‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ standing at the podium the CEO beamed down at the guests. ‘We are gathered here this evening to honour a group of exceptional young men and women…’
Bruce tuned the CEO out and looked, instead, at the people around him occupying the rows of neatly lined chairs to the right of the podium; people who, only a few weeks ago, were complete strangers to him.
From his third row seat in the wing, Bruce searched the nave of the banquet hall for his sister. He saw her where she sat a table with four other guests. A smile touched his lips. The man sitting next to her leaned in and said something which made her laugh. Bruce could have sworn he heard her tinkling laughter clear across the room over the hum of activities in the room.
Waiters weaved between the tables bearing trays of hors d’oeuvres and champagne.
Bruce chuckled, not for the first time, at the thought that he probably would have been part of this team of waiters, or the kitchen team that prepared the finger foods if fate had not stepped in all those months ago.
After his National Youth Service program Bruce stayed back in Kano for six months. He spent the first three months working in the kitchen at the hotel where he had served. After four months the General Manager decided that due to cash flow problems, they had to let him go.
The Personnel Manager got him a job to manage his friend’s restaurant. Bruce worked in that position for exactly one month before he resigned.
Bruce and the owner disagreed on how much he should get as salary; they also disagreed on how he should run the restaurant.
Out of work and without any money, Bruce pulled a Prodigal Son; he packed his worldly possessions into a small Ghana-Must-Go bag and returned to Lagos.
Back home he moved in with his eldest sister and it was through her that he met Michael.
Michael worked as a human resource business partner at a hotel and, with Bruce’s degree in hotel management, it was hoped that Michael would recommend him when there was an opening at the hotel or any other hotel where he must, undoubtedly, have links.
So when Mike called him that morning to tell him about the airline that was recruiting, Bruce perked up.
When he heard what airline it was though, he got a sinking feeling in his stomach; he had applied there earlier and had not heard back from them and he told Mike as much.
‘How did you apply?’ Michael asked.
‘I saw their advert in the newspaper and I applied online for a managerial position.’ He replied.
‘Forget about that one,’ Mike said. ‘I was with a friend yesterday evening; he is one of the people doing the recruitment. He said they need a lot of cabin crew.’
‘Okay,’ Bruce said, sure he could do better than a flight attendant position..
‘So, are you interested?’
He wanted to say ‘no’, but he had only recently met Michael and did not want to come across as choosy. Besides, he was tired of staying at home and being dependent on his sister for an allowance. He had once considered accepting the job of a waiter if anyone was employing, so why not cabin crew?
It is often spur of the moment decisions, sometimes made for others, that can change our whole lives.
‘When do you want to go?’ Michael’s voice in his ear.
Bruce looked at the time on my phone, it was just before 10am.
‘I’m on my way now.’ He grunted, getting up off the floor where he was lying.
Bathed and dressed, Bruce made his way to Victoria Island where the recruitment was taking place.
At the hotel gate Edwin had asked the security men where the airline was recruiting.
‘By the swimming pool.’ One said. ‘When you go up,’ he pointed to the steps in the distance leading up to the glass facade of the building, ‘walk through the lobby and turn right beside the elevators and walk to the end. You will see the swimming pool.’
Edwin thanked him and trudged under the sun threatening to fry his brain towards the building. As soon as the glass double doors slid closed behind him, the cool embrace of the air-conditioned lobby was total. Edwin stood just inside the doors blinking back a few spots floating inside his eyelids and tried to get his bearing before following the directions further.
The lobby was big with a vaulted ceiling. The front desk was set in a far corner to the left, a bank of elevators stood straight ahead and it was for those that he headed.
At the elevators he turned right as the security man had directed, and it was then he became aware of the others around me.
He made his way to what he hoped was the hotel swimming pool area. He had never been to the hotel before, but a trickle of young men and women flowed in only one direction and he let himself be drawn into the stream.
They all had two things in common: they were smartly dressed and most of them carried big brown manila envelopes he was sure contained their credentials – even the ladies with their big handbags hanging off their shoulders still had these envelopes under their arms.
‘One, two, three…’ Edwin did a headcount of the people before him, made adjustments for those who would definitely had gone through earlier, and decided he had roughly a hundred people – give or take a few – to contend with.
Not too bad odds.
A door led out onto a veranda that, from the looks of it, encircled the building. He followed the others left, then right down a flight of wooden steps. They went up another set of steps before turning left.
If Edwin had been alone he would have become apprehensive.
‘Maybe I misunderstood the security man. Maybe I missed a turn. Maybe I should ask somebody if I was going in the right direction.’
He followed the other applicants, some of whom walked with assured strides. Their steps did not falter; instead they planted one foot in front of the other with a familiarity that re4boosted his confidence.
In the distance he saw an expanse of water that stretched as far as his eyes could see. Sun glinted off its rippling surface and waves beat against the beach. He heard a muted roar which he assumed was the sound of the waves, then he turned the corner and his stomach plummeted.
In front of him was a mob.