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Eric Employability Expeditions | Episode 11


IT had been six weeks since Eric’s first day at TKL Manufacturing, and so far it had been an eventful period. Considering how much time and effort Eric put into dreaming about and finally getting a job, he had been thoroughly unprepared for the workplace and its demands. Thankfully, with the help of his colleague Zino and his cousin Jacob, he was finally learning the ropes, and he had started to draw Mr. Olaniyan’s ire less and less, which was a relief. The man had gotten so tired of complaining about Eric’s tardiness and appearance that he had threatened him with a query. That day was one of the darkest days of his working life; Eric knew that if he got a query within the first six months of working there, it was unlikely that he would be confirmed.

So Eric had been on his best behaviour for most of the last three weeks, and with Zino’s help he learned his way around the office, who to ask for help and who to avoid, whose favour to curry and who could be ignored. He was grateful to have her around, and she liked taking care of him. They were taking their lunch break in the office one day, with him perched on the edge of her desk eating a sandwich, when Okoroafor, the only supervisor more short-tempered than Olaniyan, passed by. ‘Come to my office after your break. Osas said you worked with him on the Fintersect brief; we have a presentation tomorrow and there are certain things that need to be discussed.’ Eric hastily jumped off the edge of Zino’s table. ‘Yes sir.’ He looked at Zino in trepidation; was this a good or a bad thing? Was Mr. Olaniyan so tired of being his direct supervisor that he had pawned him off to Okoroafor, or was he so impressed with the quality of his work that he had recommended him?

Twenty minutes later Eric went to Okoroafor’s office. His assignment was simple; he had to collate all the reports that had been filed regarding the Fintersect brief and create a PowerPoint presentation for him to use during the pitch to the company the next day. TKL was trying to woo Fintersect away from a rival company, and the research done by Eric, Osas and two other floor staff showed that they could perform better than the competition once production reached a certain level. Eric was excited; this was the most important assignment he had been given since he joined the company, and he knew the brief like the back of his hand. It would be a breeze. At the close of the day, Zino stopped by his desk. ‘I’ve never seen you so psyched about anything before. I hope they sha let you into the conference room for the meeting. Well done.’ Eric grinned.

Eric stayed up later than usual, checking and cross-checking his work to make sure there were no errors. He tended to over-analyse things when he was nervous, and he had a hard time going to sleep that night. The next morning he was up at 5:20, twenty-five minutes before his alarm went off, the nervousness making him antsy. By 6 o’clock when he was leaving his mom had said ‘calm down’ at least twelve times. Eric didn’t want to botch things. On his way to the bus-stop he checked and re-checked his briefcase for his computer and the flash drive he had stored the final presentation on, and he held on the bag as though his life depended on it all the way to his stop. ‘Bike!’ That was the last leg of his journey to the office. He was almost thirty minutes early.

At 9:12 a.m. Mr. Okoroafor was livid. ‘Where in God’s name is this idiot?!’ The presentation wasn’t until 10, but no one had seen or heard from Eric that day. Zino didn’t know what to think. Eric had been making such good progress in recent times; he hadn’t been even slightly late in almost three weeks. She had tried and tried to call him, with no luck. Where could he be? Just when Mr. Okoroafor seemed about to burst, and Mr. Olaniyan was beginning to rain curses in Yoruba, Eric stumbled in. He looked a wreck. Zino sighed. Would this boy never learn? Okoroafor descended on him like an enraged bull. Eric followed him to his office, limping, unable to get a word in edgewise. Mr. Olaniyan had already disappeared into his office. Ten or so minutes later, Eric came out and collapsed onto his chair. He looked drained. ‘What happened?’ He then told her about the accident that had almost cost him his life that morning. He had passed out after being thrown from a bike, and when he came to he was in some roadside pharmacy, phone and briefcase gone. It took him almost an hour to track down the street urchin who had relieved him of the briefcase, but his phone had apparently been smashed in the accident. The flash drive was still in the bag, thankfully, but his computer was gone. Okoroafor had snatched it from him and kicked him out.

Zino was heading back to her desk when she saw Mr. Olaniyan bearing down on them. She quickly scurried out of his way and kept her gaze on her work until he left. He was shouting. ‘Why didn’t you email the presentation to someone else on the team, just in case? Have you no initiative? I don’t care if your mother died this morning. Your irresponsibility has gone far enough!’ She snuck back to Eric’s desk as soon as Mr. O’s door slammed. He was slumped in his chair, his face full of unhappiness. She looked at the paper he was holding in his hand. It was Eric’s first query.

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