When I look back over my life, it is not hard to see why I truly believe I and others of my age group should celebrate that we had enough to eat as children; we weren’t conscripted into the army at eighteen (unlike our older brothers). Largely, we had had full employment and therefore shortage of money. I have owned several cars throughout the years between aged seventeen and now into my seventies. OK there were some scary times. For instance when the cold war with Russia was at its height and politicians blustered and pontificated over Suez and later when the rest of the world went nuclear. But thankfully, common sense prevailed and even though fingers may have hovered over the button – it was never pressed.
I was also blessed in spending much of my working life in representing my fellow workers as their Union Steward. I had many interesting battles with management, especially when individuals were singled out for disciplinary actions. I always used followed the mantra of speaking with respect to management at all times. Once the actual disciplinary hearing began ‘the gloves are off’. Funnily enough a number of senior managers respected the fact that I was there to represent our member and would do my very best to make sure our members received a just and fair hearing. There was a time when I was representing a Nigerian middle management guy. The problem was his attitude towards a female member of his staff and he showed up in his full dress regalia. Apparently he was a close member of a local king in Nigeria and clearly thought his dress status would not only influence the hearing panel but also impress them with his importance. His attire was indeed very impressive, especially his ivory handled hair drooped fly swat that he managed to wear across his left shoulder. I managed to acquire a fifteen minute adjournment where I asked the chap to step outside and explained his ceremonial robes would not have the slightest influence on the panel and he would have done better to have turned up in his normal office clothes. He was absolutely aghast at my effrontery and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not permitted to say such things to a PRINCE of his standing. Of course I apologised at once and begged his pardon for my crass behaviour, but as we entered back into the hearing, his attitude became more and more bizarre. At one point he pointed at the accusing officer and told him –“you do not speak to me in such a way, you are beneath my status. I don’t know who was more surprised, the officer, The Chair of the hearing, or me. Of course the Chair ruled his statement “out of order” and warned against any further outbursts of such nature. It was unfortunate, that the Chair’s ruling only resulted in the rejoinder that the Chair and his weak panel were beyond his contempt! He promptly (with great dignity marched out of the meeting room). It left me in some difficulty as it was clear the hearing would go ahead in the absence of the man. Well, I knew “The Gloves Were Off” so I concocted a fanciful defence around the direct if not insulting attitude displayed toward my client. A proud man, with a heritage of Royalty in his own country, and just not used to being confronted on any of his actions. The woman who had caused the hearing was coherent, and direct and came across as an honest hard working operative, and frankly I felt sorry to have tried to rubbish her testament though I tried!
At the end of a thirty minute recess we (both sides) were summoned back into the hearing, To my very great surprise the Chair in his summing up declared – “Prince xxxxxxxxxx had not helped his case and I had presented a laudable alternative to that of the accusing officer, however there was sufficient doubt as to the (perhaps) racist attitude of the Prince. I thought, well that’s that then – but then the Chair went on to say “on the basis of probability, it was entirely possible that my client had acted beyond his level of competence and would be issued a written reprimand. That was a result I could not believe but the following day when I and the Prince were in my office, he exploded with anger, in a tirade of mixed Nigerian and English I seem to remember being called lower than “dog puke ”I don’t think I deserved that accolade but I had saved the man his job.
Just one of the blessed episodes.