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Pipedream resolution to beat January creditors

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Benson Riungu | January 9th 2014

By Benson Riungu

Kenya: In my younger days I had a colleague, Fred, with whom I enacted a ritual as solemn and unfailing as the regularity with which people make and promptly break New Year’s resolutions.

On the third or fourth of January we would take a break and go to a place outside the office we called the smoking corner. After a few thoughtful puffs of the cigarette, one of us would break the silence and say, “We were here at this time last year and promised each other never again to spend so recklessly over Christmas and New Year that we have to depend on credit at the corner kiosk for even a cigarette.”

December salaries

The other person would miserably nod assent. “We had done the same the previous year,” he would add as if determined to inflict maximum punishment on himself. “Yet here we are again doing the same thing. What is wrong with us?” Whereupon we would swear, for absolutely the last time, that that year and the years thereafter we would not enter anybody’s bar and we would be mean even to ourselves.

I recalled these moments of regret and sorrow on December 25 as I made merry with friends and relatives at Sundowner Lodge in Igoji. People were spending with a generous hand, but with each order of a large round I espied a look of panic/desperation in the buyer’s eyes.

In a long life of reckless spending I have accumulated so much experience that I could read the minds of the partying crowd like an open book. Some of them were paid their December salaries on the 18th of the month and commenced the Yuletide revels immediately. By Christmas Eve, when the real celebrations should be held, they were exhausted both physically and financially.

Their condition on Christmas Day is such that ideally, they should spend the whole day ‘lying in state’, as a friend of mine of calls the process of nursing a hangover in bed. The only reason they enter anybody’s bar is escape the solitude which gives rise to demons that have started gnawing at their minds.

There is the demon which reminds them that New Year is not only a week away, but also that thereafter there is rent to pay, not to mention utility bills. Another whispers venomously that there is fees for the kids to be paid, one of them needs new books and another needs new clothes…A person can only endure so much torment, and so he flees the house and solitude to look for succour among other panicky merry-makers. The excessive jollity is actually an attempt to ward off the demons.

One of the more generous merry-makers at Sundowner on Christmas Day is a relative of mine with a certain history. As a civil servant in a small town, he had so many creditors every January he could hardly work because they would make a beeline to his office from Monday to Friday.

Sympathetic boss

He was lucky to have a sympathetic boss who helped him out by drawing up a roster of the creditors in order of priority, starting with oldest to the most recent. To ensure that the creditors were actually paid, he would receive my relative’s salary and pay the creditors himself while ensuring that just enough was left over to pay for his most basic needs such as house rent and food.

To the boss’s chagrin, however, my relative seemed to have a way of increasing the number of creditors come the next January. They were also getting mean and threatening to storm the office and lynch the man. To avoid an ugly situation, the boss had my relative transferred to another town.

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