Perspectives from Wabera Street

I’m working my first job at this insurance company near Wabera Street. It’s my first time in an actual 8-5 job.

I’m only barely 20 so you can imagine how delighted my parents (read dad) are to watch me wake up at satanic hours every morning and not sleep in as is the script for all my holidays. I think they secretly jump up and down their bed in triumph as their fattening, over privileged son prods to the showers at 4 am, not realizing that I may be having seizures at work cause of severe sleep deprivation (Ebu quickly google ‘microsleeps’). All 18 to 22 year-olds require a minimum of 12-14 hours of sleep. It is known. (GoT)

The traffic from home is hell-sent so to beat it, I leave with ithe at 5.20 am. He’s been doing this for like 20 years; Getting up at 4 am for work. 20 years. I’m barely two months in and I’m already here with my petulant whining.
But good thing is I get to sleep in the car, right? Wrong. So wrong. He drives like a stuntman filming a chase scene. You sleep you die, that’s what it is. I have to be awake so I can indulge him in pointless banter to distract him from overtaking. Mostly dumb questions like whether life was black and white in the 70s like I see in his photos or ‘What does this button do?’ (Pointing at radio volume button)

Aim is to keep him talking.

Unfortunately though, I’m quickly running out of these distracting talking points and I think he’s starting to notice what I’m doing.
(This is funny. He’s napping here, just next to me, as I write this)

Nonetheless, I must say, working at this place comes with it an exposure that is very much worthwhile. The corporate Nairobi experience. It’s quite something.

When talking to customers and guys I meet I’m always quick to introduce myself as an Underwriting Intern cause it sounds good. Admit. It sounds like one of those rare, paid internships where you have a desktop and a supervisory role, where your opinion is valued. Where at 10 and 4 the lovely kitchen lady asks you what snack you want with that white latte.
Ha! I wish.
What I am really is a photocopying intern. A paper printing intern. A pass me that stapler intern. A deliver those to head office 5 km away intern.
There is, however, a lovely kitchen lady. I’ll write about her later.
Underwriting in insurance involves money and risk and policy covers and renewals and  annual premiums and some other stuff whose details I’ll spare you. It’s pertinent to what I’m studying in Juja.
I work under the senior underwriter, Winnie. She’s fashionable and in her 30s. She’s slowly teaching me motor vehicle underwriting, which is fun by the way cause there’s this kihuge folder full of photos of vehicles and their assessed values. I always read it in my free time.
She’s nice, but she likes sending me miles away for fries and expects me to bring her vinegar – which is just hell for me because I have to ask for some from this spiteful, rude waitress. Her name tag spells ‘Joy’, which is simply the mother of ironies because she has this aura of bile and lemon that is just repugnant. I dislike Joy.

Among the things in life I consider dreadful, rude waitresses rank right up there. Right next to people who would give you warm water after a long run. Or generally when you’re really thirsty. They are evil.
Rude waitresses irk. And they all have overdone mascara. I always feel like pointing it out but I realise they probably hold good grooming to the same regard they do PR skills.
My point, initially. Guys will probably misuse you as an intern. Don’t worry. Kuteseka ni kwa muda.
Plus, CBD is actually a nice place for a walk. This is actually where golden blog ideas hit me. Precisely hapo Intercontinental, Parliament Road. That’s where my block just vaporizes. Where I’m hit with epiphanies of new vocabulary I should use; like ‘irk’ or ‘petulant’ or ‘epiphanies’.
By the way. Do you know how many Land Cruiser VXs are in CBD at any given time? Too many. Like 500. It’s fascinating. And bland.
It also makes me realise just how wealthy Nai folk are and how much Nairobi is land of opportunity. That I’m lucky. That this internship is, hopefully, the beginning of a long, fulfilling journey – that will probably end in my kids and grand kids fighting over my buildings and cars and stocks while I ail and fall victim to ruthless tabloid. (Hehe. I’m young and impressionable. Let me be)

Strolling through the CBD can also be depressing. Have you ever walked past this young 5’11” Somali whose adorned in a striped, 3-piece navy blue suit, with material so crisp that you’re sure was crafted by the gods of suits (Italians). He enters his sleek Lexus SUV, whose windscreen is slightly but noticeably cracked. Your heart bleeds for him because you know he fell victim to those CORD protest hooligans. He has an S7 which, at the time, you’re not even sure whether it’s out yet. And get this. He is wearing sandals! Anyone who drives a Lexus to CBD in sandals and has an S7 is obviously a big deal. With those declarations you are supposed to deliver in hand, you watch him as he drives off. He embodies everything you want to be. And have. And wear.

On the depressing part, just across Kimathi Street – near that huge screen where ‘The Gods Must  Be Crazy’ is showing for the 2700th time today – there’s the beggar woman lying on the sidewalk. She’s always there. She has a (/her) kid with her. Her hand is raised, begging, and she has a tin. They’re both tattered and you can’t tell for certain whether or not the woman is asleep. The kid’s face is covered in mucus and it is clear from your POV that the kid has soiled himself. What strikes you, however, is just how jovial the kid is as he smiles to passersby. He is happy. Ignorant, but happy.
You don’t know what else to do but drop a 50 bob note in there. It’s how you’ve been socialised. The entire thing just makes your heart sink and you leave feeling like shit.

I know some are indeed just lazy parasites but what about the ones that are disabled? The ones incapable of fending for themselves. That shit just gets to me. And I’m here complaining about VXs and waitresses.

Such are the rigors and realities present in CBD, to which I am adapting. It has led to a newfound respect for the working class Kenyan. And my parents.
It has taught me that you need some Frank Underwood in you if you are to toboa. Some resilience. Some ruthlessness. A strong stomach.
Oh and patience. Patience for matatu touts and manipulative colleagues and bank queues and rude waitresses.


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