In which I recall my memories of being a new hire…

Recovered from an old computer…. The joys of spring cleaning, I guess… Apologies for any one who finds the pidgin English excessively ‘conc’

Not too long ago I resumed at one of the much vilified companies in Nige… No complaints from me though, as long as them roger me my small thing at the end of the month and dem no kidnap me – No long thing..  I went to complete my in-processing a few weeks ago. Over serious naijaboy like me go organize better trouser and korrect shirt, come tuck-in with my glasses and fresh hair cut. Mehn.. Me sef trip na, as I look myself for mirror o..  Note to self – Next time take a photograph for posterity’s sake!

But sha police na the same everywhere o, whether dem stand for road or dem be Security Specialist, all na the same o…

Like a real ju-man, I arrived there well ahead of time.  8 am sharp, I don tanda for the gate, meanwhile na 10 o’clock dem talk for the letter o. The gate was closed as expected. But I just waited anyways. One police man come dey eye me one kind. Me self dey pose na, like wetin concern me, na Oga I come see o, not police.

Maybe the police come dey suspect sha, cos after a while he walked up to me. Like a well brought up Naija boy, I come greet the guy.

Me: Good morning sir,

Policeman: Yes, Ken I help you? You have been loitering around here for a while

Shoo – persin wey seat down for bench outside gate, na loitering be that?

Me: Yes please, I need to see Mr ** in HR

Maybe I was imagining it, but the police man was suddenly more alert.

Policeman: Do you have an appointment? You can’t just see him like that. He is very busy especially on Tuesdays.

Before nko? Which one concern me concern day of the week? Shebi I get letter

Me: Yes I do, I have a letter.

Mistake number one, telling him I had a letter. Mistake number two having my appointment letter in the top section of my portmanteau.

Policeman: Oh you do? Lemme have a look at it. I need to verify the signatures.

Naïve me, promptly delved into my portmanteau begin find the letter o.

Me: Here it is.

See wahala o, police man dey jack the letter like say na JAMB exam o..

Policeman: Ermm, young man, follow me. You need to speak to my superior officer.

Omo, one kain fear begin grip me sha o, Abi na fake letter dem send give me?

Superior officer ke? Na so dem go bundle me go kirikiri o.. And some kain string faced community boys dey outside gate dey try peep sha.

Anyhow, superior officer turned out to be one woman with a very Igbo-itic skin color. I come dey believe small sha, say if e too  hard I go beg am as Mummy. There was a barrier – like the stuff at banks, so I stayed outside it. She motioned for me after a while.

MummyPolice: *No long thing*, come over.

I jejely waka enter the barrier go meet the woman o. I dey use style spy her name tag whether I go fit see her name, no be lie na one Ibo name like that sha.

MummyPolice: Do you have any identification? I mean how can we verify that this is you? A lot of you young men are into impersonation.

Haba! Impersonation ke? Me wey don drop my ID card for school and Nige no gree give me National ID card. How I wan take prove say I be me?

Thankfully, my ID card from my bank account as a corper was in my wallet. I presented that. Mummy police dey eye the ID card like say na rat poison o.. After much sha, she looked up..

Mummy Police: Okon, give Mr *** a call and see if he is expecting this young man and take him in if he is.

No be small relief flood my body o.. I jejely collected my letter while Police Man placed a call to Oga’s Secretary.

PoliceMan: Madam, his secretary says they have been expecting him, I’ll take him over.

Mummy Police: All right then, just make it snappy.

Police man prepared a temporary gate pass for yours truly and proceeded to lead  me through. The guy just dey try walk side by side with me. Which pattern?

As we neared the office, the guy cleared his throat,

PoliceMan: Ah, e be like say you know persin for HR o, because company never employ for like 5 years o.

Which one the guy come dey speak pidgin na? after all im hassling me?

Me: No o, na just God do am o.. My papa na lecturer for University o.. Im no know anybody o.

PoliceMan: Mbok! Na so una dey always talk!   Na the office be this sha. O boy e don better for you o. Anything for your man? At least make me sef drink beer follow you celebrate o.. U know say na me call you enter that time o, u for still dey outside.

