Have you ever had to take a job you absolutely hated but had to do because of money issues? Or probably the money was good and it was a motivation to do the
darn job anyway?
I heard someone say that he could do any job at all, even if he hated it, as long as the money was good. Now I’m not talking about illegal stuff here. Just the good old, ‘I don’t like marketing but I’ll do it if the pay is good’ situation. I know a lot of Naija folks are conversant with this dilemma, and we have grown a thick skin where it is concerned but still, e no easy o.
I got to thinking about it and this little story came to me.
It’s totally Fiction, so any similarities with real life situations are purely coincidental.And please bear with me, it’s kinda long.
I walked out of the room about thirty minutes after I heard the door open. My wife must have come in with her keys. I was enjoying my pre-night relaxation so much I had drifted off to sleep again. I woke with a start worried that she hadn’t come into the room to check on me.
I found her on the sofa closest to the main entrance of our ground floor apartment, totally knocked out, her bag was on the floor beside her, her heeled shoes were still on her feet, her mouth was slightly open and she was snoring lightly. Her arms hung loosely over the chair.
I looked her over shaking my head in mild anger. Why did she have to go through this?
“Honey.” I cooed. She stirred a little, uttered some gibberish and fell back into sleep. “Honey, get up. You need to undress at least.” I caressed her cheek with the back of my fingers.
“Hmmm, what… where am I?” she scrambled up, looking around. She instantly relaxed when she saw me. “Ha darling, have you had dinner? I’m sorry, I’m just so tired.”
“Yes Hon, I warmed up the food you packed in the freezer. Come, let’s go inside.”
I carried her bag and pulled her along. She sat on the bed in the room, waited a little while and fell back, landing on the bed with a thud. I smiled and shook my head. This was getting too much for her.
I knelt on one knee and proceeded to free her of the stiletto-like heels. The move reminded me of three years ago when I took the same position, only then she was giggling shyly not half asleep, drugged tired by meaningless work. I helped her undress and get ready for bed.
She mumbled a thank you and was about to drift off for the night.
“You’re quitting that job. And I mean it.” I didn’t know where the thought came from. I just knew I had to say it. She bolted up on the bed and looked me straight in the eyes; all thoughts of sleep vanished instantly. She swallowed noisily but didn’t say a word.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” I half expected her to protest and beg me to have a rethink; after all we've had this talk before. She simply shook her head and shrugged.
I turned my back to her and pulled the bedcovers over my head, “Settled then, good night.”
“You can’t make me do that.” her voice was so small, I barely heard her. “I won’t sit at home and do nothing.”
“I haven’t asked you to sit and do nothing. But I won’t let you work your fingers to the bone for a lousy job that pays you less than you need to survive for one week!” I tried to control my voice.
“Look. I know it’s not much but do I have a choice?”
“Yes, you do, Tina, you have plenty choices.”
“You could start a business…”
“You know I’m not the business type, I wouldn’t know what to do!”
“You always say that but you haven’t tried. You haven’t tried anything else but work for a company that doesn’t not care about your welfare. Tell me, has the HMO thing been settled?”
“Well, they’ve had some issues with the health insurance company….”
“What happens if you’re to put to bed tomorrow, they don’t have you on insurance and we get to pay out of pocket?” Wrong example, I thought, as I looked at her. She’s been talking about babies for a while now and frankly I’m not ready. I hoped she was still on the pill. She was sulking now. I had to look for a quick diversion.
“Ok, how many leave days do you get in a year? 10 days, just 10 days in a whole year! You’re a graduate for heaven’s sake!”
“Well, will you get me another job?” she shot back. That caught me unawares.
“I…I’m looking out. I gave your CV to a couple of people. They should…..”
“How many people, if I may ask?” she cocked her head and narrowed her eyes, watching my every move.
“Look that’s not the point. The point is you’re expending too much energy on a job that gives you next to nothing. It’s not a good deal o.”
I sat up and leaned against the head board. She rubbed her palms across her face and sighed. She shook her legs rhythmically and I knew I had upset her sore. But I had to get it in her head. We could survive on my income, I thought if we spend well.
Without another word, she laid back and pulled the covers over her head.
I woke up to find a note beside the bed; she had gone off to work. I yawned loudly and stretched with pleasure. It was the third day of my annual leave and I planned to relax fully. I picked up the note and read…
I was really hurt yesterday by the way you spoke to me. You spoke as if I’m just being stubborn and uncooperative. It’s just that I believe things will get better and I just have to pay my dues. I’m getting some experience at least. Anyway, we’ll talk more over the weekend, not tonight please.
