A Chance Meeting
The young man seated behind the okada rider was using his hand to shield the man’s face from the rain. It was a light drizzle but riding on a motorbike made the water droplets feel like little stones being pelted in the face. He had to protect the okada man, because he was lucky to even get one at all. The rider was a Northener, a Hausa man that only agreed solely because Michael was polite and greeted him respectfully when he had asked for a ride. Hausa people are very proud and if you show them respect, they can do almost anything for you, but when you try to be smart or ridicule them, then you can have yourself a formidable enemy.
Mike was running late for the interview, it was a good one with a lot of prospects. He knew he had to make a good impression and so he borrowed a suit from Uncle Sunday, who only accepted to lend it out to him because he was fond of Michael and he had to return it dry cleaned, even though Michael wasn’t sure how exactly he would get the N2500 dry cleaning fee.
He got the interview notification late because his phone’s battery was dead and the power was out so there was no way to charge it. After getting it charged from the local barbershop he saw the notification and so he had spent the rest of the evening looking for what to wear; he got the suit a sandy brown Italian suit that was more appropriate for dinner parties than an interview but it was still better than his own clothes. The shoes were an old pair of his late fathers too big for his flat feet but it was still all he had. He had to run over to the closest cybercafe to him which was still considerably far, to make copies of his credentials.
All this he did, the night before his interview.
He’d hardly slept at all. The interview was a distant away; on Victoria Island behind Silverbird Galleria film house. And the only wat to get there and back was to walk half the way to and fro. But he was determined to do it. The job position was one with a lot of promise; Ticketer at British Airways. He saw the ad in the Thursday Guardian that he always skimmed at Papa Onome’s newsstand. He usually couldn’t afford to buy the papers so like many others he would only skim through the pages and focus only on the Ads section. He would copy out details of all the appropriate job positions and then carefully place the paper back on the stand and pay N50 instead of the N500 paper price. He and so many other job finders did so daily or weekly.
He woke up very early and trekked as fast as he could to the checkpoint but wearing an old suit and big shoes he wasn’t as fast as he wanted to be. When he saw the clouds gathering and realised that he wasn’t going to make the mandatory 8a.m interview time he chartered the motorbike.
He approached the Hausa man lounging under the army barracks bridge on his bike with his best smile.
“Salam aleikum, megida. Good morning.” he learnt long ago from his university Hausa roommate Wonders that one should always approach men with a smile and throw in a little Muslim greeting if he was Muslim, it melts their hearts right away. The okada man responded smiling;
“Wa Alaikum salam warahmotullahi. Where are you going?”
“Lincoln Consult behind Silverbird Galleria. How much?”
The okadaman’s smile drooped a little. He explained that he wasn’t going that route but Michael was so polite that would still get him there. Michael was grateful. And boarded the bike with high hopes. This interview was going to bring changes into his life, he was sure of it. The job was fantastic. A ticketer, maybe later he would become a flight attendant and with hard work and a lot of perseverance he could become a pilot someday. All these thoughts floated through his mind as he rode along behind the okada rider shielding his eyes.
“Thank you, aboki.” the rider told him for shielding his eyes.
They stopped briefly to ask directions and went about their way shortly after. They finally arrive at the street and Michael could see a black gate with people outside being ushered into it. He quickly got down and paid the bike rider, who shortly zoomed off. Mike now thoroughly wet ran up to catch them as the last man got ushered into the building and someone closed the door from inside.
He got to the door, it was closed and so he knocked on it.
A young man from inside opened the door. He was smartly dressed with his custom made long sleeved shirt obviously more expensive than everything that Michael had on. He took one look at Michael, with his wet sagging suit and oversized 90s shoes and he wrinkled his nose up and said:
“Are you also for the interview?”
“Yes shir” Michael responded trying to hold his sneeze.
“You’re late, and I’m sorry but we don’t entertain lateness. So please, you may go now.”
Shocked! He couldn’t be more shocked if an electric cable fell on him. As the man tried to close the door he panicked, checked his watch and said;
“B…but, I’m only five minutes late. And its because I had to walk half the way.”
The young man opened the door wider and sternly responded; “We do not entertain excuses either. People like you fail because you don’t take responsibility for your actions. You’re late means you’re late. So please leave!” And disappeared behind the door slamming it most unnecessarily.
Mike almost staggered as he stepped backwards; “What just happened?” he thought disoriented.
He had imagined how the day would play out. And it was entirely different from what just happened. He planned to meet the interview before anyone else. Get all their interview questions correct and charm the interviewer if possible. Then go home with a positive response of a job offer which would open the doors to the prestigious British Airways to him. Hailing the end of his tedious and dreary life. That opportunity and dream were not closed to him. Taking away by another snooty probably entitled man who thought himself better than him because he had on better clothes.
“What did he mean by people like me anyway?” He was suddenly angry and felt like kicking their trash bin but remembered that he had to return Uncle Sunday’s suit spotless and drycleaners would charge extra to remove garbage stains he was sure.
So he took off the suit jacket, folded it and tucked it inside a nylon bag and carefully placed it inside his bag. He angrily took out all his document copies and shoved them in the trash. No matter how hard he tried, how much he struggled, to rise up and leave his tiring life, the powers that be simply kept pinning him down. It wasn’t fair. Michael Osu’s life was not meant to be like this. Before he let the sadness and self-pity overcome him he slung the bag diagonally over his shoulder. And folded his cuffs and removed the tie and placed it in the bag. He was ready for the long trek back home. Which would now be longer thanks to the rider fair he had to pay.
It was already some twenty minutes into his trekking and the rain had stopped leaving a mild scorching sun in the sky when a passerby approached him.
“Hello, sir. Abeg please I am going far and I don’t have transport money, can you please give me some money?” the man said in pidgin English.
“I’m sorry but I don’t have money either, that’s why I’m trekking.”
Before leaving the beggar gave Michael a look that seemed to say “cheapskate” and that made Michael smile at the ridiculous irony of it all. Now beggars were looking down on him. For some reason, a large group of people in Lagos have taken to begging instead of actually trying to do something in their lives. The old “I need fair to go somewhere” was a tired line that Michael didn’t fall for again.
He went his merry way starting to forget his disappointment when a car that had just passed him, stopped and reverse backwards to meet him.
“I hope the driver isn’t going to ask me for fuel money,” he thought “I’ve had enough comedy for one day.”
But when the car got closer he saw a woman behind the wheel.
“Mike, Michael Osu?” she called looking outwards.