Talking to the traffic lights Pt. 2


On the 11th of January, 2016, I started work. 

On the 12th of January, 2016, I got a colleague. 

On the 18th of January, 2016, the junior associate who was already working at the office got back from her vacation.

What that meant was that there were 3 people working in the office doing the work of one. Don’t mistake me, when we were busy, we were very busy, but when we were idle, we were very idle. I took my dad’s advice and pored over the precedent file (Yes, there was a file labeled Precedents. Two actually.) Drafted all of them again and saved it to my flash drive. I’d look over case files too. But what I did most in that office was watch movies and read.

But I didn’t write this post to tell you about a boring PPA (place of primary assignment). It wasn’t actually boring. It was actually a little too interesting for my liking.

On my third day at the firm, I went to court with my colleague, without the principal. My colleague informed me that she wasn’t going to do anything in court that day and it was up to me to defend the case. So I did. And when the case was adjourned and a date was given, I felt like I’d climbed Mount Everest. Whatever else happened during this year, I’m grateful that my boss assigned me that case. In the course of that case, there were revelations of fraud, impersonation, forgery and theft. Very interesting. Two days before I left the firm, the judge struck out the matter for want of diligent prosecution. We were the defendants. πŸ™ŒπŸ™…πŸ™†πŸ™‹πŸ˜»πŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ’ƒπŸ‘Šβ˜πŸ‘†πŸ‘πŸ‘

Around the 10th of the next month, the carefully built up nice façade of our principal began to crumble. My boss/principal had this extra annoying rule. I started work on the 11th of January so all my salaries were due on the 11th of the succeeding months. In other words, my January salary was due on the 11th of February. My February salary was due on the 11th of March etc etc.
Now, when he explained this stupid rule to me at the end of January, I took it in stride, reasoning that I only had 2 more weeks until I got my salary. But that rule caused a lot of problems with the other girls.
The girl for instance, who resumed on the 12th, she only came twice a week and he’d told her he would only give her transport money at the end of the month. She agreed. And the junior associate who resumed on the 18th, her salary was due on the 18th of February. She was the first to leave. The way she left was so acrimonious it was odd. One day, around the 23rd of February, she, I and our boss went to the Magistrate Court in Shagamu, Ogun State for a divorce case. 
When we got back, she asked him again for her salary and he said he didn’t have the money but when he did, he would pay her. I was drafting a letter. But when I walked into our shared office, I saw her packing up all the stuff she came with into a polythene bag. Thinking nothing of it, I was stunned when I heard raised voices and then she came out, polythene bag and all and waved us goodbye.

 

The other girl left at the end of March. Originally slated to come twice a week, she’d been coming everyday because the principal had a talk with her. And then at the end of the month, he didn’t pay. When she went to find out about her salary, he gave her some stupid excuse and she left in a huff.

And then there was me.

I’d ask about my salary often but when he’d tell me to wait, I would. In March, he paid me half my February salary and then in the last week of April he paid me my March salary. When I asked about the rest of my February salary, he asked me to sit down and tried to determine if I was lying. I’m very nice a lot of the time. But you do not accuse me of being a thief and yell at me without repercussions. Imagine, he asked me how come I was still coming if he had owed me for almost 2 months. I told him the excuse he’d last given me and he screamed at me. I told him immediately, “Do not EVER shout at me again”. He paid me the half of my salary from February and all of my March salary and when I got home, I told my parents I didn’t want to keep working there. But they told me to see it through till the end.
And so, we did that whole dance, where he’d delay paying my salary as long as he could and around the six week mark, when I’d decided to leave, he’d pay me.
That is, until June. 
I had access to his email account. One of my duties at the firm was to summarize the emails he received from the ILO (International Law Organization). In one of the emails from the bank, I didn’t even open it, the first line was on display, I saw that the firm’s account balance was in six figures. I thought nothing of it but, when my salary became due and he gave me only half of it, I was angry enough to go on strike.I didn’t go to the office for 2 weeks until he called that the rest of my salary was in the office.
I understood that I was a novice at legal practice. I understood. But despite being a novice, no one could deny that I didn’t earn that salary. Pretty much everyday, he’d send me to court, or the police station, or to the Lands Registry and I’d go. Once he sent me to the Ikeja High Court and then the Ministry of Public Procurement on the same day, giving me money to cover only one of those trips. I went. Another time, he sent me to the Magistrate Court in Ikeja, then the Magistrate Court in Ogba then back to the High Court in Ikeja.

Nonso attempted to teach me how to dab. How do you think it went?

He’d throw stuff on the floor and expect me to pick it up, he’d yell at me and act like I was the most incompetent person he’d ever met, he’d ask to use my phone and credit to call someone and then never pay me the monetary value back (I stopped having credit in that office), he once tried to bully me into coming on Saturdays and on my CDS days (trying to deprive me of my weekly pineapple bread and movie but God was looking out for me, say Amen!) and when I categorically refused, he brought it up every time as a reason he hadn’t yet paid me, he either micromanaged me or gave me incredibly vague instructions and expected me to work miracles, he’d make stupid jokes about how I should go and get married because my time was running out and how I wasn’t looking so young anymore, he’d ignore the barriers of personal space, during my lunch breaks, he’d come and investigate my food and joke that I was ripping him off and using his money to buy food. 

