Nairobi has a cliquish mentality that can drive one crazy. Walk into a Bank/office and a guard will ask you to leave, if you don’t look like you have any business there. Most corporate events are invitation only - This is out of an obsession with security, and preventing gate crashers, job-seekers, mistresses, cocktail guests who eat till they are full, and other unwanted visitors creating unpleasant scenes.
- I have been denied access to two corporate ‘public’ meetings this month – one because I was not on the list, the second because I did not RSVP in time (even though I had an invitation).
- It’s my fault in both cases, because I think we have a mentality that a boring seminar rarely gets full, and the organizers will let in any warm body to fill empty seats so it doesn’t look like a failure on TV.
- A few weeks ago, I did not enter the draw for a golf tournament, but walked up on the day of the event and played. This is perfectly acceptable in golf because there are a lot of no-shows. But the organizers had only brought enough goodie bags for the registered entrants – so I missed out on a polo shirt, sports bag and umbrella (branded by D. T. Dobie) that would have been rightfully mine, almost free of charge, if only I had made a phone call three days before.
- Over the weekend I had to borrow cash because all the ATM’s erroneously had my balance -1,000 shillings (insufficient funds)
- I have an old generation ID, which I have never renewed out of the principle, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – the ID is still legal and never expires. It has been accepted 99% of the time, but one bank told me I could not open an account using it (new ID or Passport only). Another Bank told me to get a PIN card as well.
- Without the right kind of ID, you don’t get into buildings or even get to receive your own documents.
- One time I was stopped by a policeman for a traffic violation – and he was the one who pointed out to me that my Driver’s license expired two days before.
So I will try and get more organized: I will ensure that I renew my documents and cards, long before they expire. I will carry proper ID and all documents, even those I don’t need, before a meeting. I will keep some cash in the house for late nights and weekends. For meetings & events, I will make sure I am on the invited list, and then call ahead of time to ensure I get my card, directions and other instructions. I will arrive before time, even though I know the meeting will not start on time – sometimes it will start on time, and if it doesn’t I can spend some valuable time with the important, smart people who are on time. And yes, I will have eaten something ahead of time, so that I am not at the mercy of my hosts for some bitings, and I won’t crave the 200 shilling juice served at the hotel.