“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject for today’s A Week In The Life is Micheal, a Jumia delivery agent. He walks us through combining being a delivery agent with fatherhood. In his words: “fatherhood is an indescribable experience.”
Every day, I wake up before 6 am. I live at Iyana Ipaja, so that means I need to wake up early to beat the traffic. When we were living a fake life (during lockdown), I noticed that the journey to my office at Opebi that usually takes hours is actually not more than 20 minutes. Lagos no go kill person.
The first thing I do when I get to work today is to load my consignment. I take stock of all the goods I have to deliver for the day. Between 8:00 am and 8:30 am, I should be leaving the office to start the delivery for the day.
Everyone has the area that they are covering, but I don’t have a specific zone. I cover everywhere. People like us help augment the delivery work of people who cover fixed zones especially on days that they need more hands. People like me are versatile; we have to know all the routes. I might go to GRA on Monday, Magodo on Tuesday.
The job is all about passion. It can be challenging at first having to know all the routes, but in the long run, it becomes a plus for you. This is because, for people who have specific routes if they don’t have packages, they aren’t going out for that day. But, for we that are versatile, to a large extent, we are certain that we’ll work every day.
It’s important for me to set out early every day because this job is a race against time. I try to finish all my deliveries early enough so that I can go home to help out. Part of my daily routine is bathing my kids before they go to bed – this bonding time is very very precious to me.
After loading and checking my goods for the day, I quickly set out to begin deliveries.
Since the lockdown started, I have been taking the delivery van home. In the past, I’d drop it at the office because of how far my house is. It was easier and more convenient to take public transport because of the holdup. After driving in Lagos all day, I couldn’t sit in more holdup.
However, for this period of the pandemic, it’s been convenient taking the van home. Believe you me, it’s better and safer that way. At least, I avoid taking public transport and being exposed to Covid-19. My wife is a caterer and does her job from home. I also have three kids and they are home all day. So, I can’t afford to infect anyone of them and that’s why I avoid public transport.
Covid-19 has changed the game. The company I work for has been proactive towards the virus. They have provided safety measures like gloves, masks, and they’ve even facilitated contactless delivery where we limit contact with customers – because we don’t know who is who.
Today, a customer saw me well kitted and they were pleased. They were initially scared because delivery men visit so many places. On seeing me well kitted, they relaxed.
After I am done for the day, I head home. My kids are excited to see me and they show it by shouting Kpanika; their mum calls me that. Kpanika means first son in Calabar language and I find it funny whenever they call me that. I go over to assist their mum who’s helping them with their assignment.
I don’t know how she copes all day with very hyperactive kids. Any time I spend a full day with them, I realise that the job she’s doing is very stressful. In fact, words can’t express the kind of job she does. Believe you me, it’s higher than any office job – the responsibility of taking care of kids.
Part of the little joys of this job is helping a customer to resolve issues because the joy also radiates to you. As delivery guys, our motto is delivering happiness. There’s nothing like seeing the joy of helping a customer who is having difficulty ordering an item or getting a refund. One customer I’ll never forget was a woman I met during our Black Friday last year. There was this promo on rice; the price was so cheap that customers didn’t believe it. So, there was this mama who looks 60+ that got one of the deals and she was very very sceptical. When I got to her house and she saw the rice, she was extremely happy. So happy that she asked for a picture. Luckily, there was someone around to take our photo – I can never forget that incident.
Those are the good days, but today is not a good day.
Coming into work today, I’ve had it rough. This work requires passion and charisma to tackle your own challenges while still spreading joy.
My manager says I have to go to a challenging route today. From all the stories I’ve heard about the route, I know that if I go, it’ll be a problem. There is parking space wahala inherent in this place and believe you me, I may not take it easy with anyone who challenges me over parking today. I walk up to my manager and explain to him the issue. With the morning I’ve had, I can’t face the challenges of that route.
He calls it quits.
He then re-assigns me to another route for the day. For this job, you need to be mentally and psychologically balanced for the day. You are meeting different people from the drivers to law enforcement agents, to customers. So, you need to coordinate yourself well.
I need today to end already. After work, I’m attending a church program online that may help with my mood. It’s a men’s program that’s dear to my heart – It is aimed at positioning you as the real man God has made you to be. The program teaches us how to be adjusted emotionally, financially, spiritually. This is so that you can have an impact on your family.
