When this year started, one of my key resolutions was to wear a mini skirt. My protruding knees needed some revealing. My thug of a friend showed me this dark alley having fitting skirts, nice minis and I picked one. I was ready to face the world with this short, devil of a piece of attire.
I had an interview and assured myself that I would wear it. I found this business card for some HR person and pocketed it. Long story, but I applied and somebody rang me up one evening. I have zero telephone etiquette and when the life changing call came, I was in traffic. I blocked the window with my entire body as I bent to receive the phone call. Somebody might snatch the phone through the window with lightning speed. Thank God it was a man next to me and didn’t mind a thing as I curled near his legs. So I am yelling, “Yes? I am fine” The lady on the other hand sounding irritated. “Could you please move…”
“I am moving in a mat. Ni nani?”
“My name is Amanda and…” gosh isn’t it such a western name? Amanda?
“Amanda, sikuskii poa”.
This Amanda must be somebody important. She can’t be my rival. I haven’t been looking for any trouble lately. I haven’t texted anyone who isn’t mine at wee hours. This Amanda comes to me, insisting with her English. And I don’t know how to speak good English usually. So I feel powerless. I feel vulnerable with a woman on the other end addressing me in English.
“Gladwell Pamba, did you apply for a job with Prisms Company?”
Suddenly, I could hear everything amidst the barring music. And I freak out when somebody calls me Gladwell. And then Pamba. I get scared that maybe they saw me on the day I was born naked and bloody. And cant respect the woman I have become.
“Yes! Yes! I applied for a job there” Am now shouting as everybody keeps quiet, the music stopped and fingers crossed. Everyone is concerned, arching forward.
“Are you available for an interview on Wednesday?”
“This Wednesday…yes. And the time?”
“Please come at 10 am.”
After the call, people started congratulating me already. When you board mats going to Kangemi, it feels like you are in Bungoma. People are ready to talk to each other and be all up in your business.
I went for that interview. I didn’t wear the mini skirt. It suddenly appeared too short and I realized my knees are actually ugly, dry and hard. Almost like a hoof. I was running through the streets desperately with my flat shoes, sweating. As I negotiated the last corner, I disappeared into a hotel and then into a toilet, then into my heels I had in my bag. I arrived at the office balancing on them and stood at the reception, with beckoning eyes. “Nimekuja interview ya Prisma Company.” I told the receptionist. She smiled. It was better to form friendships early. Women ties. A possible chama if possible. “Take the lift, 8th floor. Turn left, go straight, turn left. Door number 88. That’s the office.” I thank her. She will be my friend if I get this job.
I get lost and linger around the wrong corridor in the building. I find a cleaner and ask him. I reach the office. Young people are waiting ambitiously. Shiny briefcases. Big handbags. Voluminous cvs. Cooked certificates. Flopped transcripts. We are 13. I hate odd numbers. Especially 13 and 17. We just don’t get along. They look like they are up to a hidden motive. Like I might have 17 children. I picked on two ladies. One had very thin legs. Maybe she was a runner. She was frail and might collapse if she doesn’t get the job. Somebody give her pizza. The other one was plump and her cheeks chubby. Her neck had creases and skin layers lay on each other lazily. She had applied excess blushers and looked horrible. Her dress was short and I could see folds of skin around her overly soft knees. The man who caught my attention was loud and all over our space, so that by the time he was called in, we knew he had a Master’s Degree, lived in Pretoria for 2 years and loves scuba diving. His lips were big and parted wearily when he says pronounces letter P.
My turn. I get in the room and find 3 women. My heart sinks. This is not a good sign. 3 women and no man. Not even the cleaner. Not even a portrait of a man or H.E Uhuru. Nothing. Three big women over 38 years of age.
“Tell us about yourself.”
What are you to say? I am a clumsy little woman and cannot slice vegetables? I can do a head stand and I can’t scream?
I fumble through the question, occasionally planting a writer here and a team player there.
The questions were too much I felt like they suspected me. I felt irritated. They asked me about schooling and other things, occasionally raising their heads, half the time, scribbling.
“And why would we hire you?”
The light lady with a newly fixed weave comes on me. At this point, I want to leave this room 88 and go sit next to Dedan Kimathi’s monument. Hire me because you called me here for an interview dammit!
She repeats, “Why would we hire you? “
“I will not have to live in Nairobi and I have vast experience in editorial work like…”
“You hate Nairobi?” One of them interrupts, almost jumping across to strangle me.
“I don’t like it”
“People here are unfriendly and aloof. Most have lost their human touch.”
We need you to tell us your experience.
I fumble through the question again, throwing a trained teacher here and a trained counselor there, customer care rep somewhere.
“Counsellor? I would never have imagined. You are quite judgmental.”
The woman with spectacles speaks at last and stares at me, bemused. I am taken aback.
“No. I think it is just my voice. It’s harsh even if I try to sound nice.”
They laugh. I am very nervous. Were they laughing at my voice or lack of skills to answer questions?
“You have a blog, right?”
“How come you are different in person from how you write?”
“You are not very expressive in person.”
“You will read about the interview in the blog next week,” I say. They laugh louder than before and say they will get in touch. I am sure they won’t.