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28.03.2019 Feature Article

The America That Is Not For Me: Part 20

The America That Is Not For Me: Part 20

The nursing school interview went well.
I returned to work, the Trumpian fleapit, with another hideous problem lying in wait for me.

I’d told the Manager, that dense metaphor of an involute polymorphic human being one cannot unload so easily, that I was expecting a visitor from New York and wouldn’t work past 8 am, the usual time I got off work in the morning following my overnight shift, once I received the visitor. My formal schedule ran from 12pm to 8am. “The visitor will be staying with me for a week.”

She gave me that foxy look. “Which week is that?”

I told her.
It got to a point when I left the Trumpian fleapit at 9am because I used the extra one hour after each overnight shift to do laundry, sweep and vacuum and bleach the kitchen and bathrooms, make charges’ beds, cart away bags of trash and dump them in trash containers placed outside the house, declutter charges’ wardrobes and fold their clothes and arrange these folded clothes in their respective wardrobes, wash and rinse and dry cooking utensils, cutlery set, eating bowls and plates as a big favor for both the company and the Manager.

I also occasionally swept and bleached the entire laundry floor, an important chore that no employee ever performed in the Trumpian fleapit until I began working there. The Manager told me this herself.

The amount of work I did during this one hour period literally left less or no work for the morning shift staff to do. This freed up time for the morning shift staff and the Manager to execute more urgent assignments and possibly unattended emergencies, effectively care for the charges, and complete assignments carried over from days or weeks prior.

Occupational hygiene and productivity improved significantly and this culminated in charge and staff satisfaction overall, and reduced occupational stress particularly for the morning shift staff and the Manager.

In theory, the company was expected to save money because the additional efforts I put in made it absolutely unnecessary for it to hire additional hands to help keep the place running.

My efforts put State inspectors at ease as the Trumpian fleapit passed its inspections.

Other underlying problems already in existence before I joined the company continued to linger in spite of these positive outcomes and my best efforts to create a conflict-free environment for all―charges, visitors, and staff alike.

Of course the company paid for these extra hours. One of my co-employees from Liberia who grew up in Ghana, however, wasn’t that fortunate. The company didn’t always pay him for overtime and yet, quite inexplicably, our supervisor had the nerve to schedule him for more overtime assignments each time he complained bitterly about not receiving overtime pay for prior assignments. He insisted that he be paid first for all outstanding overtime wages before he could agree to do more overtime. In the meantime, he put a stop to working overtime pending satisfactory resolution of his demands. Then he blocked our supervisor’s phone number. Sadly, others such as the male staff and the low-level female employee suffered similar fates from time to time.

This wasn’t a problem easily attributable to a computer glitch. Those who were directly involved in the controversy held the view that the company simply didn’t want to pay them for their hard work and absolute dedication to the welfare of the charges. These individuals advised me to closely monitor my time schedule worksheet by fastidiously matching my weekly hours of work against the monetary weight of my paycheck, thus making sure the company didn’t shortchange me.

Nevertheless, on a few occasions I pursued her doggedly to get my work hours right and also to get her to formally sign off on the adjusted work hours. As a matter of fact, my egalitarian approach to understanding the world makes it practically impossible for me to stay on autopilot while the moral foundation of the immediate world around me crumbles on the infrastructural deficits of social justice, equity, and kindness in institutional and non-institutional settings. Finally, the virtual absence of direct regulatory oversight of her work and her gross professional incompetence partly contributed to this perturbing state of affairs. It was as if she was in cahoots with management to dupe and shortchange employees.

I continued to work hoping that I never had to face similar predicaments. Thankfully, I never hit a snag with this outrageous scheme of daring daylight robbing of poor, hardworking and honest persons by a wicked corporate cabal of the rich and powerful.

Thus punching out at the end of my shift gave me the break I deserved following twelve hours of hard work.

Prior to driving home, I customarily spent quality time in my car after punching out at the end of my shift. I listened mostly to jazz and roots reggae and traditional highlife during this time. I used this time to reflect on a spectrum of work-related expectations that made up the substantive bulk of my work performance package each day that I worked, including of my organizational strengths and weakness, my professional relationships with colleagues and charges and charges’ families, the quality of my paperwork, impact of occupational stress on the quality of my work, and what I could’ve done better. I spent a total of thirty to forty-five minutes on my self-assessment.

