Happy Friday

Happy Friday

There is a man who stands at the entrance of the lift on the ground floor of your office building. He greets you with a broad smile as you approach the lift and lets you know that he has called the lift. “Oga, it is coming down,” he announces, as though looking at the numbers on the display changing in reverse order is a job for him alone.

He wears a pale blue shirt tucked into navy blue trousers with the seriousness of an employee on his first day at work. When he moves his cap slightly to scratch his head, you see that he is bald and his fingernails are long. You wince before you hear the sound and you are surprised that the sound is not as harsh as you expected. He taps his black baton, which hangs by his side, and you nearly forget that both of you have been waiting for a full sixty seconds.

In the lift, his shirt is not pale blue but faded blue, and the cracks which extend for a few millimetres from the buckle holes on his imitation leather belt, remind you of harmattan, of chapped lips in need of Vaseline.

“Oga, seven or ten?”

You are usually among the first to arrive at the office. Sometimes you get off on the seventh floor. Sometimes you get off on the tenth floor.

“Choose.”

“Ehn?”

“You choose the floor.”

His fingers hesitate at the control panel. “Ten sir. Ten, because the higher you go, de more money you go get.”

He smiles and some of the years roll off his face. You think of your late father and swallow a lump.

“Ten it is then.”

You no longer hold your breath when you ride with Joe. The smell of day-old perspiration has grown on you, just as the way his black shoes shine and reflect light, no longer fascinates you.

Joe clears his throat.

“Oga, today is Friday.”

“I know.”

You know because you woke up at 4 a.m. to complete the presentation for your meeting at ten. However, you can tell it is not the response Joe was expecting because he clears his throat again.

“Oga, happy Friday, sir.”

You think it is too early, but the weight of expectation that causes his words to land on your shoulders, the demands of communal responsibility that is thrust on you for earning a certain level of income, and the unspoken rules of this ritual, constrain you to respond.

“I’ll see you later.”

Joe clears his throat yet again. “Oga I will close early today.”

He has taken a gamble and he watches to see where the dice will roll. Only he does not let it stop. “It’s okay oga, I will wait.”

Your irritation vanishes.

“God bless you sir,” he calls as you walk out the lift.

When you close, he is there. On the ground floor. Saying, “Happy Friday,” to a colleague. He monitors you from the corner of his eyes, eyes that fill with indecision as you walk past. He must be aware of the foolishness of abandoning the fish in front of him, to dash and catch you. So he calls out, “Oga, abeg, I will soon finish!”

You almost laugh, in amusement, but check yourself. It is shameful that this culture dignifies begging and elevates it to an art form, complete with colloquialisms—How weekend sir? Anything for the boys sir? Oga we dey here o? Happy weekend, and so on.

An old man. A beggar. A corporate beggar. A beggar cushioned against the sun and the rain. A beggar in uniform. A professional beggar.

He catches up with you outside as you head for the car park.

Breathing hard, he declares, “Happy Friday sir!”

You hand over a couple of notes.

“God bless you sir! Your family will never suffer. Your wife will born plenty children, strong boys. Your children will become great ….”

You do not pay attention as you keep walking. What is his life like? What qualifications does he have? You turn to ask. But, Joe has resumed duty on the stairs leading to the entrance doors, his head bowed slightly and his hands outstretched.

You let your shoulders sag. “Happy Friday Joe,” you mumble, knowing that his praise-singing would have drowned out everything you intended to say.

In the car, before you turn on the ignition, you pull out a couple of notes from your wallet and leave them on the passenger seat. They are for Adamu and the others who man the security gate.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

 

Photo credit: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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27 thoughts on “Happy Friday

  1. It’s realities like this that fuel my dreams. One day, I’m going to see human beings in Nigeria live with the pride and decency of humanity. One day, tips will be no more than friendly courtesy not a necessity for the receiver.

    My breath quickens in anticipation of the time when Nigeria will have proud sons and daughters who know that their lives are worth something. I live for the day that Adamu will not grovel and dehumanize himself to keep food on the table, for the day that his friends will not drown themselves in paraga because it’s cheaper to forget than to remember who you are.

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  2. Hahaha…i’ll just have to come back on Friday to put up a proper comment and get my accrued ‘Happy Friday’ profits…

    You’ve characteristically blogged on the seemingly mundane highlights of our interesting culture. The things we’ve acclamatized to…I love and applaud your skill and forthrightness…Thanks for sharing.

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  3. As we’re talking about this let’s address the issue of our tendency to re-brand/re-define our art of begging:

    My band members and I have finally decided that it is time to take our music seriously. So, we started a brainstorming session on fundraising ideas and I said, “I have a brilliant idea! Let’s just beg people. It’s that simple!”

    Then this lady – might I add that she is definitely Nigerian – turned towards me, her eyes burning with intellectual indignation, “It’s not begging. It’s called lobbying, you get it?” The others nodded in agreement, and for the rest of the session, I was quiet.