Olodo, so na small thing you dey find before come make u dey try harass me.

Me: Oga, Nothing dey today, I still dey come here tomorrow, I go roger una small thing tomorrow

The guy no wan waka comot o. Thankfully secretary saw me through the glass door and motioned for me to come over.

Me: Oga, thank you, I no dey run, I full ground. I go represent..

As the guy see say nothing go drop , he turned to walk away.

Oloshi, im wan panic correct Naija boy before! Nonsense!

As God would have it, dem charter company car go drop us for hotel, so norrin’ doing for the police man..

On women (Or a somewhat concise history of the women I have worked with)

Note: If a few of the following characterizations seem stereotyped and larger than life, they probably are. Others more intelligent than I have chalked it up to Time, and how it conflates memory and reflection into a blended – often distorted – whole.

Given the marked paucity of females in my sector of the industry, I was amazed a few days ago by just how many women have left their marks – both in positive and negative ways – on my career till date. I am coming up to what would have been the eighth anniversary of my resuming at my first job – if I had not packed my bags one November morning, deciding I had had enough. In the main, I find that five women stand out from that phase of my life:

  • The Mother figure: The first job was as a trainee rustgeek somewhere in the bowels of the Niger-Delta. Hired straight off our NYSC year, four young lads and I – our ages ranged from 21 to 23 – found ourselves up-rooted from friends and family and thrust into what, was to put it mildly, the deep end. We were hardly prepared for the sea change and the pressure that came with earning way more money than we had bargained for, plus the culture of the company was very party-ish [legend had it that the more senior blokes hosted parties every weekend for a full year – needless to say, the young women in the Universities nearby bore the brunt of these escapades. Madam Emem our Departmental Secretary (she could only have been thirty-something at the time, but we called her Madam) would prove to be the steadying influence from that era. She ensured we got our monthly provisions for tea and biscuits, signed on for all the trainings we were required to attend, and was never shy to pull us up by the ears if she over heard from the bosses that one of us wasn’t pulling our weight. In perhaps one of the fondest memories from that era, when G-Man, the first of our lot to get married got hitched to a girl from the area, she performed a dance so intricate in its execution that a few of us lads suspected she had had a hand in helping to snag the young man – unfortunately we were never able to either prove not disprove that assertion.
  • The Delectable Intern: My distrust of dengerferous ChemE’s was never more validated than by the antics of a certain intern. She was of mixed Itsekiri and Ibo progeny and allied a luscious, golden-toned skin to well proportioned – for want of a better word – body parts. In the second of my five years there, Ebere – if my memory serves me right that was her name – was thrust into our office space; one filled with virile young men both single and married with wives half way around the country. For the six months and two weeks she spent in our midst, I suspect that precious little work got done. She, like all women used to attention, milked us to great effect – playing one against the other, giving and taking attention on whims and got quite a few of the lads to sign her IT log books whilst she lived it up in town. Needess to say, us lads at the bottom of the food chain never got any action. Rumour had it that she spent the last month living out of our friend Ayo’s house. Ayo, however swears till this day that nothing went down.
  • The Mentor-ess: In January of 2005, Engineering HQ sent out a Welding Engineer to assist with our development into competent rust geeks. She was in her fifties at the time, had a PhD in Metallurgy and Materials and had lectured for seven years before packing up to join the industry. Something about yours truly must have piqued her interest as she went way out of her way to delegate work assignments to me that aided me in my development. Every time I get asked who/what has been the biggest influence in my career, I do not to hesitate to point to the three years I spent shadowing her. We’ve stayed in touch since then, and when I was looking for references for the job I currently am in, she wrote so glowingly that even I was concerned she’d over hyped my abilities.
  • The Bitchy Boss: One of my less memorable performance reviews was conducted by the woman we would grow to refer to as the Bitchy Boss. She arrived with a huge history – word around the company was that she was on the fast track to greatness, and that the Nigerian assignment was a chance to get her to see the operations side of things. Besides having absolutely no clue of the esoteric subject we practised, she managed to spend so much time travelling outside the country that it was a wonder she was able to comment on what any of us had achieved within that year. The one thing she did pass across to me was formula one racing as a metaphor for contributions at work. According to her, my mediocre, mid level ranking was not so much a reflection on my poor performance as a reflection of the quality of the opposition. Thankfully, she stayed only one year before she got her next move back to Houston.
  • The Girly Girl: It might be something to do with the (non-technical) nature of her job but one of my office mate lives a totally glammed up life (at least to my untrained eye). Colour cordinated toe nails, fingers nails and clutch, silver coloured Audi A1, and impossible heels on dress down fridays are a few of the stunts she pulls off seemingly effortlessly. How she manages to keep it all up baffles me, but eye candy never did a bloke any harm I reckon.
  • The Martin-Solomon-lite: The other office mate is my Irish buddy Siobhan. As our ages are similar, and we share an office, we do tend to get along famously.  She’s smart, funny, can handle conversations on subjects as diverse as stress corrosion cracking of duplex stainless steels and opera. The one quirk of character she does have is an uncanny ability to swear like a sailor – which she elevates to the level of an art form. Thanks to her I am looking forward to the office xmas party this year; I’m keen to see how proficient her tongue will be once loosened by alcohol.

