Diaspoman: Remembering our very first salaries

It’s that time again when we line up at the banks to pick up our meagre salaries. In most cases, the ka-salary had been slashed so much that you could hardly pay your monthly rent.

It’s that time again when we line up at the banks to pick up our meagre salaries. In most cases, the ka-salary had been slashed so much that you could hardly pay your monthly rent.

The salary is usually cut down to size by deduting countless salary advances and other mini-loans. Phew!Times are hard. But I recall way back over 12 years ago when Aggrey and I were living in the now demolished Kiyovu of the poor.

You may recall that during the mid 90s, Aggrey and I had got employed at a Gikondo based NGO. Our job descriptions did not quite suit our qualifications. But these were tough days, right after the Genocide, and any job would do.

My job title was- ‘Supervisor of drivers’. Aggrey was to be known as the ‘Store keeper’. During those days, most NGOs paid salaries in dollars. So you can imagine what happened to us, when our very first salaries were passed through the cashier’s window straight into our hands.

When the first salary reached our hands, we did not pocket it immediately. This was because our hands started to behave in a very strange manner. Instead of grabbing those crispy greenish notes which hail all the way from the U.S of A, our hands began to dance in a fashion that could remind you of the 1980s Break-dance.

These hands were telling us that they had never touched anything of this nature and therefore had to end up shivering as if a bout of Malaria had stung. The hands shivered and momentarily rejected this offer from the cashier. How could we possibly cope with so much cash?

Where would we keep it? All these questions raced through our brains with no signs of real answers. Well, we somehow picked up some courage and finally managed to pocket the cash. You could even feel the pockets undergoing a mini earthquake.

They too had never seen so much dough before. We had to plead with our pockets, requesting them to behave. Besides, this was something they had to get used to since that kind of cash would pay them a visit at every month end.

Due to that initial shock, Aggrey and I were faced with another hurdle. Not only were our hands suffering from Parkinson’s disease, but they were also sweating profusely.

Have you ever greeted someone who is an owner of sweaty palms?

Yea, you know what I am talking about. They are usually in such a condition if either that person is an alcoholic or is a friend of phobia. At that moment, we too were owners of sweaty hands. That is why we found it extremely difficult to handle a pen to sign acknowledgement of payment.

When we picked the pens to sign against the vouchers, the pens became so slippery and there was no easy way of getting a firm grip. After trying for a couple of minutes, the cashier began to run out of patience.

In fact, she thought that we were up to something rather fishy. Were we trying to con her and disappear without signing the vouchers? So, she did the most sensible thing. She called in the security personnel.

One look at our blood shot eyes was enough for the security men to reach a conclusion. We were obviously small time criminals, attempting to cheat the poor cashier. As they hurled us away, we managed to discover our hitherto lost voices.

We then screamed for mercy and narrated to the security people about our ordeal. We told them that there was nothing sinister at all. We explained to them about this first salary, which had taken us by surprise.

We told them that instead of leaping in joy, we had received a pang of fear, leading to trembling knees as well as shivering sweaty hands.

It was only after our expatriate boss intervened that Aggrey and I were spared. We tried to compose ourselves and face reality.

Here, we were with some real cash burning up in our pockets. We had to make a choice. Burn it before it burns us…
Contact: diaspoman@yahoo.com