I worked in a food processing factory once. A cog in a giant wheel.
A cog in worker boots and a funny hat.
Working was a good experience, taught me the value of hard work and attention to detail, cause i always figure out that at least once in your life, if your father is not Bill Gates, Uhuru Kenyatta or Mike Sonko, you have to work in a firm you’d rather not. Where the lifts are faulty, and the toilets have “out of order” signs. Where the hours are bad, and the pay is worse.
My mornings were routine, waking up to a sleepy Nairobi, where everybody, from the beggars to the conductors, pocketed their hands, because the cold would stiffen your fingers if you didnt. Where almost everybody had red, puffy eyes, from sleep deprivation. Where, in my walk from Moi Avenue to Dar es Salaam road in Industrial Area, i was just one of the thousands of workers that keep Nairobi going; cooking,cleaning,packing,trimming,sewing, and anything that the City needs to function. I was a cog in a wheel, a wheel that always moved, because the cogs would always be there, always at work, always up early, like clockwork, taking orders, never questioning. Like a cog in a big wheel.
One day, i got tired, couldn’t take early mornings, and late nights, for pathetic pay anymore, so i quit. Amit, my Indian boss, didnt even ask me why i quit, figured he always had my replacement on speed dial. I walked home from work the last time that day , earphones plugged in, but my ears alive to the sounds of the city, little boys selling groundnuts, women hurrying home to cook, the bridge groaning under the weight of thousands of workers..i got home tired, and i lay in bed, staring at a dark ceiling, lost in thought.
I visited my mum the next day, head bent, ashamed that i was now her recently unemployed eldest son. But the way she smiled when she saw me, the way she made me white porridge, with milk and lots of sugar, just the way i liked it since i was little, made it easy to skillfully tell her i was now unemployed. That i would probably need her to take me to hospital if i ever fell sick. That my medical cover had been terminated, that Amit cuts his losses as soon as he could.
The thirty or so minutes she spent drinking porridge in silence, as i poured out my frustrations, were a watershed moment in our relationship. A moment i realised that at home, i was not a cog in a wheel, i was not a means to an end, i was not a statistic in a headcount to determine tax exemption, i was someone who mattered, where my value was in who i was, and not the hours i put in, or how many Chicken Tikkas i could pack in a minute, or how many Tandoori Chicken i could label in a day. Made me feel warm, loved, i even had that tingly feeling you get right before you start crying. Haha, it was intense i tell you !
Sometimes we are so hard at work, being cogs in wheels, wheels that will move even if we quit, get fired, or God forbid, die, that we lose out on knowing how much we mean to our families, or how much they mean to us. Where we answer Amits phonecall more politely than our Dads, where we wake up at 5 a.m to be in his good books, but will not do the same to attend family gatherings, even when attending will mean the world to our parents.
May 11th is Mothers Day,(yes, you are welcome) Facebook will probably crash because everyone and their mother will be proclaiming their undying love for their mums, but remember, an update with 500 likes on facebook is not worth it if you can’t spend 5 minutes reminding your mother, your dad, your brother , your sister, that there is no one else you’d rather have as family. Life is short, tell them today, don’t wait to say “i love you” in a condolence book.
Refuse to die being a cog in a wheel, when there is a wheel that revolves around you.
Blessed week !!