There’s boiled yam in the kitchen, you can take it with fried eggs or the peppered stew in the freezer. Have a great day, and don’t enjoy too much without me. :)
I smiled, folded the note neatly and placed it back. Sure thing, boiled yam sat on the stove waiting. I warmed it up and fried an egg. I was about to settle down to breakfast when my phone rang.
“Hello,” I breathed into the phone wondering who was interrupting my well planned morning.
“Hey, Fola. What’s up? Started your leave?” It was James. Why wasn’t he using his phone?
“J-boy, yes o, I have. How’s your end?”
“I’m on the Island with my brother in-law. I had some things to clear up. Anyways was just calling to tell you I won’t be available for the system check tomorrow.”
System check? My mind raced. Oh! I totally forgot. I had promised to check out the mail server James just purchased for his business. Thank God he had cancelled.
“Oh, no problems at all, some other time then.”
“So, you’re with your brother in law eh? The immigration guy?”
James’s brother in law, Chima, was Deputy Comptroller of the Nigerian Immigration.
“Yes, in fact. They’re preparing for a mass inspection of some corporate facilities, especially manufacturing outfits.”
“Really? Why?” I was curious.
“Oh well, there’s word that some of them are operating with illegal documents.”
“Yes, and they’re doing it in concert with FIRS, you know tax issues are also involved. Most of these companies are owned by foreigners and some don’t have the required papers that authorize them to operate.”
“Wow, that’s big. But seriously James, I usually am of the opinion that our authorities are not sincere, they probably get something from these guys and let them off easy.”
“Well, I doubt that will happen this time. I’m going with them though. Some adventure.”
“Really?” What about his work?
“I’m hoping to get some business from them so I wanna stay on their radar screen.”
“Oh! That explains a lot. Hmmm, guy na wa for you. Anyways have fun.” I was about to sign off when a thought struck me. “Come to think of it, Tina works for a manufacturing firm o. And it’s owned by some foreigners.”
“Really? Which one?” I told him the name. “Well, I wouldn’t know. I could ask though, if it’s on the list. Anyways bros, I gat to go. Enjoy your leave. I’ll swing around to say hi.”
I thought long and hard about it when James hung up. Could Tina’s company be one of them? If it is, then that’s the last bundle of straw and the camel’s back is shattered. I’ll just wait and see.
I took the rest of the afternoon to go through my budget, stock earnings and financial health generally. It wasn’t looking good. The stocks no longer made sense. The recent cuts in my income had just dawned on me. I pushed the papers aside and signed. Did I really think we could survive on my income? Maybe for a while but if things didn’t improve, I’ll soon be groping in the dark. I didn’t think we should start a family just yet. We’re young and I want the best life for my kids when they finally arrive, not this here today, gone tomorrow unstable financial life.
Tina came home at 7pm, earlier than usual. She seemed to have lot on her mind. She shuffled around the house mumbling to herself, I stayed out of her way until I could no longer take it.
I grabbed her shoulders as she walked past me, taking some clothes to the washer.
“Hey, babes, what’s eating you up?”
She stopped and looked at me blankly. “Nothing.”
“Nothing? Are you sure?” I wasn’t convinced.
“It’s just, you may be right.” She shrugged. “I may have to quit the job anyhow.”
I hoped she didn’t see the look of triumph in my eyes. When I spoke, I tried to sound only mildly interested.
“Hmm, hmm. So, what happened?”
“FIRS, Immigration! That’s what happened!” she shot back, shaking visibly.
“Hey, relax Hon. Come, sit.” I led her to the sofa. She sat heavily and turned to me.
“The company came under fire today o. Immigration and FIRS guys came snooping. And they found everything.” She slapped her palms on her tights with so much force, I winced.
“Like what?” I asked. She shook her head, sniffed and pinched her nose.
“Everything! They have not been paying taxes; they don’t even have the right papers. And the authorities also found about our peculiar working conditions, you know. I don’t know where all these will end now.” She wrung her hands, clearly exasperated. I didn’t quite get what she was talking about.
“Unusual working conditions? Help me here. I don’t get.”
She shrugged, trying to make light of the issue, “You know, locking the gates when workers arrive, no gas mask or boots for the factory workers and paying a paltry sum to injured workers before letting them off.” If she was trying to play down the severity of the situation, she was doing a bad job of it. I was appalled. How come I never got wind of this before? And how come nobody ever reported such issues?
I leaned back on the chair and took it all in. Those guys must be put under serious fire; they shouldn’t be allowed to operate at all if they couldn’t abide by the laws. I turned to look at Tina who was now lost in thought, her chin in her palm, a faraway look in her eyes. I wondered what she was thinking about. I pulled her close and she leaned into me. She was leaving that place and that was final.
