Sunday, July 4, 2010

On a Merry Chase

Picture from here

In a bid to justify my monthly stipend which basically covers my transportation and lunch for the month, I have set up a meeting with a marketing manager today. I managed to extract the contact out of another elusive contact whom I’d been hounding for weeks. It gave Mr.B joy no less to see me being proactive in sourcing a contact for his business. Now, this gives me some sort of epiphany.

How sensible is it to go risk your health selling someone else’s business just so the person can pay you enough to live on? Now I have plenty of respect for Abigail who started her business long before we were out of school. I also envy all the trips she gets to take while sourcing new business- she sends me pictures. Sigh, this is exactly the kind of life I didn’t want for myself- pushing paper across the desk and staring at the computer screen till my eyes glaze over in boredom.

I prepare to print my proposal but then I realize that I can’t explain most things written on it. I didn’t want some snotty-nosed know-it-all putting me on the spot asking me questions I can’t begin to fathom. So I started to edit it, using simpler yet professional English unlike the PhD variety employed by Mr. B. He asks when the meeting will be and I reply, “10 o’clock”.

He says, “It is 9:00 am already, will you get there in time?”

Can I see the future? “I’ll be on my way soon. I’m just changing up a few things”

“You should have done that yesterday when you confirmed the appointment,” he scowled.

It’s hard not to roll my eyes. Know all. I print out the proposal and present it to him for his signature. He takes the time to go through it and grunts about the changes I’ve made. I have to explain that I feel we have to be less generic with this particular proposal so I merely emphasized services we could deliver considering we are a start-up with no REAL experience!

The good thing about this job is that I get to use Mr. B’s car. Can you imagine what it’ll be like to show up for meeting with important managers smelling like all the roads you’ve been on? I’ve had to receive stale smelling marketers at my desk, flustered from the heat and hustle of the streets. The driver Samuel was quite efficient, not at all chatty so I could look through my papers and prepare my self for my presentation. I usually sit in front but because I wanted to read I sat at the back. Imagine small me, in the owner’s corner of a Toyota something- I’m not a car fanatic so I don’t know their names. Anyone who sees me will imagine I’m being paid one serious money sha!

The traffic jam to the Island was longer than I anticipated, coupled with the fact that the Third Mainland bridge was closed for construction so everyone had to use the same alternative routes. Needless to say, I got there terribly late, and the guy was a bit pissed at first but he managed to hide it when he saw how big and brown my eyes were– hehehe! Who says you can’t use your womanly wiles/charms in business, why do think you have it at all? Why do you think men allowed women into business?

I sold him my song and dance. He was the bank manager (BM) so he said all he could do was arrange for me to have an introductory meeting with the Corporate Communications Manager (CCM) of the group who was just across the road from his office. We set off across the road with him slowing traffic down for me; I, acting like I don’t cross expressway every other day- I had to keep up the front, never bring out your leg on the first meet!

The building we entered was, well a tad old. Alright it was decrepit. A real pit, I couldn’t believe this was the Corporate Communication offices of one of the biggest companies in the country. I mean, further down on the same street, the head of the group had built a huge monument to himself in the name of a building with an Ox sculpture in front. How could this be any of his offices? The stairs would have creaked had they been made of wood I’m sure. There were cracks on the terrazzo floor- TERRAZZO!

The office we came to was no better, it was large but it still looked cramped because it was overflowing with stacks and stacks of files- FILES! Have they not heard of computers? Ok, what about cabinets? Who has offices where they stack files from floor to ceiling? About six people were scattered around, huddled behind desks also cramped with the stuff. A woman at the far right was shouting over her the mass on her desk to another man at the far left in Yoruba. The man yelled over his and so the exchange continued. We were barely acknowledged as the BM ushered me into his colleague’s office.

You’d imagine the boss’ office would be a far cry from the exhibition outside but… nope, it was pretty much the same. The CCM was tall and thin, his jacket hung on his shoulders either because of this or it was oversized, not sure which. He asked us to sit after evacuating the heap of papers from a chair. I introduced myself, company and did my song and dance all over again. The meeting was brief. He rather brashly informed me that they already had people providing these services; all brought in from America, UK and South Africa. Highest quality- Could I see? He showed off one of their portfolios for me to see. So the only thing I and my mediocre company could do was to package ideas specifically tailored for any one of the companies within the group. He in turn would re-package it and put his own spin on it so that it would be sellable to the Boss because nothing gets to the Boss without his stamp of approval. In layman terms – if that wasn’t clear enough already- he would ensure our proposal is passed along as long as we know what to do for him after it is approved.

