28 September 2011

Hafiz Adewuyi

Everyday is for the thief

“Good heavens! I was nearly caught red-handed today; thank you Lord for sparing me the embarrassment. This would be my last time”. The words in quote pretty much sum up the thoughts that burned through my mind as I rode home from work on a commercial transport bus that Wednesday evening few weeks back. I didn’t hesitate to share them on Facebook when they were still fresh. Even hours after, I was still getting the creeps when I imagined that if the events of about five minutes before I boarded that bus had been as much as a tad displaced in time, the words in the opening quote would have looked more like this: “And my mum told me to desist from this act oh; and Chika, the victim of last week told me to be careful just a day ago. OMG, why didn’t I listen to the angels you sent to speak so clearly to me? I’m really sorry, but please, show me a way out of this mess”.

More than a handful of times, I’ve been saved slimly from costly misfortunes; many I know of, many others, I probably didn’t even notice. The kind of misfortunes in view now, however, are the ones that bring shame (embarrassment seems a euphemism is comparison to what I mean now) to the victim. This is not to say that I’ve not had my share of such events in life. I particularly remember one that happened to me in my JAMBITE registration days at UNILAG. I’d come to school from home just like every other day because as at this time, hostel allocation had not commenced yet. It must have been like every other day, up until towards midday when I realized I had diarrhoea (stomach upset); I urgently needed to flush that crap out of my system. Problem was, I was nothing more than a JJC in UNILAG at that time and not even one toilet’s location did I have in memory. It didn’t help either that I was just coming out from a school where my social skills had been mitigated to a trace. All I did was to inform my classmate who happened to be with me at that time.

Together, we scouted the whole of the engineering faculty for a restroom which I could use; all to no avail. Even if it occurred at all to me to consult someone around to direct us to one, I didn’t for a second consider that option – you already know why.  Next, we drifted off to Faculty of Science. Luckily for us, right at the frontage of the faculty complex sat the lost treasure I’d been searching for all day; a restroom. Without thinking twice, I barged into the loo’s perimeter and headed for the WCs; friend waiting outside for me. I passed through about three of the WC cubicles before getting to the one which I would use. As soon as I did, I entered it and settled down to business immediately.

 Five minutes after, I was on my way out of the shitting room when I discovered what a stupid mistake I’d made. As soon as I turned the corner linking the WC cubicles’ corridor to the exit doorway, my eyes fell on a young female student moving in the opposite direction as I was. We both instinctively stopped in our tracks simultaneously even as she stared straight at my face. Readable from her face was a mixture of emotions of shock and disgust. On my end, it was as if the world had frozen still until the ladies’ door opened once again to receive an older lady into the room. At this point, I knew without a hint of uncertainty what had happened here and I wasted no more time. I regained my composure and walked towards the exit; past the student and then past the older woman who – from the look on her face – seemed to find humour in what she was before her. All I could think of after this awful experience was: hope she doesn’t recognize me when next we cross paths. You know what even made me feel more stupid? As soon as I exited the ladies’, right on its opposite side and some five metres in front of me was the men’s restroom :-(.

I’m so thankful that the event for which I’m really writing this article didn’t turn out like the one I just narrated. For one, if it had, the consequences would have been way more than embarrassment. Let me show you what I mean.

That day had progressed like almost any other day: me starting the day of at work with a cup of tea and a couple of snacks and… before I knew it, it was close of work. I opened my backpack (habitually) and was mildly surprised to see a couple of CHI products staring me right in the face. Mildly surprised; not that it wasn’t me who’d put them there but that I’d expected them to be kept in a less conspicuous manner. I was thankful to my instincts for making me remember to do that routine check today. Anyway, I removed the three items and kept them in less obvious sections of the bag.

After saying the goodnights to my co-workers, I headed out of CHI Snacks maintenance office and to the main gate of the large premises of the factory. I approached the thumb print recognition rotating doorway, 99.9% confident that the occasional security check would be futile as usual. On getting to the doorway, I placed my right index finger on the fingerprint reader and in seconds, the door lock was released.  I pushed through the door and entered into its other side which serves as a security stand. Once I was through this cubicle, I had nothing to worry about any more.

Zifah at work!
I moved towards the final exit, hoping that the guard on duty would let me pass without a check; after all, I was dressed too responsibly to be a pilferer. My hopes were dashed however as he stopped me just as I was about walking past him. Perhaps, my pulse rose at this point, but certainly not fast enough to be called a spike. I calmly stepped back, slipped my bag off my back, opened the large compartment and presented it to the guard for examination. He did his job with more care than I would have expected, but in the end, he found nothing there.

