As I sashayed to her office, like the corridor was a runway for a fashion parade, the soles of my shoes made tones that my waist seemed to be in tune with, my flare skirt was twirling like a tireless flag. A thought struck my mind as I was about to knock on her office door, so I skulked back before she would notice my presence.
“Tundun, I think I should not tell her as you suggested,” I said to my colleague as I got back into my office. “Didn’t I tell you? Things like that don’t make her happy. Gideon that was sitting in that seat you are now, do you know why he was sacked? He went to her to take permission to go for an interview. She knew Gideon was a Masters degree holder and didn’t deserve this meagre salary she pays us yet she sacked him while he was aiming for growth. Guess what she said to him!” Tundun said, pausing a bit for my reply.
‘What did she tell him?” I asked. “She said she has to relieve him of his duty so he could get more time to look around for another job. The man pleaded and he even asked his wife to call this woman, she didn’t agree.” I felt bad listening to Tundun’s account of Gideon and I was happy I haven’t told my boss about my intending journey.
“Bimbo used to be the boss’s favourite before you came. Her only offence was informing the boss she wanted to get married. That’s how she lost her competency and strong determination. Boss would say a good career woman will not be quick to think of marriage. Imagine! Bimbo was 29years at that time. That was how she left” Tundun said. She seemed to be enjoying her narration more than I was. She talks too much for my liking but that day, her talk was all the counsel and go-ahead I needed to lie to my boss.
“Okay, I will just call in sick on Monday. I will leave here on Sunday night and by Tuesday, I will resume back” I told Tundun. “It is that fast?” She asked me. “It is just to sign and stamp the documents, nothing much,” I told her knowing fully well what I was going for wouldn’t take more than a day.
On Monday, when I got to the registrar’s office, I was so positive I would be able to sign and leave in a few hours but after waiting for so many hours for the registrar without seeing him, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to Lagos that very day. I had to put in at a hotel, an additional cost I didn’t plan for but it was fine. The main thing was achieving what I was there for.
It became a problem when after 2days, I was still in town and the registrar hasn’t been on seat. It wasn’t his annual leave nor was there a seminar or an official meeting outside the school. “He didn’t say he won’t be coming. Maybe he just needed to rest at home because when he called he didn’t give any reason for not coming” the registrar’s secretary explained to me. “Please did you tell him an alumna is here to sign her documents?” I asked her. She stared at me in a manner that showed I said something senseless then she said “I can’t tell him something like that on the phone when it isn’t the VC that is looking for him”
During my undergraduate days, I knew it could take a week or more just to get a non-teaching staff to sign your course form. I remembered the day I had to stay 3 hours waiting for my HOD to get to the office and when she finally did, I rushed in to submit the form. Then she said, “Can’t you see I’m eating? You have no manners!” she snapped at me, almost spitting the apple she was chewing on my face.
I was naive and didn’t understand how eating fruit should obstruct the submission of my course form that was meant to be signed later. Not even after waiting for so long for her to get to work! The day when my bursary grant didn’t get signed as I was sent out of the bursary office because my hair extension was long and ” satanic” thus left to struggle for money the whole semester.
It is a Nigerian norm I shouldn’t be whining about it but bills were piling up; feeding and accommodation cost and the number of days I had stayed off work was a major concern. I had travelled with just a cloth with no intention of sleeping over in the town. There I was, still waiting on the registrar for days. He finally made it to the office on Thursday at around 10 am. He strutted into his office, ignoring the greetings of all of us waiting at the reception.
I was the first to get to the office so I knew I would be the first to be called in. I got myself prepared while I gave him some minutes to settle in. 30 minutes after he got in, I signalled to the secretary if I could go in “Go where? Didn’t you see he just got in?” She replied with a harsh tone. So I decided to sit and be calm. “There is no need to rush!” I thought.
One hour later, I tried fixing an eye contact with the secretary just maybe she would direct me in but she wasn’t looking my way. I walked up to her then she said “What’s the problem with you now? He is praying. Please sit down, when it is time to go in, I would let you know.”
I was gobsmacked at her nonchalant and peevish attitude. She knew I had been there for days but acted like it was nothing. I held my face from showing the shock. How could anyone come late to work and take forever to settle in?
That moment, my four years on campus flashed before my very eyes; the mental stress to keep up with good grades, the physical exhaustion that comes with waking early to get to class before it got filled, the days I was stampeded while fighting for space in the queue for exams. I remembered the days I wouldn’t eat because I didn’t have enough to feed and buy handout so I would go hungry to buy the handout. The fasting and prayer against sadistic lecturers.