Then my brother of little faith said I shouldn’t show these pics to anyone, because their eyes will bleed. Is that happening right now?

I was already on slow boil. Once, I was very sick but still I went to the office. And I clearly remember, at the end of the day, this man who knew full well that I was sick, drove by me, turned to look at me and kept right on driving. It’s not by force to be friendly with your employees outside the office, I understand. But when he had the nerve to give me only half my salary in July for the month of June, I got home and I told my parents again that I did not want to work there anymore. My mom told me to keep working there because “it’s not just about the money, it’s also about the relationship” and then she told me stories of how states had owed civil service workers for months. 
I told her that I wasn’t in the civil service. But I agreed to return.
However, the lesson hadn’t yet sunk into his head. So whenever he’d owe me again, I’d stay in my house. A favorite excuse of his, was that there was recession or that he had many more responsibilities than just to me.
Transportation costs had skyrocketed, still I came, he made me wait until 8:40pm once at a police station doing absolutely nothing, still I came. He’d asked me to contact the other party in yet another divorce case we were handling and based on that instruction, I spent 2.5 hours listening and comforting this person when I was cooking, and again on weekends, and again when I was asleep. Still, I came. He only remembered that he had stuff for me to work on minutes before I was set to leave. Still, I came (although after a while, I conscripted my father to come pick me up. He usually came around closing time and whenever my boss conveniently forgot until the last minute that I was to draft or do anything, I’d only do it until my dad called me to come out).
I was stupid. I realize in hindsight. But apart from the fact that I was saving up to buy a new laptop, much of the reason I still kept coming was because of the office manager. Victor. Now while I cannot claim to have many positive feelings concerning my boss, Victor always made me smile. He was the one I complained about my boss to and he’d tell me to calm down, he’d buy snacks for me, when it was Valentine’s day and Cold Stone was having their 2 for the price of one ice cream combo deal, Victor went with me. Most of the movies I watched in the office, I watched on Victor’s laptop. When Victor left in June, I wanted to mutiny.

Victor and the ice cream

But then came Ayo. Ayo was like a younger version of me. But completely awesome in her own right. She knew about Wattpad, she shared the same taste in music with me, she was incredibly funny and despite everything, she was calm, nice and regal in her day to day dealings with my boss. Once, when Ayo had left (she came for a month’s internship), my boss called me up one Sunday and told me to go with a friend of his to the police station and then he hung up. I called him back trying to get further instructions. Nothing. What was I meant to do? What was his friend accused of? Anyway, I went to the police station in the morning. Seven hours later, seven extremely boring hours later where nothing was said or done that wasn’t insulting to my client or myself personally, we left. The only highlights in that day was that Ayo came out in the pouring rain to give me 2 novels and talk with me at the police station. And his friend’s nephew dropped me at the gate of my house. Everything else, πŸ‘Ž.
When September came I was so happy. My mom was still telling me to keep working for him, see it through till the end. My dad and I were counting down the days until I didn’t have to go to work for him anymore. 

 

When NYSC announced that there would be a separation of Stream 1 and 2 and we would pass out on different days (Stream 1 was set to pass out on October 6th. Stream 2 on November 4th), I gave him a clear month’s notice that I would leave on the 14th of October. And so I did.

 
I remember my friend Aisha telling me that he was actually a nice man and telling me a story of how one boss didn’t pay his staff’s salary for about 6 months and when the staff took matters into their own hands, the boss arranged to have them beaten. 
Apparently, suffer head behavior is very common these days. I never actually realized how much of a toll our constant arguments/swallowing my words was taking on me until a week after I’d left the office. I’d had a constant, daily headache on one side of my head and I’d concluded that I needed to bring it to the attention of my parents, maybe get an MRI. Then I left the office for good and after a day, my head did not ache at all. I was so shocked. I never believed they were correlated.
But we learn our greatest lessons from less than ideal situations, don’t we? 

  • I got enough practical experience
  • I met a need
  • A combination of some of my savings and another source (to be revealed later) means I got myself a brand new laptop. Yippee! 
  • I’ve been to every court except the Supreme Court and mostly gotten over my shyness and stuttering in front of Judges.

But I have also learned that I’m way too nice. And I need to stop letting people take advantage of me.
That while the Bible says that “servants” work unto your masters as unto the Lord, the same Bible says a workman is deserving of her wages.

That if the workplace environment is not conducive, it’s best to leave. Jobs will come and jobs will go, my health is paramount.
That people’s advice should be taken as just that; advice.

 
That if I ever find myself at Ikeja again, talking to the traffic lights, telling them to turn red, so I can cross the road without getting hit, I need to come read this post again. Because affliction shall not arise a second time.

The devil is a liar.

