Day 1 – Monday, July 2, 2018
I woke up at 6:00am and started getting ready for my daily job searching routine on the streets. Of course I had to remind myself that for the past two years I had been a devoted sojourner of the streets and buildings in Kampala, Mbale, Mbarara, Kigali and Nairobi with my first class degree in Law safely tucked in my purse. However, today was going to be different, I was going to meet the Human Resource Manager of Christian Corporate Investments (CCI).
I carefully drafted a job application letter in which I stated that I wanted to work as an Office Administrator, the only available position in the company. I had applied for so many job titles so far and this was close to the 100th time I was applying for this one. I was ready to take up any job that I would get my hands on for as long as it would help me clear my accumulating bills, keep my standard of living basic (much as I would have preferred a beyond-the-basic standard) and give me an address.
My family members were very financially and emotionally supportive but I always desired to relieve them of the responsibility of taking care of an educated adult like me, at least, by earning some money. Like I do every other day, today I cursed joblessness, it was the reason for my misery.
I met this Human Resource Manager at a friend’s Bachelor’s party last Friday night in Ange-Noir Discotheque. He was introduced to me by the then groom-to-be as Jack and he became my dance partner at least for the 15 minutes that followed. We then became drinking partners when he bought me a glass of wine, which I drank along with the small talk that helped me learn that he was a potential employer.
Of course I had to tell him about my job status. We fixed an appointment right away. The time on the streets taught me to keep up the search no matter where, even in the Dance Hall I explored the opportunity. I had not registered any long standing success yet, but I chose to keep trying.
I had come close to getting a stable job about three months before. I met this man in my brother’s office; he was my brother’s client. After talking to him for close to five minutes I realized that he could turn into my long awaited salvation from the streets. Indeed I got the job after two weeks and I quit after one month and three days because he loaded me with more work than I had signed up for.
He had appointed me as a Clerk in his law firm. In addition to taking on a clerk’s normal work I served him his mid-morning tea which I would have to buy from a nearby restaurant, cleaned his office, dusted his jackets and shoes, run his personal errands like buying him snacks from a nearby supermarket and kept his female friends entertained and from running into each other and into his wife whenever they would be at office.
In addition to all this, he was demanding for sex from me on a daily basis. When a month ended, he did not pay me my monthly salary. Apparently, I needed to first spend ‘some quality time’ with him in a hotel as he put it. I quit.
I have met people in taxis, public libraries, parties, shops, among many other places and discussed possibilities of employment possibilities. Some of these chances have nearly worked out while others have not yielded anything. Sometimes my hopes are crushed mercilessly but I have learnt to gather my strength and get back to job hunting.
This morning I woke with a lot of hope. I took a quick cold shower, wore my black trouser suit with a cream shirt and folded the collar of the shirt above that of the jacket, to instantly give me an office look as opposed to the party-girl-look he had previously seen. I held my hair firmly from the back, pulled my most recent acquired pair of black leather open shoes (they were six months old) from my shoe collection and planted my obviously well shaped feet in them.
With my black purse and the black paper folder which was carrying my first class degree in Law, resume and other supporting documents I headed for a taxi. The taxi took an hour to get to Kampala town because of the never-ending morning traffic, but still I was early for the appointed time. Being an early bird gave me enough time to walk the streets and pray that for the first time, in a long time, I get this job at least.
My plea for the job was a tearful one, I reminded God of the hardships I have been through because I was idle, broke and without a job address.
Jack was the name of the man I was going to meet. At least that was the only name I knew! How would I sound if I walked into this man’s company and said ‘excuse me please, may I speak to Jack?’ How many prospective employees address their prospective employers by their first name? None. Absolutely none. At exactly a quarter to nine I started the 10 minute walk to Workers House. I went through the security booth at the entrance then headed for the elevators. I entered the one which was going up, instructed it to take me to the fourth floor and waited. Good enough I was alone in the elevator.
I cross checked my papers, just to make sure that I had carried them all, when the elevator stopped, I elegantly, confidently and smartly stepped out of the lift like a lady who owned an office on that floor. I walked to the door labeled CCI and stood in front of the counter opposite the entrance; it had the label ‘Receptionist’ on it. It was occupied by a good looking lady with chocolate brown complexion who appeared to be aged between 26 and 29 years. Like any other Christian organization, the reception area was well decorated with Christian related decor.
