Monday, March 26, 2012
The Voice of a Master Con
Somehow, it fell to me to contact as many of our old classmates as I could reach but in the process of doing that, school mates of other classes and graduating years suggested that we expand the scope of the reunion. It seemed daunting but the challenge of actually helping to organize a national reunion of old school mates for the first time in almost 30years was too exciting to pass up!
That was how it started. I made calls, sent text messages, contacted old school mates via Facebook, sent emails, created a Facebook page, a Yahoo!groups mailing list and even a website...phew!
The pace was slow at first but gradually, I started getting some people's attention.
We started constituting the various committees and there were quite a number of volunteers. However, there was one volunteer that stood out. Her name is Juliet O. Her enthusiasm was particularly infectious and because of her, we got increased participation. She shared her experience when she catered for the alumni association of another unity school like ours and how it was so much fun. She offered to cater for us at a very reduced cost and even offered to help get us a venue free of charge.
When the issue of fund raising came up, we asked for suggestions. Most of us agreed that everyone who planned to attend should pay a fee but we would also need to source for funds from several corporate entities as well. Juliet O. rose to the occasion. She informed everyone that she had connections with Indomie, Bournvita, Cowbell etc and that they had sponsored some of her events before. According to her, it would be easy to enlist their support for our worthy cause.
Ah, with all these assurances from Juliet O, our event was well underway. After several weeks of discussing online, we finally made real time contact via conference call. I was going to be hearing the voices of my committee members, some for the first time after over 15years.
And so it was that the call was set-up. It was delightful to have about 60% of the team join in. Juliet O. had to leave her choir practice to join us. The session was quite interactive and Juliet O., her voice turned out to be a bit sing-songy and soft, even offered her humble home to accommodate invitees coming in from other cities and who could not afford to pay hotel bills for the reunion weekend. We had decided on the date for the reunion and we had only 7months to plan.
After that conference call. Everyone was gingered up. We got even more volunteers and we were able to set up a meeting with one of our seniors, Amina Bello* who had held a reunion in London successfully. Not only would she give us guidance, she was a very important link to other old girls who graduated from the school even before we ourselves enrolled in Primary school. It was important that the reunion covered as many sets as possible so that it would have the kind of credibility we sought.
I was riding on the wave of this excitement when I got a call from Juliet O. a few days after that tele-conference. She called to say she had finally convinced a friend of hers who owns a hotel to give us huge discounts on room rates if we decided to use one of their event halls. We spoke about this for a few minutes when her voice dropped to a mere whisper. I strained to hear her. She was a bit hesitant but she managed to inform me that she was actually calling for personal reasons. She needed me to loan her some money for one catering job she had to carry out that weekend and I could have my money back in like a week. I stopped short. I told her I didn't have that kind of money but I would think about it. I was going to call her back.
I spent the next few hours considering my options. Since Juliet O. was such an important part of our reunion plans it might not be a bad idea to assist her in her time of need. And since she was such a connected caterer/events manager, we really could use her help. Besides, once her event was over, I would get my money back.
That was how I made up my mind to give her an amount close to half of what she asked for and even this was quite a substantial amount of money. I had some disposable cash and some other monies. Suddenly, I was in a hurry to pay the money into her account. It was as though I was in a daze. The deal was transacted and I held the teller slip in my hand. That was when it suddenly hit me. How much do you know this Juliet O? Did you even try to verify any of her claims? Do you know where she lives? What if she doesn't pay you back like she said?
Suddenly, like a crazed woman, I rushed back into the banking hall.
"Madam, madam, please...!" I was panting, waving the teller slip at the Teller at counter 1.
"I paid the money into the wrong account! Wrong Account!!"
Everyone on the queue just stood there staring at me.
The Teller peered at me from the top of her glasses. I remember thinking to myself, don't they employ young, smart tellers anymore? The woman seemed to be in her mid-forties and this was a new generation bank.
"Ah, madam, I have posted it o! We cannot call it back". She spoke slowly in that irritating, I-don't-care manner.
"Please where is your manager? I want to speak with your Manager...it was the wrong account!" I was frantic. My money was about to get lost! Or even stolen!
The teller reluctantly pointed towards a row of offices on her left and I dashed into the first one on the row..."Your Manager, Please where is your Manager's office?" I blurted. The young man looked up with a concerned look on his face. He half stood up while he directed me to the office three doors from his. I was backing out when I ran into another gentle man. I didn't even look up as I quickly apologised and started walking away.
"Madam wait!" It was the man who had just given me directions. I stopped and there he was at the door of his office holding the upper arm of the man I had just bumped into. "This is the man you want to see". He was smiling. "This is our Branch Manager".
What a relief. The Branch Manager had a kind face and not once did he interrupt me as I tried to explain how I managed to pay such a large sum of money into the wrong account. And not once did he look at me disapprovingly. At the end of my narrative he simply led me to his office, gave me a pen and paper with instructions on what details to provide.
"Don't worry madam, we'll get your money back"
Ah, what a relief!
But that relief was only short lived. Juliet O. was bent on collecting my money and collect it she did!
* Not her real name