We were coming out of a status-update meeting Wednesday last week when a colleague asked some three other fellas and I to accompany him to some place on Luthuli avenue.
From Cardinal Otunga Plaza, the team of five waded through people traffic along Kaunda street, Muindi Bingu, Mama Ngina St, crossed Moi avenue, past Archives, crossed Tom Mboya, joined Luthuli avenue and found ourselves at the entrance of the building which houses Samsung Experience Store.
Due to our immaculate dressing, (we were clad in our best suits and tie) I would hear guys say , “hao ni ma CIA” as we marched to our destination. Some were saying That Trump is coming to town and we were part of his advance security team.
Outside Samsung Experience Centre, our guy briefed us, ” I brought my phone for repair and they lost it. They have been tossing me around telling me to go come tomorrow, before tomorrow comes they tell me ooh….sijui we will give you a replacement phone, ooh that model is out of the market blah blah…. I want you to act as Men in Black….”
“Black and Gray”, I interjected because I was in Gray myself though the other four including our guy were in Mercedes-Benz black. MIG sounded good to me probably out of my infatuation with Russian Military Hardware than anything else.
“Don’t talk unless I ask a question, Okay?”, our Mafioso boss ordered.
We went up the stairs to the building’s second floor where the Experience Centre is situated. Shop owners and shoppers stared at us with apprehension as we passed by. The Service Centre was buzzing with people. Some buying phones, some window shopping while others were sitting in the bay waiting for their ticket to call from the queue manager.
There was a lady at the reception whom our guy adressed by name.
“Nimekuja”, our guy told her. She did a quick Lloyd Masika on us which resulted in her becoming visibly shaken and her beautiful face turning crimson. Either that or she just got bit by an extremely poisonous spider. She moved from behind her desk and pointed us to a row of empty seats.
We didn’t take the seats, men in black don’t take up seats. If anything, they toss them up. Rather, we paced up and down with hands in the pockets while wearing faces as mean looking as we could muster.
I was really struggling to be bad-looking personally but I can’t say the same for my colleagues. Looking bad and mean for them was like shelling peas.
Our guy, the Mafioso boss, very unpretentiously, requested to see the supervisor. It was very unlike him to carry himself in such a self-effacing manner under such circumstances.
The lady disappeared through a card access door to the back office to summon the supervisor.
Meanwhile, Don Gambino beckoned us for another briefing. “That’s the lady who lost my phone. I had talked to the supervisor the last time I was here and he told me not to take this matter further up because if I do, they will lose their jobs, him and the lady. I therefore want to dupe him, with your help, that I can make their life very miserable if by any chance it appears they are playing games with me, wajue they will be in trouble. So,I will talk to him but nikikuuliza swali ujibu kimpango in my favour.”
We all nodded in agreement. One of the Men in Black nodded in more agreement.
The lady came back with the supervisor in tow. She was a very good looking lady any man, under different circumstances, would cherish to buy a phone as opposed to demanding a lost one. The supervisor greeted Don Gambino and they sat down away from us. They held a conversation in low tones as we went about our business pacing up and down and looking mean.
Three minutes or so into their discussion, Don Gambino beckoned us pointing to the seats behind him and the supervisor.
When we were all sat, he said, “George, as I have just told you, these guys here can help me track my lost phone and whoever is using it will have to explain how they obtained the phone from this service center. And I am assuring you it is not a question of whether the phone will be found but when and whom it is going to be found with. These guys here are the best in the trade.” He turned over his shoulder to face us as well as for effect. He is a real actor, Don Gambino. I looked away suppressing a laugh.
“We don’t have to go to such lengths Bob, I have told you that we will give you a replacement phone”, the supervisor said.
Don Gambino turned back to face us with one arm running over and hanging behind the seat. “It is like this” , he said, “George here is the supervisor who has been handling my case. He assures me that I am going to get a replacement phone. Not exactly the same model as my lost phone but a good phone nonetheless. How is that guys? What do you advise?”
What followed was an avalanche of questions from the MIB.
“Is it a new phone?”
“What! Not a like for like with your lost phone?”
“Is it of an equivalent value in price?”
“Is this really a genuine Service Center or some phoney outfit being fronted as Samsung to swindle unsuspecting Kenyans?”
“How can a phone just disappear? Didn’t they book it in when you brought it. They are using a queue system for Christ sake!?”
The supervisor tried to cut us short and answer some questions but we bombarded him with more. He tried telling us to lower our voices not to attract unwarranted attention but we could hear no shit. It is in contravention of the Men in Black code of conduct for members to lower their voices. Hushed tones are for gossiping and Men in black don’t engage in such trivialities.
“I am apologizing on behalf of the lady who lost the phone and I am going out of my way to replace the lost phone though with a different model”, said the supervisor with a very gentle tone. The guy was so meek so much that he will not only inherit the earth but also see the kingdom of heaven and probably enter inside.
“Let me fetch the phone I am talking about. You test it to your satisfaction so that we can bring this matter to a close”, he added. He disappeared to the back room.
Don Gambino told us that he would have loved to have his phone back or get a similar model but the issue had dragged for so long that he was willing to settle for a compromise. He told us to assist him check the phone qualities and features admitting that his knowledge of phones doesn’t go beyond checking whether it has a back and front camera and whether it accommodates two SIMs or a single SIM.
When the phone came and was handed to Don Gambino, he passed it to one of the MIB. Who started scrutinizing it and dialing some codes, checking the system settings and specs and concluding that it was of a very low quality compared to the lost phone. He passed it to the next MIB who said that this was a 3G phone while the lost phone was a 4G enabled gadget. He asked how it was possible to replace a phone whose market price was over 20k with one retailing for kes 12k.
The supervisor argued that the lost phone was used and damaged and if valued in its last known state, could not fetch more than 10k.
The phone was now with the 3rd MIB who asked for assurance that the phone didn’t belong to a customer.
“Bob can carry this phone only for it to be traced to him later.”
“No.. no….This phone has been in use internally….”
“Are you going to issue a receipt?”
“No.. We won’t issue a receipt. You see, he is not buying the phone.”
“Pea yeye brand new buana!”
The phone came to my hands. I fumbled with it as I thought very hard on which questions to ask. I had to ask a question. Any question. Even if it meant asking whether the phone was a cell phone or a mobile phone or both. I would dial some code too to show I was no coackroach. Problem was that no code was readily coming to mind apart from *126#.
I dialed *06# to display the serial number while making sure the supervisor guy noted it. In such circumstances you must display your prowess. The Don had claimed that we were experts and I was not going to let anyone think otherwise.
After lots of haggling and asking the supervisor several times to give us room to discuss the way forward, we came to an agreement that our friend would settle for that particular phone but on condition that he got a receipt capturing the circumstances under which the phone was issued to him, its make, serial number and a date stamp.
The supervisor chrestfallenly caved in to the MIB’s demands and we trotted out of the service centre, mission accomplished.
If you are in need of professional Men in Black, text MIB to the number on your screen.