Pictures and paintings of famous churches, church leaders and evangelists and many biblical personalities hang on the reception wall and others stood on the table and the counter. Artistically written Christian messages were also well distributed in different corners of the reception wall and into the corridor. There was so much to keep the eyes busy.
“Good morning madam.” I flashed the smile I usually wore under such circumstances. Smiling is always the least I can do in exchange for civilized treatment, even in a public place.
“Hhhhh mmm?” Was her response. I had seen many rude secretaries and receptionists before but I thought this one would be different. She was beautiful, young, employed and it was a Monday morning. I almost helped her count her blessings.
And on the wall behind her, was the portrait of the famous, now smiling, Jesus Christ with his arms stretched out as if to embrace her. As I threw my eyes around the room in appreciation, the poor girl gazed at me, as if to scream ‘What the hell are you doing here?’
“I have a message for Jack.” I said this having realized that I needed to sound like I knew him on a very personal basis, well, I think I did after all we had danced together on Friday night. Can any relationship get more personal than this?
I was wearing a wide smile.
“Put it there!” She answered, pointing to a box on a table near her counter. She had not yet greeted me or even pretended to return the greeting I had given her; in fact she had not even looked at me. She was enclosed in a semi oval counter made of coffee brown wood which was in no doubt good mahogany. She was just staring at a computer throwing words at me.
“I am sorry. Much of it is verbal.” I still maintained the smile. “It is from his friend Joel Muhanguzi.” I still pretended to be calm; the cosmetic smile on my lips had not yet faded and I was determined to keep it that way. “He is actually waiting for me.” I quickly added. For the first time, lifted her head and her eyes looked at me, actually she looked into me.
She examined me so keenly that I wondered whether her eyes would get what she was looking for. She took her time and made me feel like a specimen. I still wonder whether she was impressed because I had not visited a saloon for over a month. Visiting a saloon is not a luxury one can afford on a regular basis especially when you have to depend on other people, like family members, to have a constant supply of the basic needs of an eligible grown up single lady.
I still furnished my appearance with the smile she did not take time to return or even notice. And I did not care. I needed a job.
“Last door on the left!” She snapped, with her eyes pointing into the corridor. I thanked her as if she deserved it and walked away without taking it personally. However, if I had the chance, I would have told her that practicing kindness especially when one is a receptionist was a professional requirement. I would have also requested her to keep her emotions personal; no body deserved to be put through her negative attitude especially on a Monday morning.
I knocked gently on this door and hoped I would be treated like a true citizen of the human race for the first time on this floor. I tenderly opened his office door and entered. He was on phone but he waved his hand, which summoned me to the chair in front of his table which I obediently occupied.
He remained on phone for the next five minutes and because I was idly waiting on a verdict from him; I could not help it but follow his conversation. I learnt that he was ordering someone to go to the airport and pick up his merchandise. These were big boxes containing shoes, bags and clothes for his business. I realized that I was here to meet a big person.
“Ruth, you are on time.” He addressed me after putting down the receiver.
“Good morning sir.” I stood up and offered him a business-like handshake, he however preferred to stand up, move to my chair, on the opposite side of the table and hug me. I tried not to show him that I was offended, I needed a job. My desire for a job made me swallow the bitter pill of the feeling a 28 year old gets when a potbellied grey haired man in his late 50s hugs her instead of discussing employment exploits.
He asked me about my life, directions to my house, what I did in the evenings and weekends and whether I had a boyfriend. I gave him the wrong directions to my house and I avoided the boyfriend-question and pretended to be busy getting my papers out of the folder for him to see. “Tell me about your boyfriend Ruth.” He insisted, with a wide ugly smile.
“Why would I tell you about my boyfriend?” I asked, wondering whether I needed to tell a potential male employer who was obviously undergoing a mid-life crisis and using his eyes to undress me that I had broken up with someone and that I had so far spent two years and six months crying over him and that it still hurt so much and that it was not his business!
I gave him my papers and to change the subject, I started showing and explaining to him the different certificates as if he had no eyes. He noted that he was impressed with my good grades and added that instead of employing me as an Office Administrator he would talk to a prominent lawyer friend of his, who he was sure needed a law graduate to employ in his firm. He however added that I had to first have a glass of wine with him at his house.
Grace with Evidence ~ to be continued…