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City of Banjul
Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Is it black or grey?

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By Ndey Kumba Demba

“Do you know Cut knives are the most trusted and reliable brand of knife? The knife can cut through anything, literally.”
“Give me your toughest material to cut?”
Cuts through material. The class pretends to be impressed.
“This is the best knife there is in the market.”

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“Cut knives are durable, multipurpose, stainless, and the handle does not wear off. It’s an investment. Once you buy one, you’ll never need to buy another for years. My grandmother still has her Cut knives from the time I was little.”

Bald-headed Eric Litt was teaching the new marketing interns about the Cut knives and how to use the script to sell it. The agency had a generic script used in selling the knives. All agents memorise the script and use it on their door-to-door attempt to sell the knives. The script even indicates when and how to break the ice, pause, smile, crack a joke and seal the deal.

“How does anyone sell knives using this script,” Ajie Mariam thought to herself. It’s so scripted. Anyone can see though the agent basically reciting pages.
As if he knew she was in doubt, bald-headed Eric Litt reminded the class that the script is their best chance at selling the knives. It has worked for their very successful agents who are enjoying fat salaries and big commissions.

“What? You’ve got to be kidding me,” she was cynical. No wonder people hang up the phone and bang the door on sales agents.
“Who has time for this?” She was thinking.
Bald-headed Eric Litt told the class about their sale secret. Unlike other sales agents who knock on your door pissing you off to the point of wanting to commit murder, they have an appointment system. This way, the clients are expecting you, saving you both from unpleasant encounters.

Basically, they ask their agents to book an appointment with family and friends. They walk them through the script in an attempt to get them to buy the knives. After that, they ask for the emails and phone numbers of their friends and neighbours. Sort of a “tell a friend to tell a friend” approach.

In mid-sentence, bald-headed Eric Litt was distracted by a new intern walking in. She was very late, and it didn’t appear she cared. What’s that saying again: “It is better to arrive late than to arrive ugly.” By all indications, she took that and ran with it. When she walked in, she sucked the air out of the room. Everyone was stunned. She was a beautiful Latina. Oh she was very aware of her physical presence. She’s probably used to getting the same reaction each time she walked in a room. She wore a very short dress, revealing her thick thighs. She had a pound of makeup, and her side-parted short brunette hair makes you wanna caress it.
After bald headed Eric Litt regained his posture and recollected his thoughts, he told the class what he hoped was a cute story about how he got started in the CUT business, worked his way up and is now a manager and trainer, enjoying a fat salary and a huge commission.

“Blah blah blah,” Ajie Mariam can be very childish.
After her embarrassing ordeal with the job placement firm and fifty applications later, this Cut job, selling knives was the one she had. It was pretty easy. She applied and received a confirmation email. She was told she had the job pending the completion of a course offered by the agency.
From her first lessons with bald-headed Eric Litt and the rest of the class, she called it quits. Selling knives was not her calling.

She progressed, APPLY, APPLY, APPLY. She was no longer looking for specific job listings. She was applying to almost any job she felt she could be a fit for or rather gets paid to do a job she thinks she can do.
Another interview came along; it was for the position of a hotel receptionist.
The image Ajie Mariam wanted to portray for this interview was “approachable,” “fashionable,” and “smart.” She wore a dress this time. It was knee length, black and white stripes in the front and all black on the back. She let her 14 inch hair fall. Applied makeup with no care for the amount, wore her knee-high high heel grey boots, and threw on a red coat. The coat was the same length as the dress and it tied her look nicely together.

The hotel wasn’t all that. Three-star rating perhaps. She was thinking, more like a motel. She met a bunch of black people at the reception, male, female. Appeared they were lodging at the hotel. The receptionist wasn’t nice at all. Barely looked at her the entire time she was talking to her. Didn’t offer her a seat, well, there were no seats at the reception.

She leaned on the wall and waited for Sammy, her interviewer.
One of the girls told her her hair was beautiful. She leaned closer to her and whispered to her ears.
“It’s a wig.”

“It’s beautiful,” she whispered back.
There is an understanding that happens between black people in America when they meet, even in a crowd. Sometimes words are said, sometimes you just know. It’s a silent solidary. Just one look communicates what the other is trying to say.
“You’ve got this.”
“I see you.”
“Hey bro, hey sis.”
“You look fly.”
“Make us proud.”
Sammy was heavily built. She was probably in her late fifties. She didn’t look approachable. She looked like the kind of lady you’ll have to think twice before opening your mouth to and even if you did, you’ll choose your words wisely, very wisely.

“You must be Ajie Mariam,” she had said.
She led her to one of their rooms.
“This is the only available room, we are full. It’s been a busy week.”
“I am the head housekeeper here.” You were supposed to be interviewed by Kathy, the manager but she asked me to do it on her behalf. We had two applications. Which did you apply for?”
“I applied for the receptionist position.”

“Oh no, we cancelled that one. We already have someone. However, we have a housekeeper position available, if that is something you’d like.”
“Housekeeper,” she couldn’t quite wrap her head around that. But you know what she could wrap her head around: rent, phone bill, food, and deadline.
The ride home was long, she didn’t feel anything. She didn’t know what to feel, how to feel. Housekeeper was just a fancy word for a maid.

Her first day at work, her first day being a maid, she went bare face; wore a black jean and a T-shirt. No need for a fancy suit or a dress if you’re going to be cleaning after people.
She was introduced to Kelly to show her the ropes. The hotel was sort of a live-in, so all the rooms had a kitchen, in addition to the other basic necessities. She was shown how to make the bed, the hotel’s style, she was shown how to clean the kitchen, how to clean utensils, how to dust, how to clean the AC, the floor and finally the toilet. She was shown which detergents to use for each specific task.
Kelly advised her to ensure that everything is sparkling clean. Kathy inspected every room after the cleaning.
“If it’s not done right, she’ll ask you to do it again,” Kelly told her.
She watched Kelly clean a room. The next, she volunteered and even made the bed exactly like she was taught.

Kelly was impressed.
“Have you worked at a hotel before,” she asked.
“No,” she smiled.
When she got home, she was drained. She concluded that it was a good first day. She told her roommates she got the job, the position of a receptionist. So when they asked her about her first day, she sounded like the receptionist she wasn’t.

“It’s not that hard. It’s just being friendly when people walk in, look up available rooms on your computer, fill in their details and walk them to their rooms.
It’s just a lot of movement, going up and down the stairs sometimes when the elevator is slow. That was the only bit that true.”

She called her mother that evening to inform her that she got a job. She’s working as a reception at one hotel.
When she hanged up the phone, tears made small thin lines on her face. She remembered how growing up, she always had the services of a maid. She can’t remember a time they didn’t have one. Some of them even became family. If one is gone, another is hired.
This is not home. This is America, the great land of opportunities! She decided there and then that if she was going to be a maid, she’ll be the best damn maid this country has ever seen.

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