Esther posted an update 4 years ago
Her friend told her stories of a man she had met some days back and how he had helped her and been nice to her. They giggled like school girls. I looked thoughtfully at them trying to guess their age. I put them in the range of thirty to thirty five. I shook my head and wondered how bad they would appear if they told each other the truth and acted their age.
In my mind, I berated my future employer. She was married and she looked like she had children already yet she did not want to grow up or tell her friend the truth. In fact, she supported her as she listened to all her obscene stories of the men she met within the past few days. It was almost as if she lived vicariously through her friend. I stole a look at her friend as I wondered the authenticity of her story. I nodded slowly as I concluded that as beautiful as she was, she probably had met all those men.
She was slim, very slim like a Model and tall as well. Her complexion was very fair. She complemented her fair skin with a very dark and curly weave that extended to her shoulders. Her eyes were unnaturally brown. I suspected she wore contact lens. She crowned it all with a glamorous make up that made her red lips very attractive. If she looked the way she looked today when she met those men, her story would not be a lie.
As time passed, the buxom woman decided to take her friend out to lunch. She happily agreed, of course. Out they went, chirping like birds and acting like teenagers that were high on some kind of hormones produced at that age. I rolled my eyes heavenwards and checked my time piece, wondering how long I had to put up with the charade.
Time seemed to drag so slowly. In a little time, it was time for my own lunch. I was terribly hungry and my stomach wasted no time in reminding me that I had a light breakfast. I thought of going outside to buy something to eat but I did not want her to think I did not want the job when she returned and met my absence. So, I sat there hungry and bored stiff listening to the churning and gurgling of my stomach. I began to regret not having a book in my bag. I never leave home without a book because I hate doing nothing. I consider a book my saviour in times when I have nothing to do.
As time crawled by, I dozed off but I was rudely awakened by their shrill laughter before they even got close to the shop. I shook my head to clear it of the mild confusion it was feeling as I checked my timepiece. They had been gone for fourty five minutes. They did not acknowledge me when they came in and I sat there silent, watching them as they continued their talking and laughing.
Not long after they returned from lunch, the boutique owner decided she wanted some snacks. The Sales Girl was asked to go to a nearby eatery to get some snacks and bottled water for two.
I could not help wondering if all the money she made, she spent on food. I also wondered how she ever made any profit because she was not nice to her customers at all. She would take a look at them and if they were not dressed to her taste, she concluded they could not afford her wares. As a result, she spoke rudely to them or in some cases, not even speak at all. She had even told one person plainly that she could not afford her goods. When she did that, I asked myself if I wanted to work with her. I answered “Yes, I am desperate to leave home every day.”
The charade went on for another hour or thereabouts before her friend left. I could not have been happier. I did not know how long I could stand them speaking in faked American accent and behaving like overgrown babies.
She looked at her timepiece after a while and told her Sales Girl to bring her food. I was surprised and almost asked her if all she did was eat but I restrained myself. Then came all the food warmers that came earlier in the day that made me assume there was a party. One contained fried chicken; drumsticks, to be exact. Another contained fried plantain and another vegetable salad. I knew all these because I could not tear my eyes off this woman. Despite her haughtiness, I found her interesting. I had never seen anybody like her. It seemed like she lived in a different world inhabited by only her. She served herself with the meat and plantain and looked thoughtful as she was about to serve the salad. She shrugged and served little anyway before adding sauce and ketchup to the meat and plantain.
Before she began to eat, I expected her to invite me to join her as a well trained Nigerian but I was disappointed. I waited for eternity. My mouth could not help but water though. To avoid begging her for some food, I damned losing the job and began to play with my phone.
While she was eating, a young man walked into the shop. She had given him the once over and decided that he was not worthy of her voice. He greeted her and she just kept eating. It was only when he had repeated twice that he wanted to make enquiries about the vacancy advert that she told him rudely
“I want a Sales Girl not a Boy. Can’t you read?”
He replied in an outburst of anger that he was only asking on behalf of his sister. She nodded her head nonchalantly and said “Don’t worry, I have already found who I want.”
The man left shaking his head in what I read as pity. In my head I was concurring with the look he gave her. How conceited could she be to not realise that he was too classy to work for her? He was wearing an expensive suit for goodness sake! Well, who could blame her? If I could dress up well to ask her to pay me ten thousand for a Sales Girl job why couldn’t he be looking to work for her too? She must have counted herself lucky.
Before she had finished eating her food, a girl came to ask about the vacancy advert placed outside. She rolled her eyes heavenwards and screamed
“Ughhhhhh! Get that sign off there! I have already found who I want!”
The girl asking about the advert was confused as she stood there waiting for the woman to say something to her. The woman left her standing there for a while instead. After some minutes, she looked up at her and asked her coldly “What are you still waiting for?”