I smiled all through his rendition and thanked him when he finally shut his hole. I was only too glad to be out of the old, musty office when I stepped into sunshine again. The BM saw me off to the car explaining how the CC Manager had a lot of respect for him because he always got them out of financial jams when they needed emergency funds over the weekend whereas other BM’s would tell them to wait for due process. So I had nothing to worry about,

“Just get your proposal ready and it’s a done deal since I brought you in.”

Oh, why thank you, that is so reassuring. “Thank you so much for your time. Have a good day,” I said.

“You too,” he said with a glint in his eyes, sizing me up and down. Boy, if you only knew…

On returning to the office I find that Mr. B is in another room eating. I passed on to our office pretending not to notice him. At my desk I pulled up a proposal I was working on for a juice company. I inserted the name of the BM’s sister company accordingly and attached as a mail to Mr. Iyke for his graphic magic. I hastily typed the notes of my meeting with the CCM, printed a sheet and dropped it on Mr. B’s desk. I logged on to Facebook and began to comment on people’s photos. Enough work for today…

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pounding Pavements

Pic from here
So, time has crawled by since my last interview debacle and I am beginning to realize that this job situation is really critical. I’ve spent the last few months sending applications from the comfort of my living-room couch, supporting the laptop on the chair arm, sipping ice-tea in one hand, while keeping an eye on Oprah and repeat episodes of “The Good Wife” (I’m such a cliché!). Moreover, I feel a piece of my brain die each time I listen to Kim Kardashian.

I decided to hit the streets so to speak, since ‘pounding’ the internet has brought naught responses. I chose a Friday assuming that prospective employers would be more forgiving if I wore jeans. I had to save my good cloths for really important interviews! Anyway, the weather was not so forgiving. The sun’s glare was brutally blinding and sweat formed an ugly, wet patch around my armpits and my back.

So much for appearances.

I’m at the gate of the first office I mapped out. The street is under construction and there appears to be no visible way to get in. The security guard must have observed my consternation at the sight of the huge gutter I will have to jump so he opens the side-gate and gestures to the walk-board I could use to get across. Do these people not have cars? I move towards the board and loose my balance as my foot sinks into the bank of sand. There goes my best shoe. The security guard is actually nice enough to let me empty the shoe of sand and dust myself up before going into the office.

Now, this is where it gets scary. Having encountered numerous front office personnel and having been one myself, I know what to expect. Sassy, nice, bitter, bored, smiling, condescending or downright rude, I have met many. I plant a smile on my face, brace myself and open the door to greet… the empty office.

I am beginning to wonder if the office is still in business when a diminutive young man walks in and greets me. I close the space between us quickly so I can tower over him and have a height advantage- hehehe.

“Hello, my name is Bridget. I have a document for the Head of Client Services”
“Alright bring it.”

I wasn’t going to risk telling him I was hoping to secure employment. I had worked in Front Office remember? I had a good idea of what happened to unsolicited applications. I’d also worked in HR. There you find the In-tray, Out-Tray and Dustbin- sorry, no Pending tray. So my best bet was to deliver my services directly to the necessary department.

Unexpectedly, he asks me, “Is that all?” while proceeding to open the envelope.

NOOOO! It is on the tip of my tongue to ask if he is the Head of Client Services that he should want to open my envelope, but being the coward I am, I thank him chirpily and beat a hasty retreat to the door.

“Excuse me?” Apparently I am not fast enough. I turn around with what I hope is an innocent expression so I can deny that I am the author of the cover letter in his hand. “Here, you can have this.”

In his hand is a page-marker branded with the face of the CEO and the schedules of his radio programme. I let out a sigh as I glimpsed that he has not succeeded in opening my package.

“Oh, thank you.” I almost snatch it out of his hand as I flee.

