It was silly and I knew it. Even paying the slightest regard to these scribblings on public walls showed that the attention payer was an idiot. They were all over Lagos: ‘Total Cure for Bumps and Keloids. Herbal Treatment. Call 08123458837′, ‘Learn to Drive in 2 Weeks: Auto and Manual. Call Waheed 08099963527′, ‘Speak English fluently in 10 days!!! Call..’ It went on.
Whenever I believed I had seen the worst, I would come across another white paint scribbling on the side of a bridge or on a wall. Lagos state had done this campaign where they, assuming the average wall scribbler has a full emotional tank, tried to play to our empathy by putting posters up which said: ‘you won’t deface yourself, why deface Lagos?’ Or something like that.
Although I can think of a bunch of things which would declare the very premise of this campaign strategy flawed, I’ll just say one thing : LAGOSIANS DON’T CARE.
But that’s another post for another day.
What I intend to talk about is this particular day in May. I stood by Antony bus stop on Ikorodu Road and waited for Ojota bus. After too many unimportant destinations had been called out by different hanging conductors, I permitted my eyes to wander and take in my surrounding. Right there in front of me, on the wall of the pedestrian bridge, I saw: ‘Night Work Available! Make N35,000 every night. Men and Women. Call for Work: 08126484953′
I smiled and wondered if people still fell for it. I watched as a man crossed the road despite the pedestrian bridge and simultaneously a thought crossed my mind: what if I called the number?
I thought: I wouldn’t be calling like an ignorant person desperate to for work and blind to the schemes of these 419er. No. I would be calling as an investigative body, asking questions in the bid to compose a great article in mockery of whoever was at the other end of the line.
I took out my phone the same time an Ojota bus screeched in front of me. Copying the phone number on the wall, I rushed to take the last seat on the bus.
When I returned home later that afternoon, I called.
‘Hello‘ I said, in my most uncouth voice. They probably don’t know the meaning of the word anyway.
‘Hi. Good afternoon. This is Leslie Farm Produce. With whom do I speak?‘ I heard a soft amazing super magnetic sultry female voice say.
I sat up immediately; apparently unready for any intelligent conversation. ‘Erm.. Yes. Hi.‘
‘Hi? Are you there?’ she repeated a little unsure and a little encouraging – like someone who had a masters degree in phone answering.
I checked the screen of my phone to be sure I had called the right number. Yes. Ojota Scammers, it said.
‘Yes. Sorry. My name is Ade. I am calling on behalf of a job opening? A night job opening? I don’t know. It might be the wrong number though.’ I said.
‘Oh no. You’re on to the right line. This is Leslie Farm Produce. And yes, there’s a job opening for Night shifts at our store. Thanks for calling. Would you be free for an interview at our office tomorrow?’
‘Erm…yeah. Yes. Sorry. Yes. Where’s your office and what time?‘ I was still stunned.
‘It’s at Muri Okunola. Number 32. Victoria Island. Other applicants are coming in at 10, 10:30 and 11, so that fits you at 11:30am. Can you make it?’ She said, not really asking me.
‘Yes I can. I’ll be there. Thanks. Do I need to come with anything?’
‘With your CV, definitely‘ she said.
After the call, I googled the company. Indeed they existed (as they still do). And yes, that was their office address. I was stunned.
I went to their office the next day. I wasn’t killed.
I sat at the reception. I wasn’t stabbed.
I had the interview. I wasn’t strangled.
The interviewer was a calm obviously educated woman. She said it was a little bit of a challenge that I was a student but since it was a night job, I could do a test run for a month and see if I was fit. The store boasts of being the only store open 24/7 in Lagos to sell fresh farm produce. I was being interviewed for the 6-10pm attendant slot. She offered me N40,000 and said she liked me a lot; that I had an air of uncertainty about me with the way I spoke but she could see beneath it that I was very smart.
I’ll be damned! I thought. Smart indeed. Here was I being interviewed for a job I saw advertised by the side of a pedestrian bridge and I was all sorts of confused.
I worked there for 6 months until I graduated from the university. I went for work for the first 2months, still confused and in a haze but after the 2nd month, I stopped thinking about it. What the heck? I got the job anyway, I thought. I changed the number from ‘Ojota scammers’ to ‘Work Customer Care Line’
Just yesterday, I came back to Lagos from NYSC and stood on the same spot at Antony bus stop. I looked at the place where the advert was. It was still there, no changes made. I shook my head and opened my contacts – I don’t know why I did this, maybe just to reminisce and reenact the very beginning.
I don’t know what made me look at the number on my phone and the one on the wall, but it suddenly caught my eye. My heart skipped a beat as I looked again from my phone to the wall. I looked again this time, my stomach rumbling. I closed my eye and opened it comparing both numbers again.
Indeed it was true : on the wall, the number was 08126484953 but the one I had hurriedly copied into my phone was 08126484958.