Nana clutched her credentials close to her chest, a sort of shield, as she descend the wooden steps onto a walkway that led to the hotel swimming pool area.
Standing on the fringes, Nana could feel the body heat of the people around coming at her in waves, and she blamed herself once again for wearing black on this hottest of days. It did not help that it was a chiffon blouse; the lightweight fabric clung to her back, and sweat trickled down her sides.
‘Excuse me please… Excuse me,’ she said wending my way through the press of bodies trying to get close to the front. Someone backed into her and she in turn crashed into another person.
‘I’m sorry,’ Nana said but he did not seem to notice he.
After being jostled a couple more times she decided that the struggle necessary to get to the front was not for her. She went and stood by a concrete and wire fence that separated the pool area from the Atlantic. The breeze coming in that clearing felt good against her skin and for a moment she closed her eyes and savoured it.
Opening her eyes she looked over the fence and saw the water lapping at the concrete beams that supported that part of the hotel. It looked like quite a drop into the water, and there were small rocks and bigger boulders in the water that she could see.
Nana shuddered and backed away from the fence. She checked her wristwatch and then went to stand among other stragglers.
‘Nobody’ll be expecting me back at the office anymore.’
She had skipped lunch to get as much work as possible done before coming to the hotel.
‘I wish I had come earlier though, then maybe I wouldn’t have to struggle with this multitude.’ She sighed.
‘Isn’t that the babe from Big Brother Africa?’ A girl pointed.
‘I think she’s the one.’ Another replied.
‘The crowd is plenty o, will it get to our turn today?’ Someone else asked.
‘Ah, you should have come earlier; the crowd was unmanageable and the hotel had to send us to the pool area because we filled their lobby to overflowing.’ Miss Information said. ‘They said we were disrupting their business.’
‘Na wa o. Common air hostess job is what all these people have come out for?’ Miss Complaint asked.
Nana was tempted to ask her what she was doing there herself since the opening was for common air hostess job, but she thought better of it and held her tongue.
‘There’s a film I was watching on DSTv the other day sef about flight attendants.’ Miss Information said.
‘Eh-hen? Which film?’
‘One film like that. It had Gwyneth Paltrow and one guy like that.’
‘Oh, View from the top?’ A new voice quipped.
It belonged to a guy who had just come from the crowd. He wore a jacket and Nana wondered who would do such a thing in this heat. Although his tie was loosened and the top button on his shirt was undone, Nana was sure he was cooking in his suit.
After waiting for about an hour, an official from the airline announced that they were done seeing applicants for the day, but that they would resume the next day at 8am.
A groan went up round the pool.
Bruce called Michael as he walked towards the hotel gate.
‘What will you do about it?’ He asked, his concern clear in his voice.
‘Na to check back tomorrow nau. I’ll come very early though.’
‘Good.’ He could hear Michael smile.
On his way home Bruce stopped at Obalende and checked with the boys who sold CDs there if they had View From The Top.
He had been contemplating going over to introduce himself to the girl standing by the fence – she cut a nice picture standing there, her head thrown back and her blouse and skirt stirred by the breeze.
He watched her shiver and then rub her arms, and was deciding if ‘hello’, or ‘are you cold?’ would be a better opening line when he overheard the group nearby talking about a movie. He filed the title away and took two tentative steps toward her when the conversation turned to movies, movie stars, hair and make-up and the girl by the fence turned and joined in.
A guy knew a guy who had the movie and while Bruce waited for him to return, he browsed through his wares. He saw a new R. Kelly CD which he liked and bought; it was the Happy People and U Saved Me combination album.
Listening to the U Saved Me album, Bruce felt a wetness on his cheeks. He brushed it away surprised, and then sitting there on the floor with his back against a couch, the words came. Sweat fell down his brows mingling with my tears and he just sat there with his head bowed and prayed until he was spent.
Bruce was not an overly religious person. In fact, he always thought it a bit too much whenever he saw people weeping during church service.
That night, he went to sleep with a smile on his face and his heart was light – the movie forgotten.
The next morning he was out of the house before 4:45am and arrived at the hotel just before 6am where he was directed to a second gate. At the time he arrived, a list of names had been submitted and he was number fifteen on the second list.
They sat or stood around that gate, people joined them and other people left. Groups were formed and people speculated about the recruitment process. Some people talked about other job openings in they had seen in the newspapers. Bruce just kept to himself and willed the time to pass quickly.
He checked his watch as a representative of the airline approached the gate; it was just before 8am.
‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen.’ The man addressed the crowd.
‘Good morning sir.’ They chorused.
‘Sorry to have kept you waiting.’ He said, not looking sorry at all. ‘We will begin shortly. We have your names here.’ He shook the sheaf of papers in his right hand. He unbound them and began to call names. The people present were allowed in through the gate and given numbers while those not present at the time were skipped – some people had written their names and wandered off or gone to resume at work with plans to come back later.
‘Here!’ Dele put up his right hand. The people in front of him parted and he walked through the gate.
‘Number forty-seven.’ The official said, moving on to the next name on the list.
‘Follow those signs.’ One of the security men at the gate pointed Dele in the direction of some trees.
He followed the tree-lined avenue to a door that led into the hotel building and on to a conference room.
The room was set up with rows of chairs on the left and on the right with an aisle in the middle. At the front of the room tables were set up in a semi-circle. Dele counted six people seated behind them. He took a seat among the other applicants and waited.
They did not have to wait long before a lady came in, introduced herself as Emma Sandhurst and proceeded to address them.
Dele did not hear half of what she said because he spent most of her speech wondering how she could walk so fast in heels that high.
‘Maybe she’s had years of practice. Or maybe it’s a white thing.’
‘You in the orange shirt,’ she pointed her chin in Dele’s direction.
‘Me?’ Dele touched his chest even though he was wearing a blue shirt. It took him a moment to realise she was referring to the person behind him.
Dele looked over his shoulder as the person got up. He was wearing an orange t-shirt over blue jeans.
‘Do you know why you are here?’ Emma asked him, her hands clasped in front of her.
He had a blank look on his face.
‘This is a recruitment assessment and you came dressed like this? Please leave the room.’ Emma waved him towards a door to her left.
She walked down to the back of the room and as she went she pointed people out. ‘You, you, you and you. Please leave the room.’
The people she asked to leave had one thing in common: they were casually dressed. She got to the end of the room and doubled back. People squirmed in their seats.
‘Hello dear,’ she stopped beside a lady close to the front. ‘How are you?’
The lady sprang to her feet. ‘I’m fine thank you ma.’ Her smile was a little too bright.
‘Did you read the requirements in the advert? And you don’t have to call me “ma”.’ Hands clasped in front of her.
‘Yes I did… Ma… Sorry.’ The lady’s smile faltered.
‘And did you see the part about minimum height requirement?’ She asked again.
‘Yes, I did.’ Her voice quavered.
‘And you feel you meet that requirement?’ Emma was toying with her.
The lady swallow before she bobbed her head in the affirmative.
‘Actually,’ Emma gave her a honeyed smile. ‘I don’t think so. If you’ll please step out here,’ she pointed to a spot next to where she stood.
Emma was taller than her by a few inches, but that was to be expected considering she was in heels several inches high and the lady was wearing a pair of flat sandals.
‘I’m sorry darling,’ a smiling Emma waved her to the exit.
Emma returned to her seat behind the table, an indication they were ready to begin.
They called out numbers and the applicants moved to the person who had called out their number, it was then Dele understood what the number he had been given at the gate was for.