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Funny picture post recommendations
http://zortura.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/sign-posts-friday/

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And you are cordially invited:

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26 thoughts on “Talking to the traffic lights Pt. 2

  1. Hi Uju. Thank you soooooo much for this post. I am currently working on a book about the experiences of young lawyers in Nigeria, of course, pretending that the work is fiction. I read experiences like this and I am like, nah…this can’t be right.

    1. El oh el.
      It’s real. It’s very real. Clenched fists, persistent headaches and all.
      But it’s an opportunity for growth anyway. And I’m happy I grew.

    1. I know sisi. Trust me I know.
      Every member of my family would ask at intermittent intervals, has he paid. Like we were at a vigil for death. I couldn’t stay there on any sort of permanent basis. I’d have snapped and gone on a rampage. But thankfully, I’m still a proper little lady. πŸ‘°πŸ’†.
      Thanks for the comment. And my mom is nice. If you read my earlier post about her driver, check January 2016, you’ll understand just how nice she is.

  2. You were so nice!
    My mum would have said the same thing your mum said.
    I dunno why the burden of maintaining relationships has to be placed on one persons shoulder.

    1. Tamie, I know. Trust me I know.
      I refused to even think too long about it. He was my boss and now he isn’t. Good riddance. I’m not all about that life anymore. That sufferhead life is not for Mr. Somebody shout hallelujah.

    1. Never underestimate your ability to endure, even when you don’t want to. Maybe you wouldn’t have because truth be told it was completely unnecessary for me to stay but I kept thinking of leaving him without a counsel and if feel some pity. By the time I left, all pity had disappeared, I was note concerned with not talking too much lest I told him how angry I was. Humility is a serious gift. And should only be given to certain people, the ones who deserve it. I’m still learning my lesson. But it was a timely lesson.
      Sorry for the epistle. Thanks for reading and dropping a comment. It is appreciated.

  3. Awwn, it was really wonderful meeting you. You made the 1 month worthwhile. I remember how sad I was when you didn’t come for 2weeks during your self-given ‘sabbatical’. Lol.
    There are pros and cons to being nice, but nice people end up being taken for granted often. I have friends who tell me I used to be nice, just because I try to stand up for my self more often now. At times I let it get to me. But then I realise people will always love to have a hold over you. The most important thing is to be yourself and be true to yourself.
    Wonderful post dear.
    Keep the ink flowing. Lol I dunno if it should be called ink. So I’ll say keep the keyboard typing. Lol.

    1. Baby boo!
      The main reason I came back to work when I did was because I wanted to see you. If not, I’d have completely disappeared from the office just like that.
      If you read my last year review post you’ll see how I feel about that debate. To be nice or not to be nice.
      Stand up for yourself. Being nice does not take away your personhood or your emotions. You can be strong and kind at the same time. I need to, we need to learn that balance between being nice and being nice to the point of being considered weak willed doormats.
      If anything scares me as much as being so angry, it’s being known as a weak willed doormat.
      Thank you for the comment. I appreciate it. I’ll definitely do that.

  4. Nice Piece, your boss tho. he’s just giving bosses generally a bad name. Your mum… can’t believe she wanted you to stay.
    P.S:finally dropped the comment.

    1. And the blog owner is cheesing!
      Yess!
      My mom is too nice for her own good sometimes. This time she was too nice for my own good. But I definitely don’t blame her. It was ultimately my decision to stay, ultimately my decision to do everything I did and I decided in the interest of niceness and loyalty. Obviously, I need a course on how to say no and stick to my no.
      Thank you for commenting, Yanmife. Really appreciate it.

  5. Hi Uju,

    NYSC: Now your suffering continues! πŸ™‚

    Some employers really take their staff for granted. It’s a good thing you gained valuable practical experience.

    1. NYSC. Truth be told I never viewed it as suffering per se. The worst part of NYSC for me if I’m to be completely honest was constantly looking for my file every month for Local Government clearance. My boss was an eejit, yes. But he was a relatively minor eejit compared to the pain in my back when I finally found my file. The fact that he was a major contributor to that headache shocked me so much!
      Yes indeed, and now I’m looking for non legal jobs because the average lawyer’s salary at entry level is dismal and will be earned in pain, headaches, sweat and blood and I’m not about that sufferhead lifestyle anymore.

    1. Thank you Ezinne!
      And I agree, health is wealth.
      I wish you the best as well in your future endeavors as well. Thanks for liking my blog.

  6. Wow! What a story! It’s an interesting one too.
    That former boss of yours isn’t supposed to be a boss at all. I hate it when people hold back on salaries, just because they can. I also hate ‘one man’ businesses too.
    Thank God you were patient enough and at the end, you triumphed.

    1. I’m sure it wouldn’t’t surprise anyone to know that he is in fact still owing me. The difference is that I refused to stay in the office while he hemmed and hawed about paying me. I will get that salary whatever I may have to do. Because I refuse to let people like that get the best of me ever again. Never again.
      But I’m glad I left after I achieved my objectives too. Now I know what I can and cannot accept when at work. And I have another funny story added to the repertoire.
      Thanks for commenting. And BTW, check your WhatsApp

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