Just as I finished closing the just-searched part of the bag and was ready to saunter past the guard, fate decided to make it ‘the owner’s day’. The uniformed man did something none other of his colleagues had ever done. He asked to check a smaller section of the backpack. In a second, my mind has processed and imbibed this last piece of information. The consequence of that was an instantaneous spike in my heart rate/blood pressure. I felt like my heart was beating fast and hard enough to make my entire body vibrate with it. My tongue went dry and I practically became like a character in a slow-motion scene in a movie – slow to act.

My left hand moved very slowly to the zipper of the small compartment and started to pull the zip up at a 1mm/s rate while my right hand held it against my front torso. No sooner had I started this pointless ceremony of mine than another variable entered into the equation. Two co-workers arrived at the exit and this served as a diversion in my favour because the guard shifted focus from me to check their bags. My ceremony ground to a halt instantly; I probably even reversed its effect.

Looking back at the opportunity this diversion gave me, I realise there are 101 things I could have done with it. The most reasonable of these, I think is just to have turned around and headed back for my department to offload the incriminating items. My state of shock at that time, however, seemed to have numbed most of my cerebral cortex. Almost towards the end of the diversion, I decided what I was gonna do.

I’d half expected that he would just let me pass through since his brain might just have told him that he’s checked me before. But I soon saw that fate wasn’t gonna let me go free that easily. As soon as he was through with the two guys, they walked out of the exit, freeing the path before me in the process. I instantly moved towards the door and just as I was almost through it, the efficient guard stopped me for a check; a continuation check more precisely.  The thought of moving back and surrendering to him again just didn’t occur to me at this point. All I heard was I saying quite weakly and nervously, “But you have checked me now”. I know my nervousness showed very clearly.

After I said that, I waited for a brief two seconds, searching his expression while waiting for his next line of action. Seeing that he just stood there, dumb and motionless, I turned away from him and glided through the exit, half expecting that he’d pull at my bag. Fortunately, fate had finally been coaxed into changing his mind; into making this another day for the thief.

Now, you might be thinking what’s could possibly have happened if I’d been caught with these pilfered – sounds like a euphemism compared to stolen – edibles. They would probably just take them back from me, warn me against it and that would’ve been it, right? Wrong.

In the first paragraph, I referred to someone called Chika and said something related to warning me. Well, in the previous week, news started flying around that a handful of IT students had been caught with company products on their way out. I didn’t pay much attention to it since I thought I’d perfected the art of smuggling; “the nabbed guys must be a bunch of JJCs”, I said to myself. I kept doing my thing almost every day without flinching.

Now, Chika happened to be my colleague: fellow IT student; though, in the Quality Assurance section. We were good friends and always looked out for each other every day. She’s pretty polite and decent (I didn’t omit a comma anywhere). On the Tuesday just preceding the Wednesday in view, I’d called her to ask about something I told her to help me get. That was when she told me she was one of the culprits of last week. I was shocked to the bone. She’d – according to her – been caught with just two pieces of Superbite on her way out of CHI and was on an indefinite suspension for that. Just before I hung up, she warned that I be careful so I don’t become as miserable as she was then. I said thanks without thinking much of the advice. Wasn’t I the king of the game anymore? Please.

Week after the event came and I expected to see Chika back in resumption since in one of the calls, she’d said her (their) suspension had been called off. When this didn’t happen, I started questioning myself and I thought she might just be too embarrassed to return to work. It wasn’t until the company’s training manager held a meeting with us about the same issue that I found her (and the others’) appointment(s) with the company had been terminated with immediate alacrity. What? Just because of two Superbite wraps? That could easily have been me if not for the grace of God! I was entirely thankful to God for saving me this time.

After I narrowly escaped IT misfortune that day, I immediately made up my mind. That was it for me! I couldn’t stand going through a similar experience as I did at the gate that day one more time. I was a nervous wreck. More importantly, I couldn’t risk losing my IT placement just a month to the end of the whole shit. I was damn grateful to God. So far, so good, I’ve kept to my decision except for just once; no, twice, when I got the ‘scarce’ CHI beef sausage and couldn’t resist taking it home and using it as a food ingredient. I wasn’t caught anyway. In fact, I don’t think there’s any way I could’ve been caught or can still be caught. I’ve found a way to escape the security checks but still, I’ve stuck strong to my decision cos’ “You just never know”.

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