Saturday, the boss dragged me along to some event amid my feeble protests. I was not able to out rightly turn down his request because of the way I’ve been coming up with weird excuses (including telling him that my zipper is damaged and I can’t do a presentation to clients ) anytime he asks me to carry out a task or to accompany him to some place.
He was wiser today and got the better of me by failing to disclose where it was that he wanted me to accompany him to and lying that we would be back in a few minutes.
So, we get into his car. Destination: to one of our clients whose institution was holding an end of year party cum CSR (community social responsibility)
The boss notices my apprehension as he veers off the road towards the entrance to Hillside Education Complex.
Well, here we are, he says.
I am lost for words.He ought to have told me before hand at least to prepare. For starters, you don’t attend events without some amount set aside for any eventuality. Here I was with only some 50 shillings between me and poverty.
He is trying to defuse the situation.
“I knew you had forgotten about the invitation or had no plans whatsoever to attend but it was imperative that we grace the occasion. These guys have given us a lot of business this year and we cannot afford to dishonour the invite. Murimi and Thuku will be joining us later.” ……..
It is a big event from the look of things.
There are about 500 people comprising of about 30 staff members, various guests, pupils and students, parents and the neighbouring community. More are still streaming in.
We are led to one of the tents but not before we are garlanded. The host (proprietor) ushers us to our seats. Somehow, the host inexplicably ends up sitting next to me. To my right is the chief guest. The boss is about 5 seats farther to my right.
Music is playing. Rose Muhando is saying that those who looked down upon you will one day greet you with respect.
I am a bit uncomfortable sitting at the high table especially sandwiched between the host and the chief guest. I am afraid that an important guest might arrive necessitating the host to ask me to offer my seat and occupy one of the vacant seats in the back row. I do a lot of soul searching remembering even some bible teaching in Luke page 10 or thereabout where the word of God teaches us that it is way better to always occupy the back seat and have the host summon you to the front than occupying the front seat in self-aggrandizement only to be forced to vacate the seat for an important guest.
The host oblivious of my tension is engaging me in small talk.
How do you see our ceremony?
It is quite big, I am very impressed. Looks very organized.
I thought you wouldn’t not attend. I wouldn’t forgive you for that.
There is no way we would fail. We would actually have been here earlier was it not for the boss who had a few tasks to complete before coming.
We are expecting 1000 people.
1000? That is quite a big number………
We are treated to some entertainment by counterfeit Zangalewas as more and more people come in.
I spot Murimi and Thuku at the entrance. They haven’t seen me yet.
They are looking around and then it happens.
Thuku has spotted me, he pats Murimi on the back and points my way. They break into a laughter. They laugh themselves to the floor or rather, to the ground. It requires a number of men with well pronounced biceps to lift the two from the ground.
One of the rascals calls me. I hang up because I know the kind of repartee and derision that I am about to receive.
He texts “habari ya high table, guest of honour!?”
I don’t answer……..
Another text comes in “This must be the worst case of desecration in the history of high tables.”
I ignore this one too to the chagrin of the rascals.
They are not ready to leave me in peace or rather to my worries.
Another text “Pray that they don’t pass a contributions envelop or a basket. I’ve been catering for your expenses remember?”
Murimi had paid for my breakfast because the money I had with me was only enough for my fare back home. But here he was talking in a way to suggest he was my sole bread winner. I was so broke and that was not a secret. Not that Murimi or anyone else at the office was any better. He just happened to have been tipped by a client. It was that time of the month when you fantasize of nonexistent long forgotten account in some bank that has some chums.
The guys were having a field day taunting me.
I decide to throw a gibe to them too.
“Your ignorance about my new found social status and class is baffling. Now, can you stop disturbing me please! You can talk to your fellow plebeians. By the way, how are you managing in all that sun?”
The MC reads the order of the program and the day’s events among them speech by guests, presentation of awards which again would be facilitated by the guests, entertainment and performance from pupils and students, director’s speech and lastly, lunch and refreshments.
Luckily, there seems to be no mention of contributions or time allocated for the same. I silently thank God for this and ask him to do me one more favour.
I ask Him not to put me to shame before the gathered multitude and the two detractors in the crowd if a new guest happened to arrive and I was asked to offer my seat. I reminded Him that I am generally not a very bad man. That I don’t reforward year 2010 jokes. I asked him to remember that I have never given 1000 bob note to a Kange at 6 am to deduct kes 30 and though I might have coveted people’s property and or wives at one time or the other, none of them happens to be my neighbour. I told Him that if he saw to it that I was not put to shame, all honour and glory would be to him. I would only have one more problem of which I would fight for myself. This would the to time for speeches from guests. I would not miss something to tell the multitudes and the kids in particular.
I would tell them that “old age eats the youth” thus it was imperative to put in a shift during their young age. I would tell them that it is Einstein or Carl Marx who said this though I heard if from a perpetual drunk back in the village. But thinking about it, I would not say Carl Marx lest my boss a dyed in the wool capitalist thought of me as an incorrigible renegade and attributed my occasional stubbornness to communism.
The program is unfolding flawlessly. A decoration balloon bursts over our heads. I am a little bit startled. The host is scared stiff, he nearly tears at my thigh with his fingers. He is gasping for breath. I can hear his heart pound. I can bet he has wet his pants.
“Hi, ici balloon nacio noimakie mundu” (These balloons can scare the shit out of someone) he says.
Nima. (It is true) I thought someone has fired a bazooka at us point blank.
Onawe ni wamaka? (You were terrified too?)
Niyastura. (it has terrified me)
I learn that you cannot be blessed with everything. You can’t have enough and nerve too.