2:30pm of almost every working day finds me int three situations: either I’m on the bus stop silently praying for bus 24 to appear, or I am inside bus 24 praying for it to become a jet (it’s a trolleybus, and really long) and at the same time ignoring snickering from some naive schoolgirls who still don’t understand the beauty of black skin. Or I am trying to rush through the “afternoon tortoises” as I call people who move slowly at that time of the day, my sole focus being the entrance to the subway.
I always seem to get there when my train is leaving, pfft tomorrow will be better. 30 minutes later and I am out, walking as fast as possible. Destination? Work.
When I am not learning about fetuses and mothers, I work as a cashier. Yeah, those guys that sometimes tell you they don’t have change when they do. Or don’t give you full change because them small pennies are fast running out of circulation. My people, it’s beyond that.
Being a cashier is a lot of stress. Being the ONLY dark-skinned cashier in a vast complex of boutiques, shops and a giant supermarket is even more stress. Fortunately for me, the security guards have taken a shine to me; they re always on my watch like mother bears. Those guys sure know how to do their job, no wonder they were hired.
So I get to the check-out counter assigned to me. Today it’s number 26. I check to make sure there are nylon packets of all size available, the receipt-printing machine is not out of paper, and neither is the POS terminal. A cashier is not allowed to stand up except during break or something really urgent comes up (I mean really urgent) and you have to temporarily close the counter. Did I mention how urgent that issue has to be before you can stand up?
Anyway, I’m all set up, cheerful and smiling, ready to kick, no sorry, make people smile as I tell them how expensive the things they bought are. Now, in my time of experience I have come to know several types of customers:
- the normal ones: They greet you, respond well to your questions even though they have heard them before, give you an amount from which you can easily give change, and leave coolly.
- the skeptics: Their first criticism is that you are different so they want to see how you do things. They respond to questions, looking for how they can provoke you. Mostly youths, some elderly and adults who do not know what to do with money. They question why you scanned the sticker twice, when clearly there are two items with that price. How blind could you possibly be? And then they give you big currency notes after buying not up to one tenth of it’s worth. You wan pack the sumall change wey I dey manage make son of man fit close normally tonight, abi? The thunder wey go fire you dey warm soup to chop with cold eba; make I see you for my counter again.
- the senior citizens: Most of them come to you because you are different, and most fall in love with you from first sight. Always smiling despite their meager pension, they are ready to make sure you giving them change does not cause issues. It’s always a pleasure to make them smile. I always bless them from my heart.
- the haughty ones: most times sighted in mink fur coats and ridiculous make-up, they act like you are supposed to be there serving them. Fond of buying one bottle of diet yoghurt and bringing 500 uah. Haba, sister, you no dey fear Jisos? Or kissing their men right in your face and make sure you see it. Almost all their ladies act like that around me-in the bus, in the subway, hmmm. Insecurity?
- the curious ones: “How did you learn the language?” “I hope no one disturbs you here?” “Please where are you from? You are very beautiful”. They usually end up wishing you all the best, or cracking a joke to make you smile. Mostly married couples who are in love and they know it.
- your own countrymen and foreigners: The moment they see you, God is getting a thanksgiving update. They feel at home knowing you speak English and understand them. Your presence there is one of the main reasons they would LOVE to come back. When you tell them the sum, or ask for something to help your giving change easier, thy oblige without questions because they understand. They always leave you smiling.
Well, six hours run lazily by, and the day ends. For less than a dollar per hour, the job seems to be giving so little for so much. However, the most priceless things sometimes are not monetary. These thoughts help overcome the stress of climbing the six-section stairs to reach the road, then the subway. Legs hurting, you finally open the door of my abode by 11 pm. After getting something to calm the belly, it’s time to see what else you can try to do, before sleep comes gently knocking, along with thoughts of rent, bills, tuition and feeding.
The LORD has provided jere, ma da mi laamu. (don’t disturb me). Tomorrow is a better day.
And then you doze off.
Efunnuga Henrietta Adedayo.