Out of fear she stuttered and made a blunder in her reply. Instead of being sympathetic, the buxom woman laughed in her face, humiliating her before us all. I watched stoically though I was deeply irritated at the woman’s attitude.
After a long burst of mirth, she asked the girl to leave that she had employed someone already. Then, the girl did something I admired her greatly for.
“Can I drop my CV?”
Taken aback, the buxom lady asked “What for?”
“I want to drop it in case the person does not show up.” She continued.
For a few seconds, I saw what looked like reality setting in her face. All of a sudden she seemed to understand that she had been putting all her eggs in one basket. She looked at me like she wanted to say something to me. She looked away as quickly as she had looked at me, nodded in resignation and collected the CV. I almost laughed but I could not stop the smirk that automatically appeared on my face as I considered the girl’s tenacity.
After her meal, she asked her Sales Girl to go and get her some popcorn and Smirnoff Ice, an alcoholic drink, from a nearby eatery. I almost asked if she was not tired of eating. I heaved a soft sigh of relief when she came back empty handed.
“They are out of popcorn, Ma.”
“What of the drink?”
She went out back and got the drink. As she sipped the drink, she looked thoughtful and shrugged before saying “So, Mama Cass has run out of popcorn. Anyway, I am sure it won’t have been sweet. Thank God I have better maize for popcorn that I bought from California USA last month.”
“My Madam!” The Sales Girl hailed her and began to sing her praises. By this time, I had concluded that they both were not okay psychologically.
After the drink, she began to feel bored and asked her Sales girl to get her mini-DVD on which she watched a movie. As she sat close to me, I could not deny my eyes the pleasure of watching a movie.
We had almost concluded the movie when her husband came back. She showed no sign of recognition or happiness. So, I didn’t know he was her husband until she reached down and offered him some snacks.
“Darling, I bought you these.” Her cold voice was everything but darling.
He collected it gratefully and I nearly wept. When she came into the shop in the morning, I had thought she was fat but her husband was twice and a half her size. Instead of helping him control his weight, she was offering him the load of snacks she had bought. When he asked for his lunch and I remembered the high in fat food she had, I shook my head. I told myself that the man would soon die and leave all his wealth to the woman. I sighed as I concluded that that could be her plan; to kill him and inherit his wealth.
As if she had just remembered me, she asked her husband to attend to me before he ate. I presented my credentials and application letter. He went through it and asked if I had ever worked before. I answered no.
He asked a lot of questions which I can’t remember now. But, I remember concluding her husband was dumber than she was and I asked myself why she married him. Again, I told myself, it had to be the money.
He then asked her if she had told me the terms of the work. She said she forgot.
“There are terms and you didn’t tell me?” I screamed at her in my head. I didn’t dare say it.
The terms were that I would work from Monday to Saturday with only one day off; I could choose which day I liked. He reminded me that the other Sales Girl was not on duty on Saturdays, so I couldn’t choose Saturday. I nodded in reply.
The working hours were to be 9a.m to 8p.m. I was surprised. My countenance must have revealed same, because he started explaining to me why it had to be that way. He complained that I couldn’t expect them to open the shop and close it by themselves.
“If you are to resume work by 9a.m, you probably would come to work at some minutes to nine. By that time, this shop would have been open. If we ask you to close by 6p.m, then we would be locking up our shop by ourselves again by 8p.m,”
He concluded by reminding me that since the area was a choice area, there were Banks in the vicinity. Bankers are known for closing late because of their busy schedule. He informed me that around that time was when they did their shopping.
“You can see that the shop is not busy now but when it is around 8p.m, this place will be packed full with Bankers that need to shop.”
I nodded and thought to myself that the salary had to be enough to compensate one for all the troubles. I listened to him and waited patiently for him to get to how much he would be paying.
He entered into a self-righteous sermon, telling me how good he and his wife were. I cringed inside as I tried to think of his wife as nice. He began telling me how long the Sales Girl had been with them and how free she was with them. He pointed out to me that to demonstrate how free she was, she was even reading a magazine. I wondered where it was that reading a magazine at that type of work was an act of freedom or bondage. I waited patiently, listening to every word of his, lest I missed out the part of the salary.
Finally, it came. I was to be paid six thousand naira. I looked at him differently with a look that spoke volumes. He began explaining that it was probation salary. That after sixty days, it would be increased. He didn’t tell me what to and I didn’t ask because I knew that I wouldn’t accept the job.
After his sermon, I politely told him that I would have taken the job but for the sake of the curfew at home. My parents expect every one of their kids at home before 7p.m, unless one had a job that kept one out at that time. I didn’t tell him the last part, of course.
I just couldn’t take the job. For Pete’s sake it’s not even up to the minimum wage! That salary would have only been enough to cover my transportation for a month. There would be no savings and no lunch for me unless I prepared some from home.
