Working as a Teller

I cannot do what you want me to, I am under orders.


I say in a resigned tone and you glare at me probably cursing me countless times in the name of your cohort gods residing in the white righteous heavens.


You need a photocopy of your identification card, birth certificates of you three beautiful kids plus their passports and finally, your husband’s identification card and consequently his passport, do you understand?


You look at me with a sneer written all over your face, your indignation can hardly be concealed, you despise me, you despise where I was born and curse the nurses who held me first at birth, you wish the nurses had done the world a favour and disposed my tiny cute body with soft skin and smooth hair to the trash can like a used bandage. You simply cannot understand why I will not take you five hundred shillings and just fill you in the National Hospital Insurance Fund database without all this required bullshit. You wonder why they replaced the old tellers who loved to ingratiate themselves to you and your cajoling five hundred shilling notes with an insubordinate small boy.

If it were not for your recently died down desire for drama due to age and the glass separating us, you would reach out for my tie pull me upfront and slap the hell out of my face with NHIF’s old computers. But I am protected, I am protected by not only the glass and NHIF’s several security guards, I am protected by the Holy Ghost, the ancestors, the law and the government but mostly by the glass. So I repeat my statement clearly, precisely and now more buoyant because of the glass…


I cannot do what you want me to, I am under orders.


At this point, I am kind of certain that you are going to retreat but no, you are a woman of your word. You might not have the ability to put my tie upfront the teller counter but you sure have the guts to walk into the manager’ office and get my ass sacked without a second thought. It will make you feel satisfied to see the office security guard, the one supposed to protect me, receive orders from up higher than the ceiling to drag my ass out and consequently put a hundred meter restriction between me and NHIF’s offices. You can do that because you have the power, you work in a county government office. You dine with the governor at least twice a week. You meet the president often and even have his personal phone number, but I do not. I do not dine with the governor, I have not met my senator leave alone the president so I should bow to you and kiss your feet. At least, until I get the president’s phone number.

I watch you disappear behind the manager’s closed office. I can see the shadows of your handshake with prior knowledge of each other. I can even see that the manager stood to greet you. You must be pretty important meaning I am pretty screwed but what the hell, I am a Njenga. I am The Njenga from a blood line of Njenga, people who have served the community with all they have got and still do. People who are known and adored by everyone. People who parents tell their kids to grow up and be like. Respected and revered people, reverends, with no big titles. So they will fire me and I will walk out and into the next big office maybe NSSF or County Government or KRA or whatever but I will come out with a new job, scratch that, an internship not a job. I do not even get paid.

I continue serving the other clients. The job must go on even when important people come to the office. If you are going to get me fired, I might as well get fired having served several customers, then perhaps I will walk out and meet them right outside and they will remember me and buy me lunch but I will not dare tell them that I just got fired.

After a long twenty minutes, the manager holds the door open and you come out with a smile heavier than your ego. You coquettishly made it, you got your details into NHIF’s database without even a single document. Important people like you should never have to go through the trouble like other citizens. You stand by the manager’s door and smile at him with a familiarity that has been there for decades and suggest that you two should grab a drink sometime and the manager agrees. You bid each other farewell and you walk out of the office fast without even throwing a look at me. You are in Canaan now, you do not need demons that remind you of Egypt. Your heels, at least, speak as you rush out probably agonising the torture of having to bear your self-induced self-importance each day. The manager throws a quick look at Teller Number Five, which is me and his face is many things but pleased is not one of them.

I get back to work and my next client claims that the Member of County Assembly is his close cousin.




Dennis Peters


8 thoughts on “Working as a Teller

  1. As I always say Dennis, you are a realist and exemplary writer who’s always able to capture my attention from the beginning until the end. This was an amazing and also very realistic piece as it tells of what goes on in the cooperate world.

    Liked by 1 person

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