“Why, Tina? Why do you hold on to this job? You get to do more than you’re paid for. HR/Admin and Finance assistant? Whoever heard of such burden in the name of work? You deserve more than what you’re getting babe.”
She sighed and blew a shaky breath. A lone tear rolled down her plump cheeks. I put my arms around her and wiped her tears.
She shouldn’t have had to go through all this. I felt like I had failed her. Like I should have done more to protect and provide for her. Were those not the words I vowed on our wedding day, the same I had whispered to her at those moments? Where had I gone wrong? I’m responsible for her. I had better step up my game.
I chided myself.
The next morning, Tina wanted to go back to the office to pack up her things and see what had happened after the disruption of work the day before.
Indeed a lot had happened. The ministry of environment had also visited. The offence was improper disposal of factory waste. The owners had created a drainage that dumps untreated waste water directly into the canal that runs into the lagoon. Now this is a prime offence as far as the state government was concerned, no way around it, the factory had to be closed down.
I was amazed at the turn of events when she ‘gisted’ me these issues later that evening.
“Really? So what happens now?” I asked, astonished. I hadn’t expected things to turn out this way. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.
She shrugged. ”I wouldn’t know. All I know is they’re going to be out of business for quite a while, if they ever get out of this. I must confess this is different. The other times when the FIRS and Immigration came snooping. They went into the MD’s office frowning and came out smiling and that was that.”
“Wow. It’s certainly waterloo now.”
“Yes, it is. It really is.”
She fell silent. I knew what she was thinking. She looked at her fingers and twisted them around. What to do now? I cleared my throat and shifted on the seat.
“Look at me, please.” I lifted her chin with my finger, her eyes met mine. “We will not lack anything as long as it is within my power. We’ll be alright and it won’t be long, we’ll get you started on something better. Please, just bear with me on this.”
She looked into my eyes, deep way down into my soul like she was searching for something. Then she nodded and placed her head on my chest. I sighed deeply and stroked her hair. My mind raced as thoughts chased each other around. I grabbed blindly at them and forced them into a queue. First things first. I’ll speak to Femi, my friend at People prime. Who knows, there may be some vacancies somewhere. Then we’ll explore the possibility of Tina starting a business. I just have to convince her to give it a try. I married a workhorse, I’m sure she’ll put her all into it. I also need to look into the possibility of doing something else myself. My ever dependable job is actually looking less inviting now, what with the pay cuts and all.
I sighed. Sufficient for today are these troubles that surround us. Tomorrow comes early and I’m hoping hope rises with it.
One week later, I stepped into my house, tired and a little confused. All the avenues are looking bleak. No vacancies yet, it had just been a week but I couldn’t wait to get something going for Tina. I hated to see her just sit home all day, cooking and cleaning. If she doesn’t like it, I don’t like it either.
I sniffed, my nose in the air. Something smelled great.
“Honey? I’m here. What’s cooking?”
She sashayed into the living room, all smiles. I took in the scent of her as she did a little dance, drew close and put her arms around my neck.
“How was your day, darling?” her eyes danced around my face, taking in every detail. I answered her question with a long sweet kiss. Her smile widened when we come up for air.
I couldn’t wait to be let in on the secret to her bubbly disposition.
“What’s the good news? Please, tell me, I can take it. In fact, after all the stress of today, I could do with some good news.”
“Well, you’ll have to take a wild guess.” She teased. I looked up to the ceiling, my finger on my chin.
“Bingo! You got a job!” What else could make her so excited? She cracked up at my enthusiastic answer. I like the sound of her laughter. The stress of the daily grind almost robbed us of such moments.
“Nooo,” she rested her hands on my chest, and I put my arms around her waist. “But before I tell you, I want to say that, Darling I believe everything will be fine with us. You know financially and in every way. We just have to keep trying. Hmmm, ok?”
I nodded, with a comical ‘get to the point’ look on my face.
She smiled and shifted on one foot. She licked her lips and looked deep into my eyes,
“Darling, I’m pregnant.”
Oh My God! No!
The look of utter shock on my face must have confused her. I was about to ask ‘what happened to the pill?’ when I smelt burning food. I scrunched my nose.
“Oh, I’m sorry. The stew!” she shrieked and hurried into the kitchen.
Grateful for the distraction, I took the next few minutes to regain my balance, whatever happened to my well laid plans?
I should be happy but frankly, I just want to faint.
Hmmm, You feel Tina?