The year I was to be a Corper could not have been any slower. The minute I dropped my pen after my last paper, all I could talk about was NYSC and where I wanted to be posted.
Before my final semester in school, I prayed the semester would end in a month so that I could serve the nation as a batch A corps member. My dreams and hopes came to naught as my school has set twelve weeks for a semester long before I even got admission into the school. So you could call me one who had her head in the clouds; basically, a dreamer.
After my final paper, I had six whole months to wait. I told myself that if I waited everyday counting the hours till I became a corps member that I would definitely run mad. To avoid that, I began looking for a job.
I cannot count the series of applications I had written and places I went to looking for a job. This is Nigeria; No dispatch letter, no job. Besides, how many people with the letter have a job let alone one who had just finished and would be leaving for a whole year in six months? When reputable firms would not give me a job because I did not have post NYSC experience, I began looking for any job at all from Sales Girl to Computer Operator and Office Assistant. I wanted anything to pass the time.
I would leave home everyday walking round the streets of neighbouring localities looking for a job, all to no avail. On my way home from one of my futile journeys, I met an old friend. We stood talking for a long time about virtually everything. We talked about life after school, marriage, economy and even the weather. I also told her about the job hunting business and the effort I had been putting into it that was not yielding results. She advised me to visit Opebi, Allen Avenue. She said Sales Girls there earned twenty thousand naira and above.
Ever ambitious, I stepped out the next day putting my feet to good use. I had written several applications leaving the title of the letter and the address blank with the intention of filling it in when I got there according to the position needed. That was how desperate I was to leave the house and do something with my time.
The first place I got to was a boutique. They sold clothes, accessories and perfumes. It was quite a big place. They had placed an ad for a Sales Girl and I was up to the task. I met two other girls there waiting for the job too.
I had left my home hoping to get a job because I felt I was not dressed well. I had just undone the braids I had on my head for a long time so my hair was not quite straight. I had spent time that morning trying to comb it straight and pack it as fashionable and professional as possible into a ponytail. I wore a pinstripe shirt and black pants to match. I crowned it up with less makeup and my good old trusted loafers. One seeing me would have thought that I was already working somewhere big and not just job hunting.
Anyway, the girls that were sitting in the shop when I came were wearing what I call excess makeup and cannot ordinarily stand. The colours of their eye shadow were in a battle with the blush and the blush had taken the lipstick to war. I tried to act like I did not see that but their clothes made me feel overly dressed. I began to wonder if I should have just dressed up in a simple T-shirt and Jeans with a slipper to match.
I shrugged inwardly, brought my cell phone and began to call people just to pass time. By the time I had run out of airtime, I began attacking the keypads of my phone playing a game. By this time, it was close to eleven a.m. and I had been there since some minutes to nine.
At about eleven twenty or thereabouts, a good looking minibus stopped in front of the shop. Suddenly, the Sales Girl and Boy began to run helter-skelter. The shop was suddenly alive in a different sort of way. In fact, it was alive with a lot of activities. The Sales girl had been sleeping since I came into the shop.
I was surprised when large dishes, serving spoons and cutleries of all kind were being brought into the shop. I concluded there was a party somewhere, probably at a friend’s. I thought to myself that the friend will come over to collect her dishes. Then came food warmers of various sizes and my thinking took a u-turn; the party would be taking place in the shop after all. I was happy that I came on a good day. I thought to myself that there was no way that a party would be held in the vicinity without those in the shop being invited. For crying out loud, this is still Nigeria where one prepares for two hundred people after sending out fourty invitation cards. I, therefore, concluded that I could not be denied a plate because I was not given an invitation card.
I continued playing the game on my phone when a buxom and elegantly dressed lady walked in and began screaming orders. I did not need to be told that the Queen of the Boutique had arrived. I greeted her, watched her for a while and began attacking the buttons of my phone.
When everywhere was settled and she had stood for about twenty minutes, she looked calmly at me and smiled sweetly before asking
“Are you buying anything?”
“No, I am here for the interview for the post of a Sales Girl.”
Looking down her nose at me she said, “You are in my chair.”
I did not know what to make of her suddenly. I was surprised though of her quick change in countenance. I quickly replied “I am sorry.” I stood up and went to the chair where the flamboyant ladies where and sat gingerly there. Nobody had to say it to me twice; I stopped playing with my phone.
After she had left us for as long as she liked, she stood up in all her Glory and Majesty. She stared at us impassively before saying “Please go out and come in your order of arrival.”
We filed out quietly and since I did not come before any of them, I went to the back of the line. I watched as the first girl entered and came out but the look I saw on her face did not encourage me to continue looking at their faces so that I don’t get discouraged.
When it was my turn, I stepped into the shop and stood there waiting for her to ask me to sit down. She gave me the once over and from her expression, she looked impressed. She asked me to sit down and I courteously said “Thank you.”
She extended her hand and I handed her my credentials and application letter. She went through them and nodded. She made a face as she said “Impressive.” Though the look on her face if one were to judge did not suggest her being impressed.
“Where are you from?” She asked next.
I wore my poker face as I thought that she had to be dumb or terribly blind because I had written where I was from in my application letter. I told her where I was from all the same. She nodded and asked how much I thought she could pay me.
“Twelve thousand.” I piped up. I had been schooled by my brother not to go too high or too low.
Smiling, she said “Is that the lowest you can go?”
“Ten thousand is the least I can offer my services for.”
I had been expecting that question because I had heard it a lot in my past job-hunting. She nodded again, handed me my credentials and told me to wait for her husband. The question on the tip of my tongue was ‘For how long?’ but I did not dare say it. I had the hunch that I already had the job and I did not want to lose it by being excessively vocal.
I sat down quietly and stared at nothing in particular. At a point, I began to feel sleepy. I had waited for close to an hour before a friend of hers came into the shop. There was the usual shouting and hugging like friends that had not seen each other in a while. It was only from their discussion that I realised that they had last seen each other three days ago.
As I had nothing to watch, I began watching them carry on a show. At first, I thought that the show was to please me. Later on, I got to know that that was their usual way of life; Artificial.