Back in sunshine, I am quickly dehydrated. I can not stop for a drink as I have, hopefully, 3 more stops before I am done. The second office has moved so there’s no need to go into details about the very unpleasant security guard who gave me this information. After dodging okada from hell and nearly going deaf from blaring horns, I finally make it to the next office panting and perspiring and I quickly decide this is where my journey ends for the day. I smoothen and adjust myself appropriately as I approach the glass doors – Thank God there are no sand banks to jump!

The Front Office lady is pleasant enough in her greeting as I tell my tale again. She doesn’t ensue to open my secrets thankfully but she does ask,

“Sorry, what’s in it?” What is it with people and questions this hot afternoon?

“Um…” before I can stumble out an answer, my phone rings mercifully. I am so grateful for the interruption that I wonder if it will be wrong to take my phone outside and proceed to leave without giving her an answer, but I do not want to make a scene.

My brief conversation with DD buys me an excuse but I have to hang up now as she keeps looking at me pointedly.

“Hold on- yes? Sorry what did you say?”

“I said, what’s inside please?”

“Oh right, um, it’s a Cover Letter.”


Hm? “Ok thank you, have a good day.”

Was that all she wanted to know? I assume she imagines that I am from some company or the other, but seriously, shouldn’t she have asked for my company’s name?

Whatever. I care less. I hightail it out of there and into the nearest eatery to reward myself with some Ice Tea. As I queue up to place my order, I look up at the TV suspended on the wall and ah, Oprah comes on...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


“What’s up?” DD said.
“Um, hi, I found the place yeah?”
“And?” He was impatient.
“Well? It looks funny, somehow.” Funny does a lot of injustice to this place.
“Kind of run-down. But I can’t decide if it’s a front for a better place. Maybe they are just trying to eliminate people this way.”
“So, why don’t you wait it out and see what they have.”
“I will. I’m here aren’t I?”
“Good, call me when you’re done. LASTMA just collected 5000 from me so I’m slightly pissed at the moment.”
“What did they say you did?” I was alarmed
“Rubbish. Later. Just face your stuff. Bye.”

People were still coming up the stairs. I resigned myself to a very long day and found a comfortable spot on the wall to lean on. I noticed one of the latecomers strut in. He was tall, orange-skinned and looked quite good in his well-cut suit. The only thing bigger than his apparent confidence, was his oversized orange head. He said hello, I nodded my response. Not long after, I noticed someone was explaining herself to the man behind the desk. I decided to brave the humidity and step back into the office. On closer investigation, I realized that the young lady was addressing one of the three sweaty people I had earlier ignored, and the man behind the desk was handling her CV. The interview was underway! Right there in the stuffy, overcrowded office, and 2 of the sweaty people I had ignored were interviewers!

I perched by the door still trying to keep my nose outside the rancid office. Big-orange head walked up to me and asked if I had written my name down on a list. I couldn’t explain that I almost left when I discovered this was my destination so I took out my pen and wrote down my name. Then he leaned in and with a cheeky smile, mumbled, “Aren’t you a little too pretty for this job?” I couldn’t even muster a response so I ignored him. Smart person he was, he moved on rather than push it. I was the 11th person on the list and they were interviewing the second person. I took the opportunity to observe the man behind the desk. 

Greasy. Where the others were sweaty, he could be described as greasy. Skinny with a pinched face, he bobbed his head around a lot when he talked, used a lot of hand gestures and squinted at the responses to his questions. 

Someone was suffering from high self-esteem.

Each interview was a succession of Greasy saying “Hang arand” at the end, then “Nest!” signaling the next person. I was going to be interviewed by someone who could barely speak English and I would have to endure watching him feed his self-importance. A man walked into the office. He must have been the boss because one of the Sweaty men broke away from the interview he was conducting to prostrate partially and collect the man’s beat-up leather bag.

At this point my eyes must have been as large as saucers because I couldn’t believe this was the person running this, well, establishment. The Boss was positively even more hungry-looking than all the other “interviewers”. The jacket hanging from his bony shoulders could be mistaken for a cape. He was incredibly lean so his belt probably went round twice because his trousers were bunched up around his waist. He cast his jaundiced looking eyes about the room and took to calling names from the list I had written my name in. He got to my name and asked what time I was given for my interview. 12, I said. What time did I get there? 11.50, I replied. He went on to sort through the files of the interviewed people. Sweaty-person-who-collected-the-Boss’-bag then called out the names of the chosen people who were to wait some more, while the others were told to return on Thursday by 10.

