So Fred – my partner – finally hired Lucy, the obnoxious, always talking, smart but cheeky intern from JKUAT. Which means evil once again reigns. A truly sad day for humanity, but a much darker day for me. A millennial in my midst every day. Lucy is a handful – and that’s putting it mildly. She remains spectacularly oblivious of her position in the pecking order. She has no sense of diplomacy, says what she wants to say when she wants to. Which can be both infuriating and refreshing. Mostly infuriating. She often uses her witticism, not to spread love in the world but to bully and intimidate those around her. Especially me. Towards the tail end of last year, we were plagued by a rat problem in our office. A problem we didn’t have before she joined us. Now, I’m not saying the rat followed her. Wait, I am.
But for all her quips and jabs, she is a wizard online. Knows her shit. She takes to social media like a submarine to the deep dark seas. Everything I now know about social media has somehow come from her. At a price. She calls me “old man.” Good morning, Old Man. Hey Old Man, can I have your dried fruit? Old Man, are you coming back to the office?
She thinks she is funny.
I didn’t even know Fred had hired her. I only found out last week. I was in the boardroom having a meeting after 6pm, when stuck her head around the door and said, “I’m gone for the day. Will you lock up?” I said, “Sawa. Kesho, then.”
I had a half-eaten muffin from Java . She has a bit of a sweet tooth, likes to nibble on things (maybe that’s how she bonded with the infernal rat) – especially things on my desk – so I asked her, “By the way, do you want a muffin?” She said, “Nah,” because she’s 23 and she says she needs to live a bit healthier than she currently is. But it should be noted that she is always beginning her “healthy living” after the party over the weekend and there is always a party over the weekend in Lucy’s life so she never really gets around to sticking to it. “You can take a piece of it,” I say and she sighs like I have really twisted her arm and proceeds to takes the entire muffin.
“This is Lucy our intern.” I tell my guest but then Lucy looks at me and says, “I’m not an intern.”
“You are.” I say.
“No, I’m not. Not anymore, I got hired.”
Of course I don’t want to air our dirty linen before guests, but I ask her, “And who hired you?” And she says, “Fred did. I even have an official email address. I’m the first full-time employee.” She smiles like she won a wager. So I tell her that our guest is a feminist and she says, “Oh no, are you going to be okay when I leave? Do you want me to stick around?” Our guest laughs and instead of leaving she stands there grinning, eating her muffin. My former muffin. The whole muffin. The one she said she didn’t want.
Then she starts talking about feminism and how it’s all confusing to her. But then the guest starts to like her because, well, she is kind of charismatic (kind of!), and they start talking about feminism and economics, which she studied. She has smart quips and when she laughs, cups fall off tables. It’s a hysterical laugh that reminds one of the sounds that randy Virunga gorillas make in the Congo.
People mostly find her funny and witty. Others don’t know what to do with her abundance. I, on the other hand, just wish she wouldn’t make fun of my age, because I’m probably the oldest person she knows outside her family.
There was a time she looked at my twitter timeline and said, “My God, Biko! My timeline at 1am is more exciting than yours during the day!” She scrolled down the list of the people I follow and asked, “Who are these people? And why are they tweeting with carrots up their fannies?” She let out her high pitched laughter that jams the printer. After studying my twitter she said, “OK, Biko, you are on Twitter Z.”
“What is Twitter Z?” I asked.
“Twitter Z is full of people who just joined Twitter from Facebook and they are trying to be cool but they aren’t. Like people from shags coming to the city and thinking they know it all.”
“Oh.” I said, trying not to show that I was hurt. “And you are in which Twitter?”
“I’m in Twitter A, where all the cool children are.”
“Twitter Z guys are called MKZs.” she continued.
“That’s another bad thing, right?”
“It is. It stands for Mukuru Kwa Zuckerberg. Like Mukuru Kwa Njenga. The Twitter slum. People from Twitter Z don’t even know what MKZ is. In fact, that’s how you know you are in Twitter Z; when you don’t know what MKZ is.”
“Oh, but you might actually not be in Twitter Z Biko, I think you are in Twitter Elite.”
“Thanks a lot for the upgrade. Do I get anything special?”
“Chill. The Twitter Elite are boring. They tweet about politics and business and they don’t use memes. Please tell me you know what memes are?”
“Of course, Lucy, I know what memes are.” I said, finally relieved that I knew something.
“Do you know what to truncate is on twitter?”
They all laugh.
“What about GIFs?”
“So where is Larry Madowo on Twitter?” I ask.
“Now there is Twitter Elite A and Twitter Elite Z,” Lucy says, “Larry is in Twitter Elite A.”
What follows is a confounding argument between two other guys in the office, social media hacks, Hanafi Kaka and Yvonne, about whether Larry is in Twitter Elite A or Twitter Elite Z. A big strange debate that ends with Lucy saying that it doesn’t really matter where Larry is because that is not where the cool children of Twitter are anyway.
“Oliver Mathenge, do you know him? He’s the head of Twitter Elite A. Twitter Elite A is boring Biko,” Lucy says. “Do you know there is a guy who sorts out everybody’s HR issues on Twitter?”
“No, I didn’t know. What’s his name?”
“He’s called HR.”
Buahaha. They all laugh, whether at me or HR guy whom they call Gicheru Gicheru, I will never know.
“So Lucy, seeing as you’re in Twitter A, if I tweeted you, being that I’m in Twitter Z, would I embarrass you? Would you pretend that you didn’t know me?”
“Uhm, yes. I don’t think it would be great for my rep.”
“So you would not tweet back because your cool Twitter A friends would roast you, as you guys call it?”
“I probably wouldn’t tweet you back, maybe I would call you.”
“So even after eating my groundnuts you would still ignore me?”
I have learnt through Lucy’s illuminations that I and a bunch of other people are only using about 2% of Twitter. That on a different wing of Twitter, the wing where the cool children are, there is a whole strange new world where weird shit goes down. Apparently, the cool children in Twitter A even get married. And date. And have kids. It’s like Melrose Place, only with a strange language, where everything is communicated in 140 characters.
There are numerous Lucys out there, making a living by tweeting. Guys glued to their phones, tweeting and facebooking. People who know what the acronym GIF stands for.
The only other person I “know” on social media is probably Caro. You know Caro, right? Caro and Jamo? That girl who replies to everyone on the Airtel Facebook page? I know this might sound very shady but I used to imagine that when you see a tweet from a corporate signed off with a name it’s actually a generic name that anyone who is working on that shift uses. What do I know anyway? I just learnt I’m a resident of Twitter Z.
How I ran into Caro is actually because I didn’t have cash to pay for my parking ticket at Oval. I only had cash on my phone and there was no agent there to withdraw it.
I walked into Art Cafe hoping I would run into someone I knew who could help me out with cash, but you never run into anyone you know when you are in a bind. So I wandered into the Airtel shop near the staircase and asked her if she would give me cash then I’d send her money from my phone. She obviously thought it was a pick up line, because I guess strange men often wander into the shop and ask for 100 bob cash.
But she gave me the cash and I asked her what she did for Airtel. She said she was Caro and that she handles social media. I said, ‘Is that your real name?’ and she said it was and I said bullshit and she said it is and proceeded to show me her ID and indeed, it was there in black and white. It turned everything I thought I knew about social media on its head. Social media has its soldiers, some of us are just support staff.
So this is a shout out to Caro for sorting me out. I owe you 100-bob. I don’t know how many bundles that can fetch.