Character Building

The company pulled out of the gate, on to the dirt road and sped away. If it hadn’t sunk in before, Jakoyo now knew that he had now been abandoned to his own devices. Late for a company retreat themed ‘Character Building: Towards turning kittens into lions.’ In any case he was here now and he decided that he might as well do what he had to make it to the end of the one week course.

He picked up his baggage and made for what he assumed was the main office of the company retreat facility. For its relative lack of size this facility, planted squarely in the middle of the compound, had a stately air to it that defied its otherwise unimpressive size. Spotlessly clean revolving glass doors welcomed into the corridor. There was marble flooring from wall to wall and whatever furniture was there, chairs tables et cetera, made of finely polished hardwoods.

Jakoyo was hardly through the doors when he saw, standing at the door, a man beckoning out to him with a considerable kind of urgency. The fellow was tall. He carried this height in a way that implied some kind of authority.

“I’m in enough trouble already, better not piss this guy off.” Jakoyo thought to himself as put his bags down and rushed towards the man.

“Boss, you had better hurry up!” The man bellowed.

Jakoyo picked up his pace, now threatening to break into a run. The man gave him a lengthy lecture about discipline, time keeping and all the other holy principles of character building he had violated in his lateness.

“This is the first thing you must remember about this little training camp.” He said, as he led Jakoyo to his punishment, which evidently lay at the back of this particular building. Jakoyo was given a broom and a mop and directed to set about cleaning the court yard, in the back of the camp facility’s main office.

The camp itself consisted of three concrete buildings: the main office, and two dormitory buildings – one for males and the other for females- to each side of the main office.

Jakoyo was now in a courtyard at the back of the office, a large concrete slab, topped with marble, and decked with plastic furniture in the style of a cafe. There were 3 tables, each with three chairs and a blue umbrella on top.

“You will clean this courtyard and everything in it. I want to see it shine!”

Those were the words of the man, and not wanting to get into more trouble with the authorities, what with him being already late, he set to work. This would be the first activity in the course of ‘character building he had signed up for. He set about his work with the zeal and commitment of a bee in its hive.

Some thirty minutes into his work he noticed that another person was watching him. She was watching him from a window of the office, and seemed very curious about what he was up to.

“What are you doing?” she asked loudly. The sheer volume of her voice stopped him dead in his tracks. “What’s a newbie like you doing getting yourself “class a” disciplinary measures after arriving here?”

She didn’t stop to hear his answer. He heard a loud bang and soon enough he saw her coming out of the back entrance of the office building, bearing down on him like a raging bull.

Class A disciplinary action was the highest classification of manual labour that could be meted out you if you happened to fall foul of the rules at this camp. There were a whole range of manual tasks that one could find oneself doing, all classified on the basis of scale and time, from A the severest and most time consuming, to C the lightest and quickest to complete. As it was, Jakoyo’s task was one of the easiest tasks harsh enough to merit a ‘Class A’ rating.

“Who assigned you this task boy?” she asked, even more menacingly than before

“I was told to do this by…um.” Just then he realized that he hadn’t studied that man long enough to recognize him if he had been standing right there. This being scared out your wits business is terrible for the memory. “I was told that this was part of my character building.”

She put her hands on her hips and twisted her face, in the manner of somebody confronted by a particular complicated algebra problem. She continued to hold this look at him in this was and he started to feel uncomfortable. He decided to chance starting to work again.

“Stop!” she yelled

He stopped.

“Do you remember who told you to do this?” she asked. For once she wasn’t yelling. He shook his head.

“All I remember is that he was sitting at reception and he told me that as part of character building this was the first thing I had to do.”

“You have been had young man.” She said very slowly and methodically. “I am the only authority that assigns tasks here. Now go get yourself settled down”

Jakoyo started to head for the nearest dormitory.

“The other dormitory!”

He stopped to look back, she was gone.


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