I was too intrigued by the bony boss to notice that my turn had come. I took my seat and waited for the first question. Sweaty-person number 2 asked for my CV. I drew it out from my file. He asked me to describe myself in 1 minute. Was this a joke? I described my age, qualification blah-blah-blah. Greasy decided to wade in and ask if I was married.

Um, if the rings didn’t clue you in, it’s boldly stated on my CV which is in your hand! I said I was married.
“Since when?” he asked with his pinched face.
“Last month.”
He humphed and bobbed his head back and forth as he took his seat.
“Work interests; Marketing Communications. So you want to work in MTN?”
No, I didn’t just hear that. “Marketing communications is not telecommunications. It really cuts across all industries.”
“I don’t even know where to start with you. All this your freh-freh-freh.”
Are you kidding me?! I kept my face straight.
“Hm, ok. You say you are how old?” He squinted at me.
“I will be 25 in June.” I squinted back.
“When?” He squinted harder.
I gave up. “25th.”
“No, your full date of birth.”
I obliged him.
“Where did you serve?”
“I started in Kano, I finished in Lagos.”
“Why did you relocate?” At this point he leaned back in his chair and put his fingertips together, dramatically. I almost bent over trying not to laugh. This man obviously saw too many home-videos.
“Uh,” I was truly tickled. “Health problems and, of course, marital reasons.”
“Ehen, you women,” he shook his head.  
Your mama .
“Is this your first job interview since after youth service?”
“It is not indicated,” he tapped my CV with his pen.
Yes, it is, you bat! “It’s right here,” I pointed while looking at his oily face.
 “Ok, ok, that’s alright. All this ones, nko?” He was referring to my pre-NYSC experience.
“If you check the years indicated on each employment detail, you will see that I was a student for the duration.” I was getting impatient. After a moment I’m sure he spent pondering how to phrase his question in English, he said,
“I want to give you a position as a Credit Officer.”
What do you mean you want to give me a position? Aren’t you recruiting for someone else? 
“Oh, what’s that?” I was a bit slower as I realized the urban legend was indeed a legend.
“Marketing. What will you say if I paid you 20,000 to raise 2million in 2 weeks?”

I would have started laughing by this time if I wasn’t too dazed, realizing how much of my life I had wasted in this hell hole in the hope that this was a front for a better establishment. Whoever originated that story is a liar from the pit of hell and he must be judged accordingly. Why I didn’t immediately grab my file and leave still beats my imagination. Instead, my interview skills kicked in automatically and I told him,

“I have to know more about the product I’m selling and the people I work for before I can give you an answer.”

“That’s good,” he bobbed his head repeatedly. I hoped it would roll off. “We are Harvest MFB, this is our centre of operations-” reconfirming my worst nightmare. “We started operation in 2007 and our products include savings account, daily-collecting-” He should have just said ajo, the skinny cow! “-current account and fixed deposit account. Which of these will be easier for you to sell?”

Damn those interview skills and my good manners, I couldn’t for the life of me, just storm out of there.

“I’ll say the fixed deposit because most people have a savings account already. How competitive are your rates with the rest of the market?” I could have kicked myself for still being there.

“Yes, well, you know there are different kinds. Our own is a minimum of 3 months, at the end you get 20%”
No kidding! Are you into money-doubling too?! “Wow, that’s impressive,” it was my turn to bob my head now for want of what to say. “I can definitely sell that.”

“What does your husband do?”

What has that got to do with you? “He runs his own business.”

“Ah, the money is complete already. You can just collect it from him, I don’t mind.”

Come again?! I should collect my husband’s hard-earned money and put it in your dead business so you can pay me 20,000 after 2 weeks! I was at a loss for words. I didn’t know how to end this joke so I could go home. Damn those manners again.

“I am actually employing you for Centre Manager, don’t mind me.” He broke into a smile. Oh, believe me, I’m not minding you. I’m not minding you at all. “I just wanted to test you, to see how you will react to it. You see we are expanding, so we need to open a new branch in that your area. You will be in charge of hiring people who will market with you. You will find a meeting place where you will plan and do your market segmentation-” where did he learn that? “-then you will separate to the different segments-” oh, he doesn’t know what it means. “I’m sure it is something you can do. The money for this job is 40,000.” I could see how that must have sounded mouth-watering to him.

