As it is fast approaching the middle of the year, I have decided to get started on my New Year’s resolutions. Particularly the one where I was supposed to “get out of my comfort zone”.
To be fair to myself, I have already done some of that. I recently joined Instagram. A platform I had previously declared to be a congregation of narcissists, people who take themselves too seriously or a place where you watch the lives of people you wish you could be/ kill. Having gotten over myself and my ridiculous “principles”, I merrily jumped on the bandwagon and have been even more exposed to the lives of people I wish I could be/ kill. You can follow my fumbling and stumbling navigation of IG on @wa_kirikio.
Besides that, I have also stopped judging people harshly… Ha! I almost fooled myself too. I have stopped icing people out simply because I believe they will act strangely when they discover my affinity for the bizarre. Because I had been put in a position where I constantly had to defend myself, I literally stopped trying to make friends. But after the New Year, I tentatively reached out to people, wielding the caution of a curious kid poking a hornet’s nest with a two metre stick. I have made some amazing friends over the past few months. And some of them over the internet.
Following my “courage” over social media, I have tried a few new things as time went on. The most outstanding one, however, was when I joined a sales team a few days ago.
Granted, it was more of a response to a recent admonition about proving my relevance at work, but I also took the opportunity to put to use my newly found social skills. And let me tell you, they did jack. Zero. Absolutely nothing at all.
I was part of a team trying to distribute flyers and inform the public about a new product
at a high rise mall. Upon arrival, we had to report to the management’s office to confirm our payment’s receipt get instructions on how to do our job. The lady in charge looked- interesting. Like a cliché fashion statement. She was supposed to tell us where we were allowed to conduct our business but like an overenthusiastic public primary school’s teacher on duty, she had to go ahead and tell us that we were there to work.
Her chalky lips and dramatic eyebrows dancing with the sternness of her words, “You should not be on your phones. I should not find you roaming around handing out fliers. Stick to the entrances…”.
I tuned her out because I had a feeling that if I shared my feelings about her patronizing attitude she would probably have gotten us booted out. With a flick of her bangle adorned wrists, the overenthusiastic TOD left us to our business. My team mate and I were at a lower entrance while the other two were at the main entrance.
Since my half of the team was the one near the parking lot entrance, we got the more “difficult” clientele to deal with. Never have I been more racist in my life. After getting reactions that only ranged from deaf ear to disinterest from the wazungus, I opted to stick to the Africans who in some ways were much worse.
At one point, a kind elderly American lady dropped her belongings and when we helped her gather them, she noticed our matching t-shirts and asked us,
“So what are you guys doing?”
We told her.
“Oh, I already have all that. I don’t need more. Thank you so much.”
We wished her a good day and she went on her way.
The others would shake their heads when we offered them fliers, which was fair enough.
Now my countrymen were another story. The ones who were receptive were some of the nicest people I have ever had the fortune of smiling at. They were warm, curious, and even sweet. One of them even offered to buy me a cup of coffee. But I suspect that had more to do with the length of my skirt rather than what we were trying to promote.
The others who wanted nothing to do with us had to go a step further than simply shaking their heads. Nairobians have got to be the most suspicious people ever in the history of suspicion. One of them had to rudely remind us that he had already handed out money. We weren’t even asking for money.
Other Nairobians would act like they hadn’t seen us because to them eye-contact is selling your soul to the Devil’s banker. I ended up gritting my teeth hoping that they would think it’s a smile but that didn’t work either. We were met with hostility, suspicion and borderline verbal abuse. One lady even raised her voice at us as though we had opted to follow her into the mall. We weren’t asking for donations. We only wanted to give out information about our product. A shake of the head would have sufficed.
After bearing myself to the unwarranted dismissal of my fellow Nairobians, I got fed up and went to relax with the rest of my team in the food court where it appeared as though a team wearing matching shirts shouldn’t sit and relax. One security guard stalked us with her eyes as though she was mentally practising retinal laser targeting. And as I sat there nursing a soda with the rest of my team, I realized I wasn’t any different from some of those disagreeable Nairobians.
Telemarketers and donation seekers are some of the most annoying people you are ever likely to encounter. They are stubborn, stick on you like a burr with super glue and never leave you alone until you hand them the money they need from you. I usually walk around with headphones on and ignore them whenever they shove they clipboard with a donor list under my nose. I almost slapped one once when she called me a bitch for not showing any interest in her ridiculous plight to save trees in a town I have never heard of and Google Maps can’t trace. These swindling folks who never seem to reach their donation targets make it that much harder for honest-to-God sales-folk or marketers who just want the public to know about what their company has to offer.
They have turned Nairobians into suspicious vipers who hiss, sting or bite at the slightest provocation that their closely guarded wallet treasures will be taken from them by a smooth talking imp.
While my team and I did meet our targets even with all the attitude problems, we would have achieved a lot more had it not been for those people who go around constantly asking for money for causes you don’t understand. They should be strung up by their….
I should stop there. I achieved my resolution this weekend of getting out of my comfort zone, in one way at least. I have developed a new and healthy respect for sales people and will at least listen to them from now on- as long as they aren’t asking for money.