Sign or no sign. It doesn’t matter to them. But when something happens to them, you are always the one to blame. They are the ones who go running to the management, complaining about how unprofessional or unethical you are. A sign. A clear sign stating that the floor is wet and walking on it increases the chances of you slipping and falling. I don’t know why people love walking on wet spaces. You would swear they are Jesus or something. Walking on water. I don’t know how many incidents that have happened here in store of people slipping and falling.
“You crazy girl. Is this your way of revenge for xenophobia?”
One once said something like that. He slipped and fell and when I tried to help him up, even though I was not responsible for his fall, he lashed out on me and insulted me. I have leant to accept that different people with different personalities come to the store every time. So I just do my job and keep my head down.
“Chizoba, someone dropped oil in aisle 8. Please go and clean it up.” my supervisor says as soon as I clock in. don’t complain, don’t grunt, don’t say no. just keep your head down. You need this job.
Honestly this is the longest job I have had since my arrival in South Africa. I was once a helper of a white family and I was fired within 2 weeks because my English was really bad and ‘I was going to influence the young ones to speak broken English.’ I didn’t even have a come back to that because I didn’t know what to say.
Then I was a petrol attendant for a month. Language was also one of the major reasons why I was fired. My boss was a Sotho man and on my first day at work he said ‘I am giving you a week to teach yourself Sotho. We can’t be talking English every time just to accommodate you.’ well two weeks down the line I received a warning. I mean how can you teach yourself a South African language? Anyhow, I was dismissed like that. And after that I lost 3 more jobs. Until my landlady recommended me for this job. This is my 7th month. Luckily I don’t have to talk a lot. My work requires more cleaning and less communicating.
I mean it would’ve been better if I didn’t have to send money home every month. Sometimes I think they think I am some kind of a billionaire because they are always asking me for money. ‘You’re working, Chizoba. You have to send us money every month end.’ that’s what my mom always say. When I told her about the second time I lost a job, she said I shouldn’t call her unless I have a real job.
Anyways I get to aisle 8 and find a white kid dancing in the spot where the oil was spilled. I do some breathing exercises to calm myself down. I am sure if he were to fall, I would be the one to blame, but no let him continue dancing. Finally his mother takes him away and I start mopping around. Nothing annoying as cleaning oil because it is so greasy and smelly and it takes time for it to really get off the floor. When I am done, I put on the warning sign and wait for the floor to dry. After that I discard the water I was using and rinse my hands.
“FUCK!” I hear a loud groan coming from aisle 8 and I quickly rush there, only to find a man on his butt. “YOU!” He looks at me. He is livid and I can see he wishes to crush my skull. “You are the one who was cleaning here?” I nod. “You are fuckin incompetent. Why the fuck didn’t you dry these floors? Now I have damaged my 12k pants and it’s all your fault.”
“Na mgbachitem, enwere ihe ngosi di ebea mana ilefalanya. Oburo m ka osi n’aka, ewu. (To my defence, there was a sign over there and you chose to ignore it. That’s not my fault, jerk.)” He frowns.
“What the fuck did you just say?” he stands up. OMG! He is so tall. Now I wish I would’ve kept my mouth shut. “Answer me.”
“My apologies for pushing you to the floor, Mr. Next time I will make sure to blow it before you walk by.” I fold my arms to my chest and he actually chuckles.
“You have some balls. Who the fuck do you think you are?”
“Chizoba, is everything alright here?” my supervisor’s voice makes me straighten quickly and I bow my head.
“No. everything is not alright. This foreigner right here just insulted my man and he fell because of her. She left the floor soaking wet. She is incompetent.” A woman not far from the giant states. I raise my head to look at her. How did I not see her standing right there? Ow well, she is a dwarf compared to the man who wears 12k pants.
“Chizoba, is that true?” my supervisor questions with a frown. God, I am about to lose another job. Do I really deserve so much bad luck? Maybe I should listen to my neighbor and go wash away bad luck in the ocean. Maybe that will help. I mean why else would a graduate like me suffer like this? My English has improved, a lot, but now I am about to get fired because I control water and air. Next thing, they are going to call me a witch.
“I cleaned the floor and put on the caution sign, ma’am. The floor was oily.” I answer and wait for the moment I am finally dismissed. The supervisor sighs because she knows none of this drama is my fault but now she has to make the customer comfortable.
“We apologize, Mr. It was truly an accident and we promise that nothing like this will happen again.” My supervisor states calmly and the jerk looks at me.
“I want an apology from her.” I laugh internally. Over my dead body is he getting an apology? For what? I would rather kiss my job goodbye than apologize for something I didn’t do. I am no ass kisser and I am not a prideful person, but come on.
“MaNyathi, we need you this side.” One of the cleaners, Mathenji, appears, calling my supervisor and they both walk away. I am grateful for that because now I won’t be forced to milk out an apology.
“I am waiting, Miss Chizoba.” The jerk folds his arms to his chest.
“Hu, Inwere Ike iche ndi otu Kristi n’eche obibia Jesu Kristi. (Well you can wait with the rest of the Christians waiting for the return of Jesus.)” I murmur, picking up the caution sign.
“There you go again, insulting me with that foreign language of yours. You are really being disrespectful. Have you no shame? Didn’t they teach you that the customer is always right? Or you didn’t understand English?” he is getting angry now, even his nostrils are flaring. I sigh and imitate his pose.
“You are wasting your time. I am pretty sure you want more of 12k pants and they are not going to pay for themselves while you stand here and demand an apology that you don’t deserve. You should be the one apologizing to me but I guess you see yourself as superior compared to a Nigerian cleaner.”
“Babe, let’s go. This foreigner is stubborn and stupid.” The girlfriend snarls at me, pulling the boyfriend away and together they head to the other end of the aisle. I take a deep breath and mop the floor that has been stained by a 12k trouser.
“That was dramatic.” Mathenji states with a silly smile as I change into my jeans, t-shirt and sandals. My shift has come to an end and I can’t wait to get to my room and have a nice home cooked meal. I chuckle while folding my uniform.
“What was dramatic?”
“That encounter with Makhosonke and Monica.” I frown.
“And who is Masonke and Monica?” she laughs. Mathenji Gasa is one of the few people I get along with here at work and whom I also hang out with on my spare time.
“That rude couple you argued with on aisle 8.” My mind goes back to my dramatic morning. Gosh, that Rastafarian annoyed the shit out of me.
“How do you know them?”
“Well the couple is very famous on social media. They are like Touch Hefner and Fafa Kubheka but these two are rude and they only get together with the people in their circle. You have to earn at least a 5 figure salary, afford an apartment in Sandhurst or Sandton or whichever Joburg suburb. You have to have at least a half a million car and the clothes you wear, designer honey. That’s the requirement for the gents. The ladies have to look superfly like all the time. Expensive weaves, makeup on fleek, nice clothes and designer bags. But of course the gents are the ones who sponsor that lifestyle.”
“So he wasn’t lying when he said his trouser costs 12k?”
“Lovey, that’s an Armani trouser and it costs R13 125. He was just rounding it down.”
“People pay that much for just pants? He has money to waste. Anyways enough about that stuck up jerk. I am super hungry and I am craving a home cooked meal, so I have to dash.”
“Save some for me, please.” I chuckle and agree because I know she loves my meals. She even discards her own lunch box just so she can have mine. “See you tomorrow babes.” we share a hug and I head off.