Things since 2009 have generally been in a gentle decline, though I cannot say if I would attribute the shallow gradient to the stabilization of the company or the slow onset of apathy. We have survived three buy-outs, and with each one came new hope. That hope was quickly dispelled with the realization that when they said nothing was going to change, they meant it. With each disappointment came a new wave of apathy, reinforcing the last.
One day, I saw a bookstore, and not having been in one for so long, I thought I would pop in and just check it out. There I found a book written by Tim Ferris entitled the Four Hour Work Week. The premise of the book was not allowing your professional life to define you; that your life should be your life and your job is auxiliary to that. The goal being to have more free time to do what you enjoy while still being able to pay the rent. It was like he had written the book for me, and I managed to finish it in a weekend. I was so motivated by what I read that it became the inspiration for Urban Operative. I felt so strongly about my experiences that I needed a way to communicate with the world so that I could help people from following the “conventional” wisdom and ending up where my compatriots and I did.
Having said, it’s not as if though we were liberated ourselves. With the unrelenting march of time, I quickly found myself devoting more and more concentration to putting one foot in front of the other. The passionate anger and fury against those who used and oppressed us slowly and steadily burned down to an ember, and then to an ashy dull gray. The situation has been described by some as a mental torture, as false hope is given, then striped away, as water may be used against a suspect sweating it out. In 2011, I was running an operation in Nairobi, which was nothing special. Basically, we just had to drive the passengers around for the day. In the middle of the service, the car’s air conditioner went out, and when it did, we scrambled to replace it, and the passengers were back on their way within 15 minutes or so.
This incident, which was totally beyond my control, nearly cost me my job. Senior management wanted me terminated immediately for it. To make an example of me, though, exactly what they wanted to exemplify is still unknown. There were members of that management group who saw the insanity of this course of action and interceded for me against the wrath of the now president. A compromise was struck and I lost my command over operations and was moved to the vendor relations department, which is where I remain today.
In writing these stories, I have been afforded the chance to take stock of things. Look back and try to make sense of it all, which may well be an act of futility. It is not as though I did not have myriad chances to escape, but my pride kept me from doing so. There was a time when I would have relished that “last day of work” feeling. That feeling of invincibility you have when you walk out of a bad situation and you know you never have to go back. Now, I try to survey the situation in its entirety. The job, my comrades, our relationships with one another, all of it, and I see just a shadow of what once was; like walking into an old abandoned mining town. Yet, simply leaving isn’t enough, as there is not enough outside of here for me to make a difference anymore. As I sit here, adrift in an ocean of possibility, I have come to realize that my cup is empty and it is up to me to fill it. Asking the right questions is a start, but you have to do the deed. After all, that is the whole point of being Urban Operative.