He expressed his disappointment, apologized on behalf of him and his wife for wasting my time and wished me luck in my job hunting. I nodded all the while and stepped out of the shop.
I looked at my timepiece. It was 5.20p.m and I was terribly hungry. I got home feeling more defeated than ever. I had lost all hope in my country. I thought about the girl that came later to ask for that job and I knew somehow she would have the job. I shook my head in pity though, that she will be paid that meagre amount of money for two months, before her salary can be increased; to what, anyway? Probably eight thousand naira.
My hope was restored, however, after I had attacked my lunch with a vengeance. The next day, I decided to visit a neighbouring vicinity where I had dropped off an application letter for the post of an Office Assistant. It was a Forwarding and Clearing Agency. I was given a date for an interview. I couldn’t have been more thankful.
The D-day came and I dressed up in my usual formal way. This time I was glad I dressed up that way. When I got there I met about four to five girls dressed formally too. These girls, I appreciated. They looked focused and I was forced to wonder if I stood a chance. I consoled myself by telling myself that no matter how many we were, only one of us stood a chance. That I could compete too, after all, we all had only one head each on our shoulders. I remembered how tense those ladies were and prayed to God, that if they needed the job more than I did, He should give it to them. I was there at about ten-fifteen.
We waited till about eleven-thirty without speaking to each other. I didn’t mind anyway because I brought a novel with me this time. I must have appeared unserious to the ladies because they all looked tensed. It was only when I checked my timepiece that I realised so much time had passed, yet our future employer was not yet in his office.
I decided to call him up. I was given his number the last time I was there. He apologised for being late and asked us to wait till about 1p.m. I conveyed the message to the ladies and continued my reading. There were disgruntled sighs and angry murmurs but I couldn’t care less. I was comfortable and I was with a book.
Before 1p.m though, he arrived and apologised time and time again. The man was just too nice. After making sure that we were all seated, he introduced himself and gave us a brief history about his firm. He also told us what we would be expected to do were we given the job. He asked if we accepted the terms. How couldn’t we? We were expected to work from 8a.m to 5p.m on Mondays to Fridays. Who wouldn’t want the job? All we had to do was keep the office clean, type some documents and from time to time follow clients to the dock to confirm their goods. The transport fare for this would be covered by the firm. He even promised to increase the salary anytime in the month, according to how many clients he had. I couldn’t have asked for a better job.
He distributed some forms to us and asked us to fill it. The forms included gaps for our particulars, work experience, former salary and how much we were expected to be paid if we got the job, considering the fact that the firm was just being established.
I wrote ten thousand, as usual. One third of this money, if I got the job, was more than enough to cover my transport in a month. So, I wanted the job because I knew I could save some extra money.
On my way home after the interview, I remembered how tense those ladies were and prayed to God that if they needed the job more than I did, He should give it to them. Otherwise, I wanted the job.
A month had passed and I had not heard from the man. I decided that I didn’t get the job. I wanted to know who got the job. So, I went to the firm one morning.
When I got there, the office was locked. It was around noon. I concluded that either the man had not employed anybody, or whoever he employed was at the dock checking out a client’s goods. I decided to wait anyway.
While I waited, I chatted up the man’s neighbour to find out if he had employed anybody. They said they hadn’t seen anybody new except the old man. My faith was restored. Only then was I able to call the owner of the firm. He told me he was on his way to the office.
He arrived sooner than I expected. I told him that I came to find out if he had employed someone. He said he had not had the time to go through the interview forms. His son, as he said, had sorted them out. He asked me to check if my name was among the chosen forms. It was. I gladly handed it to him. He went through it and asked what computer packages I could handle.
He put on the computer system in his office so he could conduct a practical. Before I began work, he asked for my qualification. When I told him, he became sombre and told me he couldn’t employ me.
I tried to plead with him. I told him of how I had searched for a job and how much I needed the job. He told me he couldn’t give me the job as his son was also in the same level as I was. That it would be unfair for a University Graduate to be his Office Assistant. He reminded me again that my job would basically be to keep the office clean and type a few letters. I told him that I didn’t mind.
He prayed for me that God would give me that job that I deserved and gave me some money, which I refused. He pleaded with me to take it and I did. The money he gave me was more than enough to take care of my transportation since the day I had been coming to his office.
I left that day with mixed feelings. I was happy there were still good people but I was sad that, once again, I was overqualified for a job that I wanted.
The next week or thereabout, a friend called me up to tell me about a Marketing job. He promised I would get the job and that the salary was a handsome one. My parents refused to let me go, on the grounds that I had no reason to look for a job.
“Besides, the time for your service is close at hand.” My Father concluded.
It was already July and I was expecting to be posted by September.