My good boss is always reluctant to grant me leave in January regardless of the number of days I have accrued or carried over from the previous year.
He believes that this is a month of hardships and we need to stay close to each other so that we can find solace in the brotherly love in the office. That way, we can closely monitor anyone who is overly stressed out over January financial hardships.
By sticking close together we can share and discuss our respective school fees statements from our children’s schools. That way, we can strategise where we can source large syndicated loans from lending organisations so as to meet the escalating school fees demands.
The situation is more severe for parents who have children joining form one. Their fees statements look like the stock take of a medium-sized supermarket in the estate that has well-stocked hardware and sports sections. It is not unusual to find a form one shopping list that includes a mattock, secateurs, a can of oil-based wall paint, a hockey stick and a cricket ball.
As parents we must strategise together because half of us have never been to a hockey or cricket match before and therefore we have no idea what those sports items look like.
HOUSE HELP WOES
Our domestic secretary seems to be obeying this rule of sticking with her people and we highly suspect that she has chosen to stay out of work for probably the rest of the month. She claims to have a child who is joining form one. This being the fourth year running that she is making that claim, I am beginning to have doubts.
Almost halfway into January, she has not yet resumed from her paid leave. When we called her, she claimed that her son had been admitted to a high school in Lamu and she was still looking for fare to enable her make the 800km journey from her village that borders Uganda to the school.
Our tribulations did not just begin with the form one admissions. Just a few days before Christmas, she announced that she was travelling to her village to enjoy the festivities with her extended family.
On a normal day, I would not have been involved in her leave application but this one was not just a normal leave of absence. As a non-executive director and co-occupant of our humble 8th floor abode, I am required to sign off leave approvals that exceed three weeks and that involve booking overnight travel, fares and expenses.
Nowadays when the DS wants to travel, she behaves like the managing director of a major parastatal who just needs to state that they are travelling to Yugoslavia via Scotland tonight and leave an able personal assistant to make it happen.
So when the DS announced that she was travelling to her village in three days, Mama Brian scouted the entire downtown for all buses that had the remotest chance of passing through Western Kenya. Our DS had described her ancestral home as a remote village that borders Uganda and South Sudan and that required two days and two nights of travel.
The pre-festive season is also the period when bus companies declare that their coffee is ripe and ready for harvesting. They create an artificial shortage and exploit the opportunity to inflate the fares by as much as two times the normal rates.
The fare and other travel expenses are not deductible from the salary. The DS just says she intends to travel on a certain day and wishes to depart at exactly 8.47am, sit in the middle seat near a window, enjoy seven meals and seven snacks and return on a certain day via the 7.18am express bus. It is upon you as the employer, now turned travel agent, to make her travel wishes come true.
DRAMA AND A NO-SHOW
Before she departed, she had conveniently dispatched two of her very close relatives to be with their Maker. This meant that apart from going to ‘eat’ Christmas with her family, she was also going to rest those relatives in peace and those duties of attending funerals are non-negotiables in her contract. The two days to attend funerals are also not deductible from her leave days.
So finally came the 7th of January when we expected her back to work.
She announced that the funeral plans of one relative had been delayed by a few days and therefore the earliest she could show up was 10th January. I could see Mama Brian displaying some early signs of a mild heart attack.
I later overheard Mama Brian engaged in a three-hour teleconference with the DS convincing her to come back, to which she reluctantly agreed.
But no sooner had she boarded a boda-boda to the nearest bus terminus than she was involved in a severe accident. She called from the hospital bed where she was drinking water through pipes and using an oxygen cylinder. Another lengthy conference call convinced her to remove the oxygen pipes and board the bus.
She boarded the bus after we sent some money for her release from the said hospital.
She boarded an express bus that in a single night was involved in several accidents, the bus driver was arrested several times by the police, the bus ran out of fuel and the clutch got damaged, plus a myriad of misfortunes along the way.
For every misfortune that befell the bus, we had to keep sending her welfare money to buy hot drinks to keep her warm and comfortable. After four mobile money transfer transactions, which fattened her account balance by about Sh5,000, her phone went dead.
We still believe in miracles and four days after her phone went off, we are still hopeful that she is still on her way and will be reporting to work soon.
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