It was a moment of solemn rumination on the content of human character itself.

Of course, it was always difficult if not outright impossible trying to separate the natural heart of good music from the colorful soul of deep reflection. The eclectic repertoire of non-lyrical or non-vocal jazz especially, in tandem with its emotional fragrance of recherché instrumentation and captivating powers of supernal uniqueness, and the implications of these aesthetic features of jazz for raising the philosophic metaparadigm of my consciousness, ultimately put me in direct contact with the pristine soul and heart of my inner self at the highest levels of my spiritual beingness.

Jazz generously assigned each instrument in its flamboyant ensemble of affectional articulation a distinct ontological language of aesthetic individuation, in which the stochastic and deterministic actuation of stressful goings-on in my life primarily drove the existential mechanics of my troubled psyche, was violently overthrown by the emerging eudaemonic power of jazz as a numinous statement on relaxation therapy.

Jazz offered that timely abreaction, of course a redeeming quality of unimaginable value as narrowly understood within the context of my quotidian acceptation of the phrase, to a distorted personal psychology in that it made it possible for me to expand the sweeping cut of my swath across several academic disciplines as a serious, engaging avocation, thus pushing myself into the mainstream of inclusive and humanistic knowledge.

Thus for me, particularly during those great periods of intense reflection on the crucial question of fail-safe mechanism as it related to my natural capacity for occupational expression, and of whether this mechanism possessed the necessary intrinsic resources to address mortal impuissance in the face of challenges, jazz probably came to represent the most refined and powerful philosophical, aesthetic and spiritual statement on the complex nature of human expression. Here is a memorable recapitulation of a conversation I had with a group of friends in one of my mythical dreams:

“I love jazz,” said Louise Armstrong.
“Jazz is the souls of black folk,” W.E.B. Du Bois added. “Jazz is probably the purest and boldest form of expressive abstraction to emerge within the fecund immanence of human nature.”

“It is rather the soul of humanity,” John Coltrane corrected.

“Humans understand a small portion of the henotheistic universe of this mystical language called jazz only through their cryptic intercourse with these supernatural media,” Nina Simone and Miles Davis carefully explained.

“Jazz is the string theory feeding the foundational henosis of humanity,” added theoretical physicist Sylvester J. Gates, Jr. “Jazz clearly represents the Adinkra symbols of humanism, unity, community, peace, and amity.”

“Right,” interjected philosopher-high priest Okomfo Anokye. “Jazz firms up the scientific flesh of the innovative mind for the sake of intra-organism harmonization; jazz masterfully bridges the carnal and the spiritual for the sole purpose of establishing internal homeostasis in the macrocosmic soul of mortal contradictions.”

“Of course you’re all right,” Charles Mingus chipped in. “Jazz is the only esoteric language supreme deities, gods and goddesses, and angels understand beyond the limited compass of human curiosity.”

On the one hand, jazz expanded the phenomenological possibilities of intrinsic happiness for a troubled soul, as well as protected the dissembled purity of the human heart from the frigid wickedness of mortal pollution, while, on the other hand, roots reggae and traditional highlife gave wing to the highest powers of the mind. The tremendous power of Bob Marley’s immortal voice and enduring legacy of his repertoire of roots reggae, for instance, gave me all the right reasons I needed in the world to live, to wit, to continue to live, however tough it had always been for me personally, in the face of the rawness of human wickedness, omnipresent death, and unending cycle of frustrations. His music took on the character of vicarious introspection in my view.

I’d just finished listening to Chares Mingus’s The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and Pithecanthropus Erectus, two of my most favorite albums of his, and was on the verge of turning my attention to either Bob Marley’s Catch a Fire or Burnin’ when I spotted the demagnified image of the Manager in one of my side-view mirrors unpacking the trunk of her car. This time, however, I refused to help her carry her unpacked stuff into the Trumpian fleapit because my generous conscience forbade me. I’d done this for her on many occasions and not once did she bother to acknowledge my courtliness by way of a demonstrative articulation of gratitude.