UX5… The Memories..

Offshore_UX5

I have unfinished business in this town. I had always sensed that when the time came to finally cut my ties, I would still have to come here one last time, to cast my eyes over the horizon and remind myself of all the things this town means to me.

Today I lug my knapsack to the park and ask for a cab. I point in the general direction I am headed in, the dirty strip of land bordering the ocean that became my chill spot during those long arduous weekends.  Unsurprisingly, the fare has doubled from the last time I was here, as it did for every one of the years I spent here. We haggle a little over the price. He retorts that there is no fuel, and that I shouldn’t be a cheap skate, after all I am a big boy.  Perhaps I look the part – a knapsack that looks like it has a laptop, I wear glasses, am plugged into an iPod, and am speaking English untainted by the default accent one acquires around these parts. Truth is I might have once been one of them, but I am not now, which is why my trip to the waterside could end up being painful. I am off to eyeball UX5 for the last time.

As we proceed, I realize that nothing much has changed in the time I have been away. Clara is still perched at the edge of her seat turning out fried yam and goat stew with unfailing regularity, Muktar still roasts suya a little further down the road, the police men on guard detail still claim their mandatory stipend – only this time it too has doubled, and people still splash unabashed in the river in full glare of the public. Such is the banality that reigns supreme here.

I eventually find myself at my destination. The wind is slightly chilly as usual, laden with a fine mist. The tide is on its way out, so I proceed to the very edge of this corner of the Atlantic, and allow its dirty brown water wash over my feet in tiny breaking waves.  The horizon is  dotted with numerous tiny fires, dull orange plumes in the gathering dusk. Once upon a time, I could name them all, but now only UX5 interests me. I know it like the back of my hand-  46 well head platforms, 366 production wells, 72 gas injectors, 52 pipelines – this was my playing ground for all of 5 years and I know I will miss it.  UX5 holds great memories for me – my greatest triumph was here and I got to meet the most fabulous people. I remember Tam, the Instrumentation specialist who helped me automate my first chemical injection skid, I remember Zik whose deference to my opinion shocked me, I remember Pugs who thought I was not Nigerian until we got the chance to see face to face after multiple clashes over the phone. I also remember Ini the high flying Operations Manager who spoke up for the critical work we pushed through in that record breaking year, I remember Nduka the maverick Reservoir Engineer who always had us confused with all his numbers. I refuse to remember the sad parts, because I like to believe that UX5 and I were made for each other.

I stare into the distance,  musing, thinking about all the things UX5 means to me… and I realize UX5 made me – was the sandbox where I honed all the skills I am taking away now…

I don’t know how long I spend in my reverie, but as the breeze gets stronger I finally snap out of it. I look around for a memento, something to remember today by. I find two pebbles; white, worn smooth by the persistent rasping of the water waves as they break. They fit into the palm of my hand, snugly as though they were made for it.. I take a long hard look at UX5, and then I hurl one of the pebbles in its direction.

This is for you UX5, I mutter……UX5’s cryogenic flare seems to flicker a greeting…Ours is a bond that will not break.