By the time I snapped out of my thoughts, I noticed I had been sobbing so I wiped my tears, picked my documents and went straight to the door of the registrar’s office. I was so determined not to be stopped and I guessed the secretary got the message so she kept her cool. As I got to the door, I knocked twice and opened. There he was, scrolling through and smiling at his phone while I waste time waiting for him to call me in.
I held my anger and greeted him “Good afternoon sir” he raised his face and looked at me in the most spiteful way, more to say he just sighted an irritable animal. “Who called you here?” he asked. “I’m sorry sir. I have been coming around since Monday just to get you to sign my documents but…” I noticed I was sounding angry and rude, so I paused, swallowed enough saliva to soothe my veins and then continued, “I’m sorry sir, I really need to sign these documents today. My boss at work has already been calling me, I might lose my job if I don’t get back to work tomorrow ”
He picked on the pen on his table and without raising his head, he threw the pen at me “if you really have to sign those documents, then sign them.” I was perplexed and weak. I didn’t know what to do next. If I should scream and protest or kneel and beg.
While I was thinking of what to do next, he started speaking to someone on the phone, “I’m sorry sir. I have been so occupied that I forgot the time for the meeting, I will be there soon.” As soon as he dropped the call, he started packing the papers scattered on the table. I didn’t need to be told to get out, so I walked out. The secretary seemed to have known what had happened to me inside as she burst into laughter as I stepped out. I had never felt so humiliated in my life. The registrar walked out minutes after for the meeting.
I waited till the closing hour and he was nowhere to be found. Just as I was about to leave, I saw him in the company of some other men who he had attended a meeting with. “You are still here, I hope you haven’t called the police to arrest me,” he called out to me exposing his lucky gap as he smiled. I was surprised at the change in countenance, this was someone who was irritated by me hours ago, suddenly smiling at me.
“Let me see the documents,” he said. I hurriedly gave them to him before he could change his mind. I walked behind him into his office and in two minutes, he was done with the signing and stamping of the documents. I should be happy but instead, a deep resentment towards him was aroused in me. Why should I have waited for 4days to get two minutes of his time? I thought so bitterly.
“Am I free now?” he asked still smiling like he just signed an endorsement deal. “Yes sir, thank you” I replied just as courtesy demands not because I really had to thank him.
As I was moving out, I slipped a paper into the complaint box with the inscription:
“For every file left unattended to
For every signature that is delayed –
A destiny is shattered”
Even when I knew no change would be effected, I felt good that I wrote that. I immediately made for the park after. I didn’t have to check the hotel, I had cleared the bills before I left in the morning. I was lucky to get the last available seat on the next bus. It wasn’t too late so I was positive I would make it to Lagos before dawn.
I was lucky I got to Lagos around 2:30 am. The driver has reneged his promise to drop me off at Ojota park so instead, I had to alight at Chinese; a junction known to be a hideout for pilferers. I had checked my Uber app just before I alighted from the bus. Luckily, I got an Uber just 2 minutes drive away from my location. I was happy that I could get my way home and freshen up before leaving for the office the next morning. Tundun had promised to get me a medical proof to back up my supposed sickness so I was no longer bothered about my boss.
As the Uber-man got to where I was, I hurried into the car. I had hardly set my butt on the seat when he said: “wait, I want cash trip!” I explained to him that I had no cash on so he should let’s make do with the card payment. “So them no give you money where you dey come,” he said with a lecherous voice as he made to touch my breast. I was infuriated. “What’s your problem? Are you mad?” I shouted but that wouldn’t stop him. I quickly got down, slamming the door of the car. He laughed at me, called me asewo and zoomed off.
I was pained and helpless. Weary from the arduous journey and bothered about the men on the other side of the road who were already paying attention to me. As the men made to cross the road, I waved down a car. I was lucky it stopped. It was a private car but I got in like I was being chased without checking who the driver was. “They are thieves! Move!” I said as I got into the car.
The good Samaritan got me home safely and I couldn’t be more thankful for his help. As I got to my desk at work in the morning, my sack letter was waiting for me. There was nothing to say to help myself out. Tundun, who I have confided in, has snitched on me. The boss knew about my scholarship and why I had been absent for days.
The worse was that I have been accused of speaking ill of my boss before leaving. So many “you said…” that I couldn’t have thought of. I was confused as to why Tundun who spoke of the boss with so much resentment before I left could have betrayed me and even lie against but it didn’t have to make sense, it was what it was.
As I left the office, I remembered my mother’s words, “your colleague is your colleague, the one who you share office and work ideas with not your confidant or a human diary who you share your personal thought with.”
Well, I lost my job! My scholarship didn’t get through as I couldn’t meet the deadline for the submission of the required documents. The courier service I used made sure my already-late submission got there later. I lost all but I met the love of my life in it all; the good Samaritan later became my husband and the wonderful father of my kids.