It may have seemed to her that gentlemanliness and warm expressions of courtesy men threw at the feet of women meant absolutely nothing. She savored the powerful sense of privilege that warmly wormed its way into the arms of her imperial domain on the clipped wings of the opposite sex, as when men cowered from her intimidating ways due to the attentional spotlight she attracted to herself merely seeing men in demeaning situations she created for the singular purpose of belittling and humiliating men, ultimately delighting in her handiwork and availing herself of every opportunity to promote her militant version of female chauvinism.

All these came about at the expense of men, especially those men who somehow found themselves in her orbit of influence through no fault of theirs.

Not that I found anything particularly objectionable about women occupying positions of authority.

And not that―with my liberal philosophical position which placed me far removed from the emotional epicenter of the gender wars, specifically in relation to the presumed greater superiority of patriarchy over gender equality―I didn’t find women in respectable positions of trust fulfilling an important affirmative arrangement in male-dominated societies. Gender equality gave meaning to parity. This fact didn’t go over my head. My only concern was how blatantly she abused her position of authority. I had no doubt in my mind that the authority and perquisites of her office went to her head, for she probably never expected the managerial position and the mundane privileges that came with the office to have fallen into her lap the way it did.

Thus she used the authority of her office to exercise absolute control over men in subordinate positions.

Outside the Trumpian fleapit the day I refused to carry her stuff into the house, she heard me playing Bob Marley’s “Slave Driver” from Catch a Fire and asked about the specific music genre to which this song belonged. “Roots reggae,” I curtly responded, explaining to her how the genre evolved. I knew she wasn’t one to get into the swim of things but did so merely to make a conversation.

“Interesting.”
“I find my compass in these kinds of revolutionary music. Roots reggae is a life-giving force to reckon with.”

She’d heard about reggae before but roots reggae sounded eerily similar to the unpalatable mumbo jumbo of humanoid extraterrestrials in her sorbent ears. Her musical taste was a pastiche of old-school staples made up of rhythm and blues, soul, gospel, funk, blues, rock and roll, and neo soul. I was intimately familiar with and listened to all these genres too. Her conservative taste in music suited her age and traditional upbringing. Of course neither musicology nor ethnomusicology nor music history was her métier. But of course, she did have a place in Howard Gardner’s “theory of multiple intelligences” in spite of her old-fashioned sense of misandry and conservative taste in music. Because this ephebiphobic manager didn’t warm up to the broad range of my musical fantasies and ideas and tastes, she completely avoided the discussion and continued from where we had left off, saying almost in hushed tones, “Remind me later.”

“About?” I had no clue what she was talking about. Whatever she had on her mind, that seeming statement or answer to a question I could never recall asking must have been a long time coming.

“The week your visitor is supposed to be here.”

I understood. “Thanks.”
She disappeared into the Trumpian fleapit with her gallimaufry of personal effects and Sisyphean baggage of personal contradictions.

I drove home without looking back because I didn’t want to turn into Lot’s wife, a pillar of salt.

I didn’t look back because that would’ve meant giving unnecessary attention to a complex persona that was a hard coconut to crack, my manager.

One day she was a closed book.
On a different day she was an open book.
She was like the Book of Revelation.
This indecipherable character twined around my weary mind that I sometimes was left wondering whether she was the striking likeness of manifold in string theory. She was open to different interpretations as she was a creature of many parts. I always wondered if her God was even that complex.

Who was this unfathomable Book of Revelation anyway?

The Bible or Koran?
The State of Palestine or the State of Israel?
Man or Woman?
Donald Trump or J.E. Hoover?
Democrat or Republican?
Judas Iscariot or Jesus Christ?
Black or White?
Margaret Thatcher or Mother Teresa?
Abraham Lincoln or Frederick Douglass?
A Chameleon or Rainbow?
Bonnie or Clyde?
Impossible to tell!
She was that strange existential algebraic equation with infinite complex solutions.

Francis Kwarteng
Francis Kwarteng, © 2019

This author has authored 573 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: franciskwarteng

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