Saturday, January 3, 2015

No shame In Shovelling Shit For A Living, But Dime

On this first Sunday of the year, I ought to be reflecting on what a wonderful year 2014 was, but I can’t. Bluntly speaking, 2014 was miserable. Let’s bury it and live 2015.

Towards the end of the miserable year and on a winter sojourn in London, I was invited to dinner by Old School Friend. Over the phone she told me thus: “It’s one of those dinners – food, beer and wine with my crowd – you remember them don’t you?”

I doubt Old School Friend had a miserable 2014 because she comes from a wealthy background and married a man who is doing well for himself.

The dinner was as promised – wine, beer, food and drunken laughter with her crowd including a strange American lady who spent the evening reeling off swear-word-after-swear word and who got sloshed and nonchalantly described herself as a woman who ‘sleeps with her husband for a living’. Hmm, pause for thought?

There was one guest whose successful story was worth listening to. Without batting an eyelid, he said: “I work in the sewers.” Prompting him to expound, he told us how he spends every other day cleaning out the sewers of England of things that are not supposed to be there. And by things that are not supposed to be there, it’s everything from vermin, mattresses, shopping trolleys, furniture, unblocking u-bend pipes that have been clogged up with shit. But he didn’t have to work in the sewers shovelling shit and getting rid of vermin. Why would he when he is the CEO of the company?

However, Sewer Man believes in his company and the contribution that he puts in – especially when he is down in the sewers doing real work with his men instead of having long lunches in fancy restaurants with other CEOs. And that got me thinking about CEOs in Uganda.

Is there a chance that the CEO of National Water and Sewerage Corporation has been into Uganda’s sewers and put in a day’s work? I doubt it. Is there any high profile person in Uganda who would admit that they sit on the back of a truck and drive round Kampala collecting the odd corpse, household waste and whatever other rubbish has been discarded? I doubt it. If they did, society would be quick to dismiss them as people who ‘didn’t go to school or failures’.

Yet, despite being a graduate, Sewer Man is all at home in sinking into the sewers to make money and his friends – at least the ones I met, did not snigger behind his back.

We later found out that Sewer Man was not merely the CEO but he owns the company and while I made cartoon dime in 2014, his company on the other hand, raked in close to £12 millon (sh50,400,000,000 billion). Sh50,400,000,000 billion for shovelling shit and getting rid rubbish!? Heck, give me that job!

If I took that job, society here would rue me a failure because being successful here is all about being seen in a Wina Classic suit, driving a Mercedes from Spear Motors, going to Serena for a fancy sandwich lunch and spending the evenings having cocktails in Liquid Silk.

There is no shame in shovelling shit for a living. The way Sewer Man sees it, is that while people may snigger at him behind his back, he doesn’t care as long as there is enough of our s**t, rubbish and vermin floating about to keep his bank balance ticking over to the tune of sh504,00,000,000 billion a year – and it’s a business venture that not even the best don at Makerere University Business School would be able to teach you.

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