I sat in the waiting room in Chengez Hospital, too nervous to be bothered by a crying infant on my right and a haggard, disheveled man with a foul breath on my right. I kept glancing at my watch and wondering what would happen to me. Just a few hours ago I would’ve been done with my first day at work and happily headed home. Instead, I tried to control my racing palpitations and sweaty hands as I waited for the doctor’s verdict.
Earlier that same morning I had found myself in a musty smelling room among three other applicants for the job of personal assistant and receptionist of Mr Abdus Shafi, an accountant known to be stingy who had earned the name “Scrooge”. Among the other applicants were an overweight, middle aged woman with thick spectacles, a tired looking, wrinkled man who smelled of cigarette smoke and a young woman who seemed to be horrified by the state the waiting room was in. The recent economic crisis had driven all of us to apply for this unappealing job.
Mr Shafi spent five minutes on each applicant before finally calling me in. His office looked as though it may have once belonged to Miss Havisham from Great Expectations? The paint was chipping off, parts of the ceiling were covered with cobwebs and the floor had a thick layer of dirt. Mr Shafi himself wasn’t much better. He had big bushy eyebrows, untrimmed shoulder length hair and a deep, raspy voice that informed me within two minutes of my interview that I was hired.
I was delighted at the prospect of employment and decided that I would give it my best. Mr Shafi after giving me brief instructions on clearing his desk tottered off to a meeting. I spent the next three hours sorting out the magnanimous mess on his desk; sorting out files and papers. Deciding that wasn’t enough, I even found a broom and a mop to clean the floor. The room still seemed to reek of fetid odour so I called up one of my friends to drop by a can of air freshener spray half of which I enthusiastically used up.
A while later Mr Shafi barged into the room and said,
Boy! Where’re Mrs Haleem’s papers? I told you to…?
He stopped midway when he noticed his office was sparkling. His face slowly turned a shade of red previously unknown to mankind as he roared like a wounded lion,
“What have you done to my office? Where are my papers?”
“I can’t breathe! I’m allergic to something here! What did you do? Call an ambulance!”
After what seemed like an eternity a doctor finally informed me that Mr Shafi’s allergy was now under control but he had apparently broken his hip during his fall and would likely be hospitalized for a few weeks. I could at least breathe a sigh of relief that he was alive. Whether I would be able to grapple out of this situation unscathed was the question that haunted me as I slowly and sadly trudged home that night.