Drawing the Line

relationships

I once had a client, a man with lofty ideas and limited resources, whose business was pertinent to the success of mine.

In those days, a Lagos bus conductor who did not have adequate change for his customers, would ‘join’ two or three passengers together by giving one of them the total value of their change.

At their stop, he would explain to them, in between soliciting new passengers and calling out the names of the bus stops ahead, that he did not have enough change. Then he would give one passenger a single Naira note, which represented all of their change, as the bus driver rode away. We understood that as far as change went, our fate was sealed with that passenger and we had to find a way to split the change.

I have walked away from this arrangement—the huddling, the debate, the shadowing the ‘lead’ passenger as he perambulates in search of change, so we would not be duped twice—without my change because time was more important to me than it was to the others.

I felt as though my client was the passenger with our change but this time, the stakes were too high for me to up and leave.

I shared my worries with a friend.

“Get close to his wife. She will make things easier for you,” Ronke said.

I knew what she meant and I recoiled at her words. My client’s wife was a woman with a smile for everyone. Petite and pretty, she remained mum if she happened to be around as her husband and I discussed business, but I was aware that her intelligent eyes took in everything. It seemed cavalier, predatory even, to befriend this angel for the sole purpose of using her to influence her husband as we did not seem to have anything in common.

I endured my client’s belligerence and failed promises, promises he made after I made presentations and shared proposals. At my wit’s end, one night I sat in Ronke’s car for hours and itemized the problems I faced. She suggested, yet again that I make friends with his wife.

Soon after, a chance meeting with my client’s wife occurred. After pleasantries, she lowered her voice although we were alone and told me about a similar project they were undertaking with another publisher. In her words, the wahala nor get end. Sensing an opening, I took the ball she’d passed to me, but I did not run to the goal post. I dribbled until all obstacles were cleared and then passed her the ball to take a clean shot to goal.

“Ah ah men!” she exclaimed, “They don’t understand. Leave it to me. Here,” she handed me her business card, “if you have any issues, give me a call.”

I collected her card without looking at it.

“I’m serious,” she said, stopping me with her intelligent eyes. “Timi, if you have any problems, call me.”

I never had to call her. My client gave me my change and then some.

I’ve wondered about this incident and what I call my moral high horse. I guess because I have been used as a stepping stone in business, I did not want to bathe someone else with gifts and attention and then slam the door not minding if her fingers were trapped in the hinges or not.

But isn’t that what we all do? When we were younger, my siblings and I chose the favourite child, the one whose requests were hardly turned down, as an emissary to our parents. I sometimes attend social events with colleagues, when I’d much rather stay at home in my pajamas, to influence outcomes in the office. Relationships grease the wheels of business and human interaction is fueled more by trust than logic. We trust referrals from those we know.

My client’s wife and I never became chummy. We didn’t share enough common ground and we could not commit the time needed to explore what little commonalities we might have had. I see her once a long while and respond to her smile, the one she has for everyone, without guilt, but with warmth. And I sleep easy at night.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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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35 thoughts on “Drawing the Line

  1. I gave up on outgrowing my human side. God didn’t make me an angel and I haven’t ever seen anyone else sprout wings, get halos, or ascend either. But I try to not only be aware of my agendas, but to be honest about pretty much always having one. I really think things work best when there’s good for everyone involved in transactions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe I’m too suspicious, but the first thing I thought of when reading this is that you’ve discovered a couple who operates on the good cop/bad cop principle. He drives hard bargains, which she profits from and she smooths things over so that those hard bargains don’t alienate customers, which he profits from. I wouldn’t feel too bad playing strategy with business couples when they’re both in the game.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you are sleeping easy at night. In business that is not always so easy. One cannot underestimate the importance of networking and establishing trusting relationships. When I was younger I didn’t always see the importance of networking. Everything I did was golden. As I grew older I gradually learned the importance of building a network of friends and contacts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. More and more I’m finding that life/work/love are not solo endeavors and we need people to make it all go around. I think there is a balancing act sometimes. and I think if one stays in integrity, it is easy to find, which sounds like what you did. I’m fascinated by the bus conductor doling out the change that way, btw, and how it was accepted as par for the course. Another point, per our previous discussion, on cultural norms that in another culture would be be considered very odd and not acceptable. Which one is right? wrong? Neither?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed relationships grease the wheels of business.

      You are right, I cannot imagine the ‘change’ arrangement working in The Netherlands for example. The driver would explain upfront that he doesn’t have change and one would have to get off the bus.

      The bus arrangement is different. There’s a driver and a conductor. Right? Wrong? It’s a peculiar bus culture.

      Like

  5. I think some folks need certain prodding and poking and your friend was astute enough to realize that his wife was the way to get things done. Strange how these things work, but all the same…I’m glad it worked out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I kinda ticks me off that one has to stroke another person’s ego at times to get something or hopefully get something in return.

    I do have a good long time friend who used to be my supervisor after I graduated from university. Our friendship has long extended beyond just her being a work coach to me which I’m glad. She’s now retired. I think she wanted to mentor me initially which is why I never had play a game of being an admirer or pretend that kind of role.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear that your friendship with your former supervisor is quite solid and you never had to ‘seek’ favours.

      Someone commented that relationships are a complex dance. The ego stroking is all too real in some cases. It doesn’t always feel good when someone tries to ‘butter’ you up to curry favour.

      Like

  7. I know the feeling but most times you need the third party desperately. Thank God the wife solved the dilemma for you but like Odii said; for me i prefer bluntness rather than the whole etigi-shoki-reggae blues dance routine. But i always try to keep in touch and will try everything possible in my power to return any favour asked by said party cos for me, i never forget kindness.
    I think that way, you won’t be guilty about ‘using’ the person as you can think of it as a debt you owe

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I understand. There’s something I call being mercenary. It’s when people buddy up to you with plans to use you for some benefit. I ordinarily hate that. Manipulative was me growing up and I find sometimes that I’m still able to bend people’s will to serve mine so I worry about buddying up to anyone. It made me respect bluntness. I’d rather have someone blurt out that they want something from me and whatever it is they want and I’ll give it if I have it than have someone butter me up and then ask me for stuff. But I often find that relationships can be a complex dance. “In-your-face” requests/demands can actually be more mercenary than “sensitive probing” in some situations.

    I think that if there is a rule it should be mutual benefit or, at least, considerate demands. We exist to help each other after all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol@ sensitive probing. XD
      Relationships are a complex dance, I agree. No one likes feeling used. I guess we need to find ways to navigate the dance without ‘using’ others. You said it best, we exist to help each other.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But you did play with the ball before passing it to her. That’s not exactly “unsolicited”… you just did it without actually doing it 🙂
        It’s a lot like that situation where you make a guy/someone do something without asking them to do it outright. Then they end up thinking it was their idea in the first place.

        Good post.

        Like

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