“Hey Bobo, this one you’re excited like this share the news nau.” My colleague turned to me.
“Osime I see your work is not enough for you. You must chook mouth in anything Bobo.” I replied. “Abeg face your work.”
“Abeg no vex.” She raised her hands in surrender before turning to face her monitor.”
“Maxine and I are going to the AMVCA tomorrow.” I told her.
“I’m jealous.” She made a face. “Do you have extra tickets?”
“So you can be a third wheel? Park well.”
“I hate you.”
A customer walked in just then.
“Good morning sir,” I welcomed him. “How may we help you?”
“I’m just looking around,” he said doing just that.
I walked to him, standing a few paces away.
“That’s fine sir, but if you have any questions I’m right here for you.”
I was still walking on clouds, my smile wide. My mind was on my exchange with Osime and my date with Max.
“Do you like what you do?” He turned to me and asked.
I was thrown. I took a moment to process what his question might mean, my smile masking the cogs spinning in my head.
“I actually do sir.” If he was a mystery shopper – someone from the office or sent by the office to check on us – I wouldn’t let him leave thinking otherwise.
He nodded, as if checking off a box in his mind.
“What part of it do you like?”
Definitely a mystery shopper.
“The people. I’m a people person and being able to resolve customer issues is big for me. Even if they don’t have complaints, being able to treat each person who walks through the door as an individual, a person, makes me happy. I hope it makes them feel happy too.”
That sounded rehearsed. But then it kind of was. Thank you Hollywood.
“Walk with me,” he said walking further into the shop. I followed, careful to maintain the space between us. “I agree with you,” he said. “I had observed how warm and eager to help you were on my last two visits here. The first time I thought perhaps it was because the customer was a woman…”
It probably was.
“… but the second time you were patient with me when I tried to give you a hard time. That was about a month ago. I didn’t renew my data plan in order to roll over my unused data. I was out of the country at the time and, while one part of me understood there was nothing you could do about it, I took my frustration out on you. You just stood there and smiled, apologised and then activated another plan.” He stopped in front of some Samsung phones, and I was preparing to turn it down when he reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a business card.
The disappointment hit my stomach with a thud that surprised me.
“Call me on Monday morning.”
“Yes sir,” I picked the card from between his index and middle fingers.
He turned and walked back into the departure hall of the airport.
I read the name on the card. Ikem Nsirim.
No, not today! What is this life sef? You cannot just sleep and wake up, no, your body must show you who is boss.
These thoughts and more ran through my mind as I lay in bed on Saturday morning.
When I felt that funny sensation in the part of my nose/mouth connect I can only refer to as the back of my nose, I decided to self medicate to forestall the cold it promised to bring.
The tablet of Actifed I swallowed with tepid water swam down my throat and knocked me out.
Even as the shutters in my brain and behind my eyes wound down, I let myself smile because I had gotten a jump on things, so I was good. I would wake up the next day and it would be a memory.
The first sign was the small irritation I felt that morning when I swallowed. I hacked to clear my throat, and that was when the coughing started.
I rolled out of bed and padded to the kitchen in search of water. It turned out I used the last satchet of not-cold water the night before. I turned to the fridge.
Heading back to the room I caught a glimpse of the navy blue Tuxedo from Sly’s wedding where I set it out for my date with Max.
I dialled her number and she picked on the first ring.
“Hello you,” she said.
“‘ey,” I cleared my throat. “H…”
Crap. Voice don travel.
She started to laugh.
“What’s funny?” I hissed. “Let me whatsapp you.”
She wanted to come over and play nurse, but I wouldn’t let her. She could easily pick catch whatever I had. Besides, I couldn’t let her miss the AMVCA.
We’ll watch it together she offered
But the tickets nko?
I’ll find someone on twitter to give them to.
No jor. I’ll be fine, I promise. You know what? If I still feel this poorly tomorrow I’ll let you bring a bowl of peppersoup and then you can nurse me back to full strength.
She finally agreed.
I spent that day at home sipping cough medicine and chewing Strepsil.
By the next morning I wasn’t feeling so bad, and when Max came by that afternoon with a small cooler of chicken peppersoup, my voice was beginning to return. My throat was still scratchy when I talked, and if I talked for long I started to cough.
By midday on Monday I called Mr. Nsirim and as soon as I said my name he asked how I would like to work for him. He had a lounge he was just setting up and needed a manager.
“Can you come in on Wednesday to the address on the card? Say around 11am.”
“11am sir? Okay sir. I’ll see you then sir.”
“See you then.” He hung up before I could say anything else.
I called Max and told her.
“What have you got to lose?” she asked. “At least go and find out what the job is and if it’s something you’d like to do.”
The office was around the international airport so I didn’t have to miss work. I took an early break, hoping the interview would be short and I’d be back before the midday rush of customers.
I got there with five minutes to spare. The receptionist was expecting me.
“The MD will see you shortly,” she said after a brief exchange with someone over the phone.
I sat in the waiting area And counted down the clock.
Her intercom trilled.
“Hello sir… yes sir… yes sir… okay sir.” She hung up. “The MD will see you now.”
She led me through a door to her right, down a short corridor and paused to knock on a door marked ‘Conference Room’.
I walked onto plush carpeting that swallowed the sound of my footsteps. There was an oval table in the middle of the room with four people sitting on the one side facing me. Mr. Nsirim was in the middle with two other men flanking him. To his extreme left was the only lady in the room. She had locs that were intricately woven atop her head to resemble a mohawk. She also had on round glasses.
I hesitated, my heart caught in my chest. Recent pain mixing with trepidation, making breathing difficult.
“Please have a seat,” Mr. Nsirim waved me to one of two seats facing them. He introduced the people in the room and I smiled and nodded at them without hearing their names.
For a second I thought the lady in the room was Cynthia, but she wasn’t.
According to Mr. Nsirim, it was not an interview, just an informal chat and an opportunity for the other managers to meet me.
I smiled a lot and answered questions on various subjects.
The interview lasted a little over thirty minutes.
Back at the office my phone rang.
“Good afternoon, am I speaking with Bobo?”
“You just left an interview with my company…”
“Good afternoon ma’am.”
“Can you help me win a bet?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t quite follow.” I was perplexed.
“I thought you were pretending not to recognise me because my dad was in the room.”
“I’m sorry, but I have no reco…”
“‘Can you help me win a bet’ were your first words to me.” She hung up.
This was bad. Very bad.