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The power of choice

By Muyiwa Adetiba

A close friend sent a short piece to me through the social media last week. It is so beautiful and inspiring that I feel compelled to share. Even if you had come across it before—these things go round fast—I don’t think it would hurt to read it again. In fact, I think it is a story we should go back to once in a while. Titled:”Ducks quack, Eagles soar”; it is the story of a taxi driver and his cab. Please read on.

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Dutse acb

‘I was waiting in line for a ride at the airport. When a cab pulled up, the first thing I noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the car passenger door for me.

He handed me a laminated card and said; I’m Wasu, your driver. While I’m loading your bags in the trunk, I’d like you to read my mission statement.’ Taken aback, I read the card. It said: Wasu’s mission statement: ‘To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment.’

This blew me away especially when I noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean! As he slid behind the wheel, Wasu said: ‘Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf’. I said jokingly, ‘No, I’d prefer a soft drink.’ Wasu smiled and said, ‘No problem.

I have a cooler up front with regular and diet coke, lassi, water and orange juice.’ Almost stuttering, I said ‘I’ll take a lassi’. Handing me my drink, he said, ‘If you’d like something to read, I have ‘The Hindu’, ‘Times of India’, ‘ET’ and ‘India Today.’ As we were pulling away, Wasu handed me another laminated card, ‘These are the stations I get and the music they play, if you’d like to listen to the radio’.

As if that wasn’t enough, Wasu told me he had the air conditioning on and asked me if the temperature was comfortable for me. Then he advised me of the best route to my destination for that time of the day. He also let me know that he’d be happy to chat and tell me about some of the sights or, if I preferred, to leave me with my own thoughts.

I was amazed and asked him, ‘tell me Wasu, have you always served customers like this?’ Wasu smiled into the rear mirror. ‘No, not always. In fact, it’s only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like the rest of the cabbies do. Then I heard about the power of choice one day. Power of choice is that you can be a duck or an eagle.

If you get up in the morning expecting a bad day, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself. It’s about me. I was always quacking and complaining, so I decided to change my attitude and become an eagle. I looked around at the other cabs and their drivers. The cabs were dirty, the drivers were unfriendly and the customers were unhappy.

So I decided I’d put a few changes in one at a time. When the customers responded well I did more. My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year, I’ll probably quadruple it. My customers call me for appointments on my cell phone all the time or leave a message on it.’

Wasu made a choice. He decided to stop quacking like ducks and start soaring like eagles. This quaint story is poignant on many levels. One level is that of attitude. Have a positive attitude to life and you will have a lot of positive things happening in your life. Another level is the need to improve the quality of your life by offering quality service to your clients, customers, employers —whoever is paying your living wages.

Many of us fail at this level. The quality of service—from the waiter at a buka through the customer service officer of a big telephone company to the boss at a tourist resort—is abysmally low. This reminds me of an article I read from one of my favourite Nigerian writers. Titled, ‘The parable of the shower head’, the writer compared the reaction of a hotel staff in Nigeria with that of Ghana to the complaint of poor flow of water from his bathroom.

The Nigerian staff felt his wahala was too much: that he should be grateful the water was even flowing while the Ghanaian apologised profusely and promised to change the shower head. Yet for all our talk on tourism, if we do not recognise the importance of prompt and cheerful delivery of simple chores, or like Wasu, learn to make the customer king, we are dead on arrival.

From my experience, the travel guide who does his job cheerfully and with humour gets far more tips than the dour, gloomy faced one. Another level is the choice we make concerning the rule of law. A lawyer can decide to promote the cause of justice or subvert it through technicalities. An accountant can decide to cover up for a thieving boss while ignoring the need for transparency and the interests of the shareholders.

A motorist can decide to obey the traffic laws or flout as many as he can get away with. It is all about the power of choice. Like the choice Jonathan made to take himself out of the political equation and thus save the country from a possible implosion….Similarly, both Adesina and Madueke were highly trained and knowledgeable technocrats brought in by President Jonathan as ministers of sensitive sectors.

One made a conscious choice to make his sector better than he met it while the other made a choice in the opposite direction. The same thing can be said about Governors who chose to build and those who chose to plunder. At the end of the day, whatever becomes of us, whatever posterity says of us, depends on the choices we make at critical junctions and their consequences.

So make this your choice week. Choose to smile. Choose to love. Choose to bless. Choose to be a blessing. Choose to touch lives. Choose to make a difference. Choose to be humble. Choose to be law abiding. Choose to be kind. Above all, choose God to be your guide.


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