“Eh, yes but I still have to think about it.”

“No problem, you will come back on Thursday by 10 am for a full briefing.”

“Yes, yes, I will. Do you need the extra CV?”

“No just this one. How about your passport?”

“You know what? I don’t think this one is good enough, why don’t I bring a better one on Thursday.”

“Ok, ok, if you like. See you… NEST!”


What will one not see as an applicant in this country? Me?! A centre manager for a microfinance bank! I am a graduate of Human Kinetics for the love of Moses! I see I am getting ahead of myself here. I’ll begin where it is always best.
In my crazed search for employment, I came across an advertisement for Business Development Executives, and anyone in the job market knows that that is the latest euphemism for Marketers, right? It was posted on one of the numerous online jobsites I subscribe to so I figured there was no harm in trying. The specified qualifications included a good first degree (check!), good communication skills (check again!) and of course, marketing skills. Last but not least, 5 years experience in a similar position. Oh, and you must not be more than 26 years of age. 

Were they serious? Where in Nigeria did they think they’d find 26-year-old graduates with 5 years work experience? Should the applicants have been working while in school? Of course I don’t have 5 years experience but I am definitely below 26. Following the format for applying, I sent in my details- name, age, sex, qualification and as for years of experience I indicated 2. The worst that could happen was that I wouldn’t get called, right? 
I got called and the worst was yet to come. Actually, I was sent a text message to come for an interview at so-so address by that-that bus stop, beside ding-dong plaza. The company name was “Harvest MFB” and I was required to be there by 12 noon with triplicate copies of my CV and supporting documents, 2 passport photographs and a file.

Monday dawned too quickly. I brushed out my best black jacket, and my favourite black pants. I meticulously applied my make-up, said my prayers with DD and we took off for the other side of town. At 11:50, he let me out across the road from the landmark plaza stated in the address. This is where the bad began.

There were rows of shops just about everywhere you could turn and no office signage in sight. I figured the office was around back or something. I started asking for directions, 
Is this number 18? 

I’m looking for Harvest Microfinance Bank, is it here? 

No one had heard of such a bank. 

Suspecting a scam, I began to boil in my suit. 47 minutes of make-up began to disappear in the blistering Lagos heat. I noticed a sign adjacent to the plaza indicating that the building on that side was also number 18a.
I went across to more row of shops. I was about to ask a couple of rug sellers sitting outside their shop if I was in the right place but before I could utter a word, about 3 of them barked, “Go like this!” while pointing in a uniform direction.
Sorry? I’m looking for Harvest Micro-
“Go this way!”
Oh! I said thanks as one of them mumbled something about the office getting some sort of security to direct people.
Moving on, I saw a flight of dirty, old, rickety steps. I said to myself, no, it can’t be possible. I will get to the top of these stairs and find a beautifully furnished, finished and air-conditioned office or at least be told that I had the wrong entrance. I reached for the railing, then thought better of it when I remembered the one described in The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born. At the top, all my hopes were dashed as I walked into an open door (No air-conditioning, no power whatsoever!). If you think that was bad wait till you hear the rest. The “office” was about the size of my sink!
Crammed into the space were about 20-odd people, 3 females and the rest, males. There were no seats let alone standing room so I wondered whose bright idea it was to build a closed-off wooden partition to the side, further reducing the space in the room. Hopefully, it led to where I was going to. I managed to maneuver my way to what appeared to be a front desk. I saw 3 sweaty people seated across from a man. I pointedly ignored them and addressed him. 
“Good afternoon sir,” I always bring my manners. “I am here for an interview with Harvest MFB”

“That’s ok. You can wait.” 

Say what?! Did I hear right? Was this it? This? Dirty walls, wooden bench squealing under the weight of the 6 jobseekers fighting for balance on it, the overflowing waste bin to the side, the other jobseekers taking up all the space by the stained, open windows, all straining to catch a breath of exhaust-filled air from the streets. Not to mention the shelves which held tile samples? As I took all this in, I instinctively reached for my cellphone. Come and get me! I nearly screamed into the mouthpiece but DD was not answering. 
Midway through my second attempt I cut the call as my mind went back to some urban legend about recruitment agencies operating from dingy offices that placed jobbers in good name companies. I call it an urban legend because I personally do not know anyone (Or anyone who knows anyone for that matter) who got employed in a big name company through such operations. Then again, there’s a first time for everything. I had also heard of the “agencies” that demanded “processing fee” for your application. A part of me prayed this was one of those so I could bail early and put this down to a very bad encounter with scam-artists!
The loudness of my ring tone jarred me alert. I stepped out to the verandah and took my call...
To Be Continued...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Monday Misery

I’ve been seated at my desk for the past hour and a half waiting for my most annoying two hours of the day but Mr. B seems to be running late. I hear him approaching I quickly switch windows from my Facebook page to the latest proposal I am working on.

