I had been working at Jacob’s Football Factory for the last five years. We produced ten thousand hand-stitched footballs every year for export to all parts of the world.
It’s not any easy job. It needs constant concentration as hand-stitching requires nimble fingers and perfection. These footballs, being individually stitched, are used by FIFA and other football Associations. On the other hand, machine-manufactured footballs are made by the millions, are cheaper and are used for ordinary football matches, training and amateur football.
Five years. When I started on this job, I was apprenticed for a whole year and only then, after being assessed, was given a proper full-time job. The Directors were happy with my work and, in fact, after two years I was promoted to supervisor.
Things looked good for me. But then came Mr. Smith. He was employed as General Manager which meant that he practically ran the factory in the name of the Directors.
I think that he did not like me from the first day he saw me. Not that I said anything or gave him any signs to cause him to hate me. He just did not like me. And it showed.
He used to find fault with everything I did. I tried to be more efficient, extra cautious, give more attention. But it was all in vain. I could never please him.
He filed untrue and exaggerated reports against me with the Directors; he shouted at me in front of my colleagues; his body language spoke clearly how he felt towards me.
I could not find a justified reason for his behavior. He treated others normally with ‘good morning’, ‘how are you?’ and smiles. But me? I was ignored, scowled at or rebuked. Maybe it’s my face. It’s not an angel’s face to be sure, I admit. But it’s not a devil’s one either.
I was working under stress because I knew that he could influence the Directors to sack me. And then what? Where would I work? I had not learned any other trade. Hand-stitching was my career. My life was built around it.
And there was also Rita. I had been engaged to her for some time and had promised that we would get married this year. Rita had a lovely character. You just cannot not love her. We would make a perfect couple. But what if I am sacked?
One day Mr. Smith came to the factory, obviously in an ugly mood. As soon as he entered the factory floor, he made straight for me. “George”, he said belligerently, “You are not pulling your weight, you are slowing down the whole factory, I have to file a report against you once again!”
“But I did more than what is expected of me”, I retorted. “My colleagues can vouch for my output; I just don’t know where I failed.” I pleaded with him to give me another chance. “Don’t file another report please or I will surely get the sack”.
“You deserve nothing better” he replied.
Then he stormed away leaving me in tatters, while I did not know what to do. “I’ll wait”, I thought, “maybe he’ll not report me after all, maybe his conscience will touch his heart.” I went back to my work bench and continued executing my duties to the best of my ability. At closing time that day, I went home after being comforted by my colleagues.
I spent a sleepless night, visualizing what I would do if I was sacked and what I would say to my Rita who was, like me, looking forward to our imminent marriage ceremony. I had discovered that life was not fair. Only a fool thought so. Life was cruel and unjust.
A series of different scenarios passed through my mind – keep calm, commit suicide, consider murder …………. Each scenario was analyzed, considered its advantages and disadvantages. My mind failed to decide.
The next morning I went to work as usual, hoping that Mr. Smith might have had a change of heart and did not report me. I entered the factory with trepidation. My heart was pounding six to the dozen.
Less than half an hour from starting my work, at approximately 9 o’clock, Mr. Smith’s assistant, Hector Forbes, a good man who had sympathized with me on several occasions, called me to his office.
“There it is!” I thought. “I’ve had it, the end of my career with Jacob’s Football Factory and the start of my problems”. I approached Forbes office with trepidation. I was shivering, my teeth chattering like castanets. My colleagues were looking at me with sympathy in their eyes.
“Good morning Mr. Forbes” I saluted. “I understand you called me”.
“Yes, yes, Peter. It’s to tell you that the Directors ………………………..” He stopped in mid sentence as his telephone started ringing. He excused himself and unhooked the receiver immediately to attend to the caller.
I sat down, crestfallen; while Mr. Forbes was in conversation with someone on the line. Each second seemed like an eternity. When the conversation was terminated, he put the receiver down and continued. “The Directors have sacked Mr. Smith this morning; apparently he was found to have been embezzling the Company for some time!”
I managed a long sigh of relief, like a man being saved from drowning. “They have promoted me to General Manager instead”, he continued. “But they have also directed me to ask you if you would accept the post of assistant General Manger which I, of course, will be relinquishing”.