I don’t like missing the program for anything.
One thing with doing delivery in Lagos is understanding the road network. Once you understand this, you’ll not have timing issues that delivery guys are known for.
You need to understand what time you’re supposed to be at a place, what time you aren’t supposed to because of hold up. It’s all about arranging your movement to beat the holdup; you need to drive against traffic all the time. If not, at every point in time, you’ll be stuck in traffic. It’s all about being professional with your work.
If you have properly planned your work, you can always plan when you’ll get to a particular point. Then, you can give customers a fixed time. Your only issue may now be customers.
Most customers think they are the only one you are dealing with and you can’t take that away from them. It’s now up to you to explain that you’ll be with them within this specific time and they should kindly be available. This is because you’ve limited time to spend with them as a customer. If a delivery person is spending much time with you and spending more time with another customer, how much ground do they want to cover for the day?
If every customer he met before you took much of his time, he might not have been able to get to you. So, customers should also do everything they need to do so that the delivery is as quick as possible. The delivery is structured in such a way that the customer has been notified as early in the day as possible. So, if it’s money they want to get ready or make arrangements for someone to pick, these should be done before the delivery person gets there.
The delivery person has already allocated a particular amount of time per stop and if there’s any delay, they may start to become impatient.
Before I go about my deliveries today, I listen to music to relax. I love listening to R n B and gospel. I just love good music; I love Lionel Richie, Luther Vandross. These are the artistes that keep me going on this job.
One of the hazards of this job is that customers can pass on aggression. As a delivery person, you don’t pack the goods and you aren’t also permitted to check the goods. So, what happens is that if customers get the wrong item, it’s you they’ll shout at.
And you have to remain professional.
Like today, I delivered a shoe to a customer. After the customer had paid, they found out that it was a brown shoe instead of a black shoe. All I could do was listen as the customer took out their frustrations on me. After they had calmed down, I then proposed a way for us to resolve the issue. Thankfully, we have channels for resolving issues like this as we have envisaged a list of scenarios and provided solutions.
After reassuring the customer of a refund, I left to finish my other deliveries.
In this job, it’s important not to take work matter home or bring home matter to work if you don’t want chaos. I no longer get angry because I’m used to this.
Once I get home and eat my favourite meal of plantain and egg, I’ll forget all about today.
The first thing my children ask me when they wake up is: “daddy are you going to work today?” I tell them nooooo and that I am all theirs. I spend most of my weekend’s bonding with my family. I don’t keep friends – all I do is alternate between work, family, and church.
My children want us to watch cartoons, they want me to recite hymns to them, they also want to jump on me. For the cartoons, I put on their favourite cartoon which is PJ mask.
For the recital, I stylishly redirect them to go meet their mum because I don’t know all these songs; It’s their mum that knows them. I also help out with their assignments. I wonder what kind of assignments these schools give these days – is it for the kids or for the parents?
It’s fun being with them sha. At least when they’re not jumping on me.
Being a father is a big deal for me particularly because I have twins. There’s this plus having twins as a parent – the joy of being a father can’t be put in words – especially when you have active kids without any health challenges.
Infact, it gives me joy. Today is a good day.
In regular times, we’d attend the second service at church. As a bachelor, it’s easy to go for the first service, but when you are married, it’s harder. Between the interval it takes to get the kids ready, and for wifey to get ready, the first service has ended. The second service starts at 10 am, and we’re usually done by 12.
For now, there’s no program at church so I try to spend the day relaxing. I chase the kids out of the parlour so I can rest and listen to music. I know I can’t rest for long because they’ll still come back to disturb me. I can’t even complain because they were on their own jeje and I brought them from heaven; Na me call them come.
I’m thinking about the future of my kids. As the day goes by, as age goes by, responsibility increases, demand increases, and we all aspire for greener pastures. Soonest, I might be taking on a program..maybe masters. But for now, that’s lying low.
All I can think of is the fact that I need a lot of rest to face Monday because Mondays are crazy. I hope that in the future, all my plans in the pipeline become a reality.
For now, I’m still moving on with Jumia.
Check back every Tuesday by 9 am for more “A Week In The Life ” goodness, and if you would like to be featured or you know anyone who fits the profile, don’t hesitate to reach out. Reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be featured on this series.