The team needs more hands and so you get more hands. It's a pitch. It's tomorrow.
Everyone's working in a hotel.
It's a long night. People shuffle between rooms to exchange ideas and laptop chargers. You know you're hungry but you're too concerned about the order of things. Besides, you're already a famous non-foodie.
You remember your rumpled presentation shirt. You call the hotel's laundry line. They pick the shirts. They pick others' too.
You continue shuffling between rooms. You're taming your perfectionist tendency. "Well, it's just a faint colour. We can do without it." Everyone fakes a smile. You're not known to make compromises.
2 a.m. Now you need some distractions. You launch Instagram. Search for cute dogs. Ogle on fine girls. But your mind isn't really at rest. You go back to work. Two people are asleep. You pity them. You can't wake them now.
Hunger nudges harder. BBM pings pop in. You guessed who and who or who could be pinging you at 3 a.m. One might ask if you've eaten. One might complain about an unreturned call. One might be a stupid friend with a stupid gist. You ignore BBM. You put the phone on silence mode.
You check your calendar for reminders. You discover you've missed a friend's birthday. Just yesterday. Same awesome friend who had introduced you to a soulful Burundian singer and you haven't stopped telling her Kidum is your 2nd favourite African artist. (2Face is first. Zahara from South Africa is third).
Everything seems ok now. You start rehearsing the presentation. But you hate to rehearse in front of people. But you have no choice. A little self-consciousness. A little slip of tongue. You want to remind them that you always put up a good show, without public rehearsals. But they won't care.
You confirm presentation time & venue again. 10 a.m. Victoria Island. You call the laundry room. They said they're bringing your shirt. You want to yell that it took a long time. But you keep your cool. You hold them to their words. You ask for toothpaste. They say it's for sale. They bring a tube that costs about N150 and say it's N400. You regret not putting one in your bag from home. You wonder, "This fine hotel sells toothpaste." But you're grateful for the toothpaste lesson - that hotels are not born equal. You enter the bathroom.
8 a.m. Lagos traffic comes to mind. It looks like you may get to the presentation venue late. There's a way around that. You call the client and bargain to come in late. You give Lagos traffic as your reason. They understand because in Lagos, if you lie about the traffic, you can't be wrong. But client surprises you. Says, "actually, we've moved the presentation to 2 p.m." Really? That's cool. More time.
Your shirt arrives. You dress up. You take a final look at the presentation. It's your turn to be alone. You think about the best opening. Some internal dialogues: "that will work," "that won't work," "that might work." You think about your closing. But you know closings rarely take the form you planned. But you prepare one anyway.
You flip through the hotel menu. You know you'll laugh at some unfamiliar food names. But you're not a foodie so you look for a safe choice. Beyond a safe choice, you scout for an inexpensive choice. Aha! They call it English breakfast. Price: N1, 800. Not too bad for your pocket. Who cares about the stomach? The food is plenty. Orisirisi on your table. You take pictures. You send to one of your siblings via BBM and add, "Come chop o". He depresses you with his response, "You're going to waste this food as usual." You want to e-slap him but you remember the limits of technology. Yes, you waste some of the food. But you won't tell your brother.
You know it's time to check out. Everyone is set. You pack your bag. Y'all bounce out from the hotel like soldiers. Pitches are corporate battles, anyway.
You imagine your audience. What if it's a hostile audience? But you console yourself that you've seen more hostile audiences. This won't be the worst. It's a friggin' presentation. You like to do it. People say you don't have stage fright. But you know you do. You only know how to manage it. Your trick always works: “When things get tough, start flashing your gap-tooth at the ladies in the audience, if any.” For the guys,... errrm... who cares about the guys? Take the stage & kill the show.
You imagine if anything might go wrong but hey, that's brewing negative energies. So you convert to positive energies by thinking what might go right. Maybe someone will shake your hands after and say, "You know what, brilliant presentation. We don't need to listen to other companies. You guys are so good we're giving you the account. Straight."
Then one of the team members gets a text message from the client. His response wakes you from your flight of fancy.
"No sorry, they postponed the presentation."
You keep your calm. You almost said, “Fuck!”
You just want to stay by yourself now. But you want to first console everyone. "Sorry guys, it happens. There will be another time." But no one consoles you. You're a little disturbed but you remember that there's no history of heart attack in your family. So you take that as consolation.
Your phone beeps. It's a reminder of a 6 o'clock date. You're likely to get there late. Your date is angry already. You're meeting for the first time and you're an hour late already. She expresses her displeasure. You want to pleasure her with the real displeasurable story that is your botched presentation. You throw her some wisecracks. She's not having it.
You move closer to the venue of the date and wonders if she will leave angrily, or wait for your tale of a cancelled presentation.
You never had the chance to research her before the date. You only know she's gap-toothed like you. Is she tall? Is she funny? Has she researched you ahead? What's her biggest expectation of you? Will she care you're the busiest person in the universe? What will interest her, “Obama vs. Putin,” “Malaysia Airlines Flight 370,” “The price of makeup,” or “Why men come late to dates.”
But you really don't care about the questions. You'll improvise. You just want the day to come and go.
You get to the venue. She's wearing a natural hair. Fine dentition. You sense the awkwardness. The delay isn't good for your reputation. You delight her with the story of your botched meeting. She feigns an understanding. You can't blame her. She's not the one that paid N400 for a N150 toothpaste.
You start talking. Questions. Laughter. Jokes. Random teasing. But you know you're not in your true elements. Drinks & chops appear.
Time to go. You'd like to take pictures. Gap-toothed people take the cutest pictures. But your phone is dead. IPhones die at odd hours. Despite your lateness and other in-date flaws, she hugs you. Your mischievous mind wants to motion for a kiss but you know you haven't earned it. Latecomers should get hugs not kisses.
You exchange pleasantries. She enters her car. You can't wait to enter a room to rest and attend to waiting emails.
You find yourself in Lekki. What should be one night turns into two nights of working. It will be three nights away from your house, if you count the hotel.
You're feeling grumpy. Hunger strikes. Lekki treats you to 48 hours of terrible power supply. You wonder why people fancy living here. Maybe you wonder because you're not rich yet. Seems like, in Nigeria, rich people embrace a peculiar hardship. They live in choice places with no power supply. Their generators belch and compete with themselves at night. You're using one too.
You remember you didn't check up on your date if she got home safe and maybe you can share some whatnots. But not necessary. Checking up won't clean your image.
You finish your work. You hop on a taxi with your team members. Taxi man gives you different prices. "With AC, N7, 000. Without AC, N5, 000." You ask why? "Oga, no fuel for Nigeria." You wonder how national problems become personal problems.
You get home. You finish composing this. You share it with people who shouldn't care about your stress, a date, N400 toothpaste, or price of a taxi without AC.
You share it with people enduring national problems as their personal problems.