I can see it’s daybreak as I roll over on my side to peer out the window. Shoot! I’ve missed Sahur….again. I sigh painfully as I have no doubt that chairman must have tried again in vain to wake me up as he does and as usual, I hadn’t budged. I’m only still half awake at this point and as I do every morning when I’m trying to decide if it’s time or not to drag my lazy ass out of bed, I peek at the clock……shit!!! It’s 6.02. I should have been out of the house at 6, double shit! I fly out of bed and dreadfully begin to contemplate whether or not to have a shower. This is a dilemma for me because of my Nigerian upbringing. It’s almost a taboo for us to step out of the house for the day without a proper bath or shower, even if you start work at 5 am. In fact, I didn’t realise there was an option of not having one until I came to the UK. I know if I skip the shower, I could make the door in the 5 minutes….but I would cringe all day at myself and wonder if everyone i meet knows I haven’t had a shower today….not pleasant. At the risk of losing my job, I jump in the shower and I’m out in a record time of 5 minutes, I’m dressed and out of the house in 15 minutes. Had to skip some usual beauty routines obviously. I usually pride myself on being quite fast in terms of time taken from bed to getting out the door. It takes me an average of 30 minutes on a good day, 40 if I’m having a bad day. I am not your typical girly girl, a dab of cream, clothes on, brush hair, and I’m good to go. Make up is for occasions or days when I’m exceptionally in a good mood. This is one of those days that you’re found pulling on your cardy on the road out of the estate. I’m wearing my earrings as I run for the bus(I’m laughing at myself at this point) and briefly thank God that I live in a city where things like this aren’t seen as odd.
Running for the bus in London is a necessary skill for survival if you are to get anywhere on time and on schedule. I struggled with this on first arrival in the UK. I grew up in Ikoyi in Lagos, a part of the city where running for the bus is seen as being ‘raz’ ( our slang for un- posh). The only time I ever ran for the bus in Lagos was during periods of fuel scarcity when I was sure that no one else would have the time to look at who else was running ( Like anyone actually cares who I am or what I’m doing) Everyone would be too busy elbowing and kicking their way onto the few available over priced buses. All of us so intent on getting home that we forget to behave civilised for a few minutes. Once in the bus though, civility returns, and we’re all happy again!
Actually, I tell a lie. I did run for buses several times in my Unilorin days. Oh memories! I’d conveniently blocked this part of out of mind until now. It wasn’t easy being a ‘Jambite’ ( new entry) in Unilorin those days. Running for the bus was the least of your worries, the main challenge was getting into the bus or cab when it did arrive. You had to struggle with men, boys, women, grand ma n grand pa and everyone else who wanted to get out of the jungle that was our uni and get into town. Just remembering makes me laugh, only in Nigeria will this be acceptable in a national university. I remember my first day at Uni for my masters in the UK. I was told to go to the library for my registration and I had already conjured up this image in my head of long queues, blood sweat and tears that was the story of a typical start to a session in Unilorin. Obviously, I knew it would be nothing like that here but I still expected some level of difficulty to the registration process. When you grow up surrounded by constant challenges, you begin to expect it and it inevitable becomes a way of life. I was in and out of the library in 10 minutes. I took another 5 to ponder outside the building about what just happened and instead of being elated at not having to go through an obstacle course to finish my registration, I was just sad. Sad that we see such daily struggles in Nigeria as normal, we expect it, it dictates our survival and we do nothing about it. Just sad.
How did this post end up being about Nigerian universities????
I always do this you know, start talking about something and then go off on a totally different tangent about another. It’s what happens when you talk too much, as I’ve been known to do. Just ask chairman, he’s learnt to ignore me when I start to ramble on. So back to my ‘going not so well day’. I managed to get on the bus to find it full, it’s 6.30 am? This is unusual. All my favourite seats were taken ( I prefer upstairs right in front or a few seats down by the window, always by the window). I settle for the last seat at the back next to some guy in the Olympics volunteer gear. I suddenly realise everyone on the bus is going to the Olympic park, no wonder then. By some miracle, I arrive at work at 6.58 and I’m not late! I’m amazed. He truly is a miracle working God! I sign in and get down to business.
An hour into my shift and I’m restless. Like I don’t feel like I’m as clued on as I usually am, I’m taking a few minutes longer to finish tasks so I decide maybe it’s time for my tea break. I head on to the rota to check when I’m meant to go, only to find that I’m not even on the rota. Strange. With sudden realisation, I have an inkling why my name is missing. I ask my colleagues what day it was and my fears were confirmed. It’s Thursday. I am off on Thursday. I knew that, I just didn’t know today was Thursday even though I knew yesterday was Wednesday. I am the most forgetful human being on earth…seriously, some of the stuff I forget??? you just wouldn’t believe. Oh God, like how am I supposed to explain this to my line manager?? I head up to my manager’s office (shamefaced and all) and she’s on her tea break, good for her. She gives me a smile as I walk in and I mentally calculate how long it will take for that smile to disappear after I’ve told her about my stupidity. I didn’t even prepare a speech, I just blurted it out, I toyed briefly with the idea of blaming it on being married and having a baby ( a lot of people in retail aren’t, so they tend to empathise). But I had over flogged this line so much recently I didn’t want to push my luck. Anyways, I’m sent home unceremoniously with a discussion nonetheless.
I shake my head on my way out wondering how I manage to even be alive, let alone be responsible for two other people, only to be confronted by a sea of people on their way to the Olympic park, I wonder as I begin to navigate my way around the human traffic, can today get any worse?
Yes actually, as I got on the bus to head back home, I placed my oyster card on the reader only to hear the dreaded blip blip sound, like seriously? now?