Good morning, I say from my desk, acting all chirpy. He replies and begins settling down opening laptops and things.

I wait.

No call to come round for the meeting. I’m still waiting but it's 45 minutes gone since he stepped in. I’m practically hyper-ventilating in excitement at the thought of no meeting today.

Lunchtime and still no word! Wow! He probably got tired of answering his owns questions or watching me glaze over while he unraveled his plans for the future. I’m sincerely hoping they work out for him because I’m seriously looking forward to my lunch.

Now don’t be too hasty to imagine me the worst employee in history. The most challenging exercise you could put me through on a Monday morning would be to open my eyes. It’s neither the thought of going back to my mind-numbing job after an equally tedious weekend nor the hassle of avoiding oncoming pedestrian traffic and screaming conductors. I’ve often wondered why everyone else seems to walk in a direction opposite to mine and I end up nearly losing my shoulders to Lagosians.

This is not your usual Monday Morning Meeting held in the boss’ office with the rest of the staff or the type held in a boardroom where you get to act like you’re not noticing the cute guy from IT across the conference table.


Because the only person I get to not avoid watching at this meeting is… my Boss. Yes. Monday Morning meeting attendance is just me, and my boss.

Before you start shaking your head in wonderment let me enlighten you slightly. I had known Mr. B long before I came to work for him. When I was putting together an event for an NGO I worked for during one of the numerous ASUU/NASU/SSANU strikes, I met with a number of sponsors. He was very helpful then, and at the end of the meeting he gave me his card and asked me to keep in touch. I didn’t. But he did so I came to work for him right after school.
You can imagine my surprise on resuming work only to find I’m practically unlocking the office doors because there’s no one there. I thought there would be other people but he reassured me that they would join us at the end of the month.

Well… it’s been FOUR!

Monday Morning Meeting started two months back and I begin to imagine even Mr B has begun to see the ludicrousness of the whole thing. We have no accounts per se, we’re basically pitching left, right and centre. It appears as though other agencies are three steps ahead of us because just as we get to the prospective client, we learn that they’ve just bought the idea of the last company but would consider us gladly next year. The world of marketing communications in this country I have come to know is a boulevard of man-know-man.
Your idea could be as popular as sand or as refreshing as bottled water, if you have no insider, your proposal is as good as dead. And my boss the ex-engineer is not exactly a people person.

Ok, maybe we needed to review our progress but did we really have to “meet”? We shared an office for crying out loud. So meeting would involve me dragging my seat over to his desk and sitting poised with my pen and paper, ready to take notes. Oh you didn’t think I actually said anything did you?

I read the minutes of the last meeting, he asks where we are on so and so and I pretty much answer that I am awaiting so and so response from blah-blah about this and that and what not- Which is not always a lie!

Or I reply that the job is at Mr. Iyke’s, our unofficial creative person, by the way. You see, I pass on frameworks of the proposals I’m working on so he can mix in some colour and graphics for presentation to clients. That is pretty much how we get our work done. Mr. Iyke still has his regular job and he is not about to quit so we depend on his schedule a lot to deliver our presentations.

Did I say “our”, I meant MY presentations. I go alone on all these marketing runs. All this is apart from the magazine subscriptions I have to sell also!

I forgot to mention. Some South African magazine wants to break into Nigeria but they intend to sell only subscriptions. Guess what the magazine is all about… Diamonds. It brings to light all the latest discoveries in diamonds, where to buy how to spot the flawed ones. Very informative you’d say. But would you like to subscribe for a year? I didn’t think so.

I’m shutting down now, ready to skip off to lunch and he summons me with his index finger. Index finger!

