A wise consigliere once told me the following:
“There are 3 friends you want to keep in this country; househelps, secretaries and watchmen.”
This truth is engraved in stone somewhere under 10 other commandments, I’m sure.
This is why.
House-helps, maids, mbotches, babysitters, Njeri, whatever you may call them; they are people you need to keep in good books with because they can tear down your home inside out. Unless you have a PA to follow them around, be nice to them. They will put rat poison in your baby’s porridge, steal your plasma TV and take a warm dump in your favorite shoes when you go to work. You’ve been warned.
Secretaries are the difference between things happening and things not happening. As a client; yes, their bosses’ signature is the one you need but remember she drafts the letter that he puts the ink on. Further, she passes the message to him. As a boss, she’s the one who knows when and why you do what you did and if she spreads a rumor, your ass is grass. I have gotten further in this country flirting with receptionists than mingling with their bosses. True story. The gatekeeper has sharper teeth; that is why they are out there. If you can get past them, you deserve to dwell where they guard. Which segues nicely into the following:
Watchmen. This one is dicey because these are usually the first to test your temper, but play nice children, it works.
Now, let me be clear when defining ‘Watchmen’. This is your security guard, the guy at the gate, the doorman, the bouncer, the bodyguard, the police officer, parking attendants, City Council guys who don’t clamp you and anybody with a gun or uniform who loiters near an entrance of any building.
Never intentionally push their buttons. They tend to take that shit very personally. Which is only bad for you.
This is why I generally make friends with them. In epic ways, too. The guys at Prestige Mall know me too well; they damn near open doors and salute when they see me. It’s really very awkward when I’m with company to have a guy leave his post running to come shake your hand with an ear-to-ear smile in a place where people do groceries. But I
avoid this reciprocate by getting there early enough to have a 5-10 minute chat with them about this that and the other.
‘How is your sick baby daughter? Did the doctor take a look at that growth on your knee as well? Yeah, that chick has a fat ass. Of course you have a chance with her. Your wife would never know. You’re not fat; you just have extra padding for protection. I’m going to go in and have lunch now. Of course you may clean my car. The pleasure is mine. You may stop brushing my shoes now.’
These are all ways to make their days and your lives better.
Yes, I’m an asshole, but I’m a tactician first.
So this morning, I pulled into the gates of my favorite University with caution. I come here almost every day; and my relationship with the guards gets me in without a parking sticker. I usually roll down the window and then have a quick chat that works wonders.
‘Sema chief, habari ya kupotea? Man, in fact I’ve been saying I’ll get a parking sticker but you know how things go. Anyway, did you see that new Benz the Director has? Those guys are stealing your money. You guys should really get paid more for the hard work you do.’
Then I get my parking ticket and roll in like a VIP after a fist bump and a secret handshake.
But three things happened today. The first is that there were stricter restrictions on who can get in. The second is that I hadn’t slept properly in a few days. The third is that the guards were rotated around, so my usual guys weren’t around. So this week, I’ve been parking next door and paying for it. I use ‘paying’ loosely. I befriended the guards next door and we have an ‘arrangement’ that means I pay about 0-30% what I normally should. Yes, it’s corruption: sue me.
Today I had been specifically directed by the Chief Security guy to stop parking next door and use the Uni parking. So I obliged, cautiously albeit. But I get to the door and surprise surprise, this happens.
Him:’Agh! It’s you. Go put your car next door! Nkt!’
….say what? Ok, maybe he’s having a bad day; let me explain this to him.
Me: ‘Listen, your boss and my boss both told me to park inside. Besides, I’m just quickly running in and out so….’
Him:’You don’t have a sticker! Go park next door! Nkt!’
Me:’Yeah, I hear you but, you need to hear me out as well.
Him: ‘You! Go get a letter from the Chief Security Officer then!’
Ah. A bluff. OK. Let me call it.
Me: ‘Cool. So who do I tell him to address the letter to?’
Him:’He knows who’s at the gate.’
Me:’Yeah, but I kinda need a name.’
Him:’You’re not my superior. Go park next door.’
A lot is lost in translation here. He said(verbatim): ‘We si mkubwa wangu! Weka gari kwa jirani. Ah! Nkt.’ which, when said in any tone is very rude.
Normally, I’d be the bigger man and not call his bluff, but I hadn’t slept and was in no mood to tug internal reigns.
So I do exactly what he said. Parked. Went to his boss. We had breakfast. Caught up on old times. Laughed. I told him the story. He got mad. He got up from his desk; big belly and all, looking like Mammoth Man.
Then we went over to guard – Chief ChubChub and myself – and boy, was he given a lecture fitting only for classroom settings. Right then, his boss’ boss pulled up at the gate and it turned into an orgy.
He got reamed.
I kept having to take his side and explain that we were normally homies. Even engaged him in our secret handshake. But that didn’t help a whole lot. His boss gave me the equivalent of a verbal ass-whooping the likes of which would have given Muhammad Ali brain trauma and made Michael J. Fox stand still.
He’s now pouting in his little booth mad at me..
…and I’m about to go make peace with him.
Because he’s the guy who’s supposed to keep me safe. And safety, ladies and gentlemen, is an investment.
So invest in your maid, your assistants, secretaries, and those who guard you. They are the gatekeepers and while they keep people out, they also watch your internal interests. Never let them stew in their anger sauce because it will be force-fed right back to you, one way or another.
Now excuse me as I go fist bump and old friend.