell her what's been going on and she tells us that we can come back tomorrow and bring pay when we have change. Just as I have never heard of coming back the next day for your change, I have never heard of coming back to pay because as my mother says "once you leave, there is no going back." Had we left and not come back, the lady would've lost her money (and no, I'm not a thief but this is what I would think if I ran a business). I wanted to get this over with the best way possible but I was still a bit apprehensive because they still owed us. Naturally, I told her that it was ok if we paid in that moment once she brought the change. It was at this moment that this Senegalese flipped out. When Chance The Rapper said "it's gon' be some dreadhead ***** in ya lobby," he was serious lol. She was going crazy, yelling at us about how she about how we thought all Africans want to steal foreigners' money, how all Africans are poor and thieves, etc. I looked at Nyles and thought to myself: what is lady talking about. I mean look at us!! Two black Americans and you think we really think that all Africans are thieves and poor?!?! I pointed to my skin and said "I'm African-American!!! I don't think that!" But like my mother also always says "you can't argue with crazy because crazy always wins," and this lady was not hearing it. She started screaming " YOU ARE NOT AFRICAN!! NO YOU ARE NOT!! YOU ARE NOT AFRICAN!!! YOU AMERICANS, YOU COME HERE WITH THESE AMERICAN IDEAS!!" I tried to explain to her that I would do the same thing in this situation if I were in the US, but to no avail. She then started to scream "GIVE ME MY FUUUCKING MONEY!!! GIVE ME THE FUUUCKING MONEY!!!" Nyles tried to calm the sitaution, but also to no avail. She then indirectly threatened us by saying "YOU DON'T KNOW WHO I FUCKING KNOW!!! YOU DON'T FUCKING KNOW ME!!!" At that point I gave up because I didn't what was going to happen. So I gave her the money, and she actually had change lol. Nyles and I left the village the next morning because she wasn't the only dreadhead at Toubab Dialaw. What I learned from this: cultural miscommunication is real, and it is hard to help people see your perspective if they have a closed mind.

Na'im Pickett