Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Engineer

The Admin. Manager told me the GM needed a file and I had to find it. It was a personal file of a staff that had worked in the company years ago. To get it, I had to check a storage room I had no idea existed. It was way too dusty, stuffy and hot but I had to find it...yea, those where the kind of things I did for ₦15,000 a month as a corps member. While flipping through tons of files I came across a "closed file". I had seen enough closed volumes of files but those were for events, companies, and departments, this was the first closed volume about an individual. From the title written before the name, he was an Engineer. Out of curiosity I went through the file.

For those not familiar with filing, documents were arranged chronologically, with the oldest one at the bottom. So flipping through a file took you back in time. In this Engineer's file, the first document was a letter of appreciation from the Engineer's wife, thanking the company for paying her son's school fees. The next was a document with a minute on it from the GM to the Chief Accountant to pay the school fees of the Engineer's son. Next, was a document that showed cost incurred during the burial ceremony of the Engineer, also, the amount management approved as support to the Engineer's wife. On that document I also saw the cost of transporting the body into Nigeria. From that I obviously knew the Engineer did not die here in Nigeria I kept on flipping through what would have been dark times for the family. He died of something that had to do with the heart. In the file were also pictures of the Engineer, topless, in the mortuary with cotton buds in his nose. I could see people standing around him as if you needed more than a pair of eyes to confirm he was dead.

My eyes were fixed on the half naked pictures of the Engineer. Different emotions were pouring flowing in as I saw the inevitable. I understood why someone once told me a dead man had no shame. The next documents detailed his growth in rank within the company. As I flipped through the documents, I read how he became a Head of Department, to an assistant...down to an IT Manager. How his salary "reduced" from 6 digits to 5. I read his appointment letter followed by the last document, his CV, which summarized all his achievement in 2 pages.

I noticed from this experience how one's life could be summarised in numbers. I know in people's hearts: his family and friends, he was probably more, and adjectives would be used to qualify his life. But to others his life were quantifiable in numbers. You see an obituary in the papers and below the person's picture was the name. Below that was usually numbers, date of birth to the date of date. You could also see the list of certificates and awards but our interest was how many he was able to achieve. Same with the documents I saw in the Engineer's file. Most of what I could remember after my glance were numbers. Salaries, allowances, cost of this, that, and those. It was as if it was easier for us to come to terms with the numbers in the person's life than the type of life they lived and the legacy left behind. Or maybe most of us do not leave behind something worth writing about and only deserved prayers. “May His/Her Soul Rest In Peace”.   

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