|Jul/Aug 2005 fiction|
When you get off that "Night Flight" from Kaduna, it feels great to be in Lagos again, even if you don't particularly care for its general madness and the people's unfriendliness. But others live here and get by, don't they? What you need now is a place to freshen up before you catch a taxi to your interview.
One of the bathrooms in the bus terminus serves you well. You do the best you can to clean up in the poorly lit place. Then you step into your new suit, finishing up with the rather expensive tie you bought the previous afternoon in KD. Before you dash off, you go round to the booking counter to get a ticket for a seat on the flight back.
The cute young girl at the counter is unusually friendly. Soon as you step up to her, she lights up, a smile so genuine it warms your heart.
"Good morning, sir," she says. It's so un-Lagosian, you're slightly shocked. Lagosians, to the best of your knowledge, don't often bother with niceties like greetings.
"Good morning," you reply, smiling too. "Kaduna."
"Morning or night bus?"
The transaction is fast. When you're about to leave, she tilts her head sideways and says, "Your tie is very fine."
"Thank you," you say, wishing you could leave her your fifty bucks change. But shoestring doesn't quite describe your budget, and you fear she might be offended by something smaller. "Have a nice day," you say.
The way she says that, you know she truly means it, and it feels good.
You're at the point where you think you're "grown" now, so having such a sweet young thing be so nice to you is like a coffee fix to a caffeine addict.
So it's with a wide grin that you hail a taxi. And you're still wearing that grin when you stand before the receptionist of the ad firm where you're to be interviewed.
"Good morning and welcome," the receptionist says, her face eager and expectant. "How may I help you, sir?"
"Good morning," you say, wondering again if you'd previously misjudged Lagosians. "I'm here for the interview."
The receptionist nods, then politely ushers you into a waiting room. There are two other men there, and as you enter and greet them, they respond pleasantly with broad smiles.
Wow! More nice folks. And definitely friendly.
"Nice tie," one of the men says.
"Thank you," you say, reminding yourself not to pay him any compliment as it would seem as if you're just paying him back.
"Really nice," says the other man.
"Thank you," you mouth, a bit embarrassed now but glad that you'd invested that three grand on the tie. You absent-mindedly pat it down. Surely even the interviewers would not fail to notice how nice it is.
Despite the slight embarrassment of having everyone compliment your tie—which, to be honest, is not really an embarrassment at all—you're in the highest spirits now. You can feel the eyes of one of the men directly admiring your suit and, of course, the tie as the other pretends to be busy with his laptop, all the while stealing glances at you.
When it's your turn at last, you're still rolling on that high, even after waiting for about an hour and a half for the interviewers to finish with the other two.
Today you feel invincible. Superman. Anything you want, you will get. All because you broke with your tradition of buying regular, off-the-shelf ties and invested in the real stuff from a proper A-list boutique. Great going, superhero. Spread your imaginary cape. Fly!
You're not disappointed when you finally sit before the interviewers: a middle-aged man, a man about your age, and a woman who could be anything from twenty-nine to forty-one. They're all giving you what you know instinctively is their best smiles, and when the lady says, "Great tie," it's all you can do to stop from hugging her.
So while you chitchat with the interviewers, you're already thinking what you're going to do with the better pay you're sure to get. A faster computer. Internet access at home. Buy GQ and Esquire more regularly and save up for that BMW you've always wanted. Yes, now you're going to live the life you always dreamed about. Maybe even get a trophy wife. Show your mates who's The Man.
"So, would you say your tie is an indication of your aesthetic prejudices?" the lady asks.
You're ready for this.
"In a manner of speaking, yes, though I would say 'preferences,' not 'prejudices.'"
"Is a preference not a prejudice?" the middle-aged man asks.
"Not at all. A preference, to my mind, implies the favoured choice out of perhaps many choices. But a prejudice, the way I see it, is a closed end. No other options allowed. I also feel a preference has a positive ring to it, while a prejudice is decidedly uncool."
You're certain you've shown them that you're no fool who can be pushed into a corner with semantic colourations. How can they possibly deny you the job now?
"I'm sure you carefully thought out your outfit before coming here," the man about your age says.
It's a dicey one. Either way he can nail you easily. So you play the fence. A sober smile and a soft "Well..."
Thankfully, he doesn't want to push you to commit.
"Since we deal with images in advertising a great deal of the time," he says, "what images are you seeking to project with your outfit?"
You almost heave a sigh of relief but check that in time.
"Confidence and resourcefulness."
"Would that be why you've left the price tag on your tie?" the lady asks. "Personally, at three thousand, I think you paid too much for it."