In the corporate world, life goes very smoothly for you if you ‘belong’ to an ‘organization’.
When you visit an office, you see those little books you sign in with a category for ‘Company’? On the list of visitors before you, you’ll see words like ‘MTN’, ‘Spedag’ or ‘Meat packers’.
Oh yes. Life is very simple if you have that corresponding corporate organizational name to jot down.
Because we belong, bitches!
I was a bright and bushy tailed (and fairly ignorant) 23 year old when I got my first real job in 2007. I was thrilled with the fact that I now ‘belonged’ to an organization. If I had any field work to do, I’d click my heels excitedly every time I was asked this question.
“Where are you from?”
Oh, how grand! I would whip out my I.D and show them that I did in fact belong to said organization and was not an impostor.
Eight years later, as a freelance writer, editor, researcher and all round hustler, I no longer find this question a novelty. It is a great impediment to my ability to just get my work done with quickly. I had forgotten about all this ‘Where are you from’ business until recently.
I was conducting research for someone and was asking a couple of basic questions of Food&Beverage managers in hotels and restaurants. I had visited at least 15 successfully when I landed in a hotel with a great reception. I was ushered to the desk of a gentleman we shall call Peter. In a few minutes, he tarnished for me the positive image I’d gotten so far.
“So I’m doing this for this person” I explained. “And just wanted to know if you offer such and such on your menu”.
“Where are you from?” Peter asked.
“Where are you from?” he was impatient.
“Erm…Kampala?” I guessed.
“No, which company!”
“No company”, I said. “I’m just doing this research for-”
“You can’t say you don’t belong to an organization!”
“I’m an independent worker”, I told him. “People can just pay me to do things for them”.
Peter was now openly annoyed.
“What do you mean?” he said. “This man you’re doing the work for, where is he from?”
“From Kampala also”, I responded. “He also doesn’t have an organization. He’s just thinking of investing-”
Peter pointed to a chair in front of him, and said something that sounded like this:
“You sit in that chair until you figure out where you’re from.”
I blinked thrice in quick succession.
“You can’t say you don’t belong to an organization!” Peter repeated. “Even your friend must have a house somewhere, you can say he is based in Mukono or something”.
“Goodbye”, I told him politely. “Thank you for your time”.
Hospitality business, my ass.