    Why we beg we can’t even admit it. *drops mic and walks away*

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    1. Rebranding Begging… lol, that should have been the title of my blog post!

      There’s another type of “corporate lobbying” where employees “lobby” contractors for some of the proceeds of their contract payments 🙂 More “distinguished” than the Joes of this world!

      Thanks for being here worshipandswag. Where’s the fundraising/begging/lobbying party at?

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  4. I’m oh too familiar with the Joes and Janes, all those our special uncles and aunties. God knows there are places I can’t visit without bringing “Something for the boys”. The one thing that both amuses and annoys me are their funny prayers. Who said I wanted plenty children or even “strong boys” for that matter? Buts know, it’s all good cause in their own little way, they mean well…

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    1. Ochuko, it seems we all are familiar with “… the demands of communal responsibility!” I don’t know if it’s always a good thing though- this expectation that is often demanded as if it is a right… And ah, the prayers… they would mean something if they were more than lip service.

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      1. It’s a culture now. So the vast majority act like they’re entitled to your money. However, sometimes, you have only to consider what the realities are: poor remuneration versus stacked responsibilities and life’s demands; a sense of frustration and inability to get more out of life; an inherited culture of poverty and fear of want. The sense of entitlement is a grave problem and worthy od consideration in our reactions, but the other troubles should not be ignored either, they are real enough.

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  5. This is a serious issue and i think the people should discourage it… I work at Ikeja and on the average i get at least three persons begging me for money daily, not to talk of the Joes at offices, eateries and malls harassing one for tips.
    It’s a bad culture but i think those who are so deprived accommodate the pandering and genuflections that come from the Joes…
    One wonders do they know the effects of such on the job Joe is employed for?
    A man should be proud and contended with whatever job he has but if he can’t make ends meet, quit the job and take another, simple.
    As a rule, i don’t give street beggars, or corporate beggars anything!

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  6. Infact I got one of those this past friday but the sad thing about it is that you’ll think its bcos they don’t earn enuf but you’ll find most of them blowing your money away in the beer palour that same evening or the whole of that weekend. There something about money one gets by false praise, pretence or lies it doesn’t do the ‘getter’ much good. So i’ve resolved not to be pressured into giving , I give when I want to not bcos of how many happy Fridays I get

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  7. I suppose saying happy friday immunizes them against the shame and indignity of direct begging…
    I still owe some people ‘happy friday’ handshakes o!

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    1. ‘Dare, hmmm, it has been elevated to an art form. I dare say there is no shame, except for newbies to the trade, who will soon be cured!

      Seriously, this type of begging *clears throat, ahem, ahem, tipping* is now part of our culture. I ‘tip’ when I can, if I want to… what irks me is the expectation that I will always do so, whether I receive service or not, and even after I receive shoddy service.

      About those happy Friday handshakes, you can be sure, they’ll not forget… pay up! 🙂

      Like

  8. Sometimes I wonder if this professional begging and dispensing of God bless yous, etc ,etc, will ever stop. I also wonder if these beggars will ever aspire to become the Ogas, the dispensers themselves at all in their life time.

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    1. Some of them are in very dire circumstances and cannot see beyond the Happy Friday stipend. It is a lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to and they see no reason to change. One problem I noticed when I talked to a few of them is that their salaries cannot cover their expenses. But they also tell many stories- mother died, child sick, etc, you cannot separate fact from fiction!

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  9. I’m very familiar with Joe’s character and that of the others portrayed in this narrative. Just because one wears fine clothes, cologne, Italian shoes, and then comes to work in an expensive car, he is regarded as “Oga-sir.” Such a person becomes a mobile ATM for the those below him, especially the security men and cleaners. Then what about if that “Oga” is the stingy type that doesn’t care about the feelings and indirect approaches of his subordinates? Man, that “Happy Friday”,”God bless you” and so on will gradually come to an end. The new story will be: “Dat Oga sef get aradite hand. E no dey send person!”

    Stories about life are just endless. Enjoyed reading this.

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    1. @mobile ATM lol. It’s not a bad idea to walk around with loose change 🙂 ! True Uzoma, so true. Some people think you owe them some of your hard-earned money and can become nasty when you don’t play ball.

      I love stories about life, about the human condition… I find myself in them.

      Like

  10. The triad of:
    “…weight of expectation…demands of communal responsibility…unspoken ritualistic rules….”
    sums it all up.

    I’m tempted to doubt if the act will ever cease. The embarassment inherent in one’s refusal just causes one to dole out the naira notes in pretended understanding.

    As always, your delivery is ever solid.
    Happy Sunday (not in the Friday sense though).

    Like

    1. Bunmioke, I feel you. Sometimes, it’s easier to throw a man a fish than to teach him to fish…
      Thank you for the compliment, which came ‘strategically’ before your ‘Happy Sunday’ 🙂

      Like

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