“Madame, are you, uhhhh, from Ethiopia?” the server at Pizza Riah asked.
To a Black American person, the question was simultaneously hilarious, sweet, and confusing.
How nice of him to try to guess where I am from, and to guess that I am from another African country, I thought to myself.
“No, I am from the States,” I replied.
He smiled a confused grin.
“The what?” he asked.
“The United States, you know, have you heard of Texas?”
“OOOOOH YESSSS! TEXASSSSSSS!” he excitedly exclaimed. I didn’t have the heart to finish the sentence by correcting myself. I am not actually from Texas, but most Nigerians I have met have never heard of Louisiana. EVERYBODY AND THEIR MOMMA around the planet has heard of Texas. Most days, I decide that it’s close enough. Plus, Texas is closer to where I am actually from than Ethiopia.
“You look like us,” he reminded me, pointing to my skin and then his own. “But you sound like another place.”
Ever since that day, I love going to Pizza Riah even more. In Lagos, it’s kind of my version of the bar where the show “Cheers” took place. Was “Cheers” also the name of the bar AND the show? I am too lazy to Google it, but hopefully if you’re reading this, you’re not too old or too young to know what I am talking about. I barely know what I am talking about myself, but “Cheers” was a show about a bar where lots of friends met up and talked. Seems like the friends went there every day, which now, as an adult, I question, but as a kid watching the show, I just remember thinking, “Wow, those nice people sure do look happy and they have such big hair.” You know, it was the 1980s, I think. Again, I’m too lazy to Google.
Anyway, the theme song to the show “Cheers” had a line that went: “Something, something, something, some times you want to go where every body knows your name….” so forth. I don’t remember the whole song. But, I do remember that everyone in the “Cheers” show did know each other’s names and it felt friendly and familiar.
Pizza Riah is the only place in Lagos that I have found that feels like that to me. Not only does that guy who thought I was Ethiopian know my face, so do all of the other servers. During my last visit, their faces lit up when they saw me and I noticed that they were downright almost nice to me. Nigerians are not known for their overt friendliness like Americans are, but these guys gave me smiles and I think an extra slice of tomato, too. I know for sure that I received at least two extra ice cubes. It was divine.
R took me to Pizza Riah my very first weekend here. I have now gone back a few times; this past time, I went alone. I love to go out and eat alone. I love the weird stares and pitiful looks I get. I like to look at those people who look at me with concern and give them big, toothy grins. Do you know why? I know a secret about those people. Chances are, they’re having a meal with some jackass who is not interested in what they’re saying or someone who is preoccupied with their phones. Me, I might not have a warm body sitting across from me, but I am not sharing my food or suffering the company of some jackass. So, I smile big and I mean it.
If you’re ever in Lagos and need some pizza and wings and some (potentially) friendly service, I highly recommend Pizza Riah.
I know I’ll be back there soon.
Until tomorrow, my friends…