What?! A new prospect, come up with an innovative idea that could turn around the market share and generate… Sigh. I can't possibly hate my life more than I do already can I?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wedding Wahala

Stuck at a table occupied by married men and their wives, I feel awfully invisible. Men! I hate coming to weddings on my own. I would have come with Ivy but she is busy playing house with her boyfriend this weekend. Not that I begrudge her being with her boyfriend…

Who am I kidding?! Of course I do. She is one of my closest friends afterall and official ‘handbag’ cum arm candy for such occasions.

(We’ll get into the why-I-do-not-have-a-boyfriend issue much later, thank you!)

So, here I am, as I said, stuck at a table with married men and their wives. The men, of course, doing all they can to ignore me and the women casting ‘pitiful’ glances at me. That is, the ones that are not eye-balling me from time to time trying to make sure I don’t slip their husbands my number just before I exit the table. As if!

Although, the husband sitting directly opposite should make a lovely dish… Oh Stop it!

There were four couples in all – at this one table oh! And it’s not like I just came in and joined them, the first two couples saw me sitting all by myself at the empty table at the very far end of the reception hall and they all crowded in around me. Soon enough their very good friends, Couple No. 3 show up and then there’s Couple No. 4.

Now this is where it gets uncomfortable because when they arrive, they assume I am a part of the other Couples’ posse. So Husband No. 4 asks who I came with, I can’t help but sense all other conversation stop on account of that particular query because you know they are all just dying of curiousity.

No one, I say, I’m here alone.

Ow! He says.

And you know that “Ow!” people say when they don’t really know what to say to you after you give a reply they are not expecting. He nods at me with a goofy grin and promptly resumes his conversation with his friend. Other conversations resume as well and I am left alone to relive my two seconds of fame. It’s that guy’s wife that’s been smiling politely at me ever since.

I’ve been smiling back… just that my facial muscles are straining with the effort!

Sure enough, when the food arrives– and this is where it shifts from uncomfortable to weird- it so happens that the two waiters trays can only take four plates so of course the wives quickly arrange themselves and their husbands leaving me, Miss Fifth-Wheel (or Ninth Wheel, or spare tyre if you like!)

One of the husbands actually wanted to hand me his plate but when we observed his wives’ compressed lips I quickly declined.

And you know how these things are- the waiters never come back!

I tried to mellow the grumbling in my tummy with some warm juice – yes, warm juice straight from the warehouse- but the juice only worsened my condition and then I needed to pee.

I ask the nice lady who has been smiling at me to help watch my sit. On my way out, the bride catches my eye and I see her questioning look so I quickly reassure her with what sign language I know that I’ll be back.

The bride immediately returns her attention to her cake and feeding her brand new husband with such speed that I wonder if I was ever the subject of her questioning look. Maybe I was. She did insist I come. She is my ex-boyfriend’s sister. I know it's a funny, weird relationship but we really did like each other so we maintained the relationship even when mine with her brother went to pieces.

I was supposed to be part of the Aso-ebi people but I couldn’t afford it, not on my “inconvenience allowance”. So I opted for a not too similar design, but same color of Java print.

There’s nothing worse than pretending to be part of what you are not so I really felt sorry for the girl who was trying to pass up her Ankara as one of the others. She was even posing for pictures with the entire crew thereby making it obvious not only to the guests present but also everyone else who will eventually see the album, that she did not buy Aso-ebi!

Why do you think I was sitting all the way at the back girl?!

After relieving myself, I’ve made my way back to my table and Oh, that lovely lady, do you know she saved a plate for me?

I smile even more naturally at her as I thank her profusely but as I make to lift my fork, someone else quickly lifts the plate out of range.

All my hackles rise up instantly to take on the culprit only for Lovely Lady to explain that the food was for Couple No.3’s wife who had to go answer a call and by the way here was my purse.

Chai! Me and smiling, trust me now? I smiled graciously and collected my purse which had incidentally received some of the spilled wine. You simply cannot imagine my mortification because the militant expression on my face made it apparent to all present that I really needed that food, badly!

Lovely Lady lived up to her appellation though as she helped summon a nearby waiter. Thankfully, the couples had gone to give presents or dance or spray money on the bride and groom.

Just as I begin to wolf down my meal, I sight my ex with his gorgeous brand new girlfriend and my throat dries up instantly.

This is really not my day!