“I can see it now,” Sophia said to herself as she went down memory lane while she was driving her two children to the boarding school. She has come to realize that everybody is important no matter their status. The serenity in her home made her so excited that she heeded her servant’s advice.
It was three years since her husband came home with Mark who became their apprentice. Mr. Williams, Sophia’s husband was into motor spare parts and was a very wealthy man. He was also a very good man, but his wife was his direct opposite. She was a thorn in Mark’s flesh. Sophia maltreated Mark as if he ate a piece of corn that was kept for her.
Countless times apprentices run away from Mr. William’s house on account of Sophia’s rude manners towards them. She was always heard yelling at the boys. Most times she deprived them of supper which was the only meal they were entitled to in the house.
Mark already heard most of the stories about Sophia long before coming to live with them. They all hail from the same village in Enugu state and the earlier apprentices came home to tell their experiences after being freed or after fleeing.
Mark was never ready or happy to ever serve somebody in his life as an apprentice if not for his parents who insisted that he would go and serve Mr. Williams at Lagos because they had no money to further his education. That was after his secondary school. He kicked against the decision in a series of discussions but was not successful. He reluctantly accepted to go and serve as an apprentice for Mr. Williams.
He arrived at the house with a firm disposition and resolution to be the best he can, to tolerate his boss’s wife to the best of his ability, and with the notion that his case might be different from others.
In the early days of Mark’s stay with the Williams, he was made to be a dry cleaner in the house and it paved the way that Sophia also brought her piles of dirty underclothes for him to wash. What insolence! Mark had no option. He was forced to do that all the time.
The young man decided to call a spade a spade when Mr. Williams went on a business trip. On that fateful morning, Mark was busy washing Mr. Williams’ heap of clothes When Sophia, in her royal highness brought her pants and bras for him to wash as well. He bluntly told her that he will not wash them. Sophia was astonished at Mark’s boldness.
“Did you just raise your voice at me, Mark?” She asked him inquisitively.
“I’m very sorry ma for sounding that way. It’s just that it’s weird for me to be washing my madam’s pants and bras.” Mark replied in an apologizing tone.
That got Sophia to the bone marrow. None of her servants or even maidservants had ever spoken back at her since Mr. Williams got married to her. She took back her clothes to her bathroom and did her laundry herself.
Mark usually saved part of the money given to him daily for breakfast and lunch while at the shop. Unluckily for him, one day, as he was coming back from the market, passing through the sitting room where her royal majesty, Mrs. Sophia Williams was sitting watching television, he greeted her. Instead of responding to her greeting, she commanded him to come back. He went back to her.
“Your trouser pocket look swelled up,” Sophia said as she dipped her hand into Mark’s pocket. She brought out a five hundred naira note that he had squeezed out of the day’s feeding.
“Why should I have been so stupid to have squeezed the money anyhow into my pocket instead of folding it flatly to avoid being noticed? Besides, how was this witch of a woman able to have noticed that money in my pocket within a twinkle of an eye?” All these went through his mind as he walked into the boys’ room.
When her husband came back from his travel to Japan, Sophia narrated the incident to him. Mr. Williams summoned Mark to hear from him.
“Mark, what is this that I hear about you and my money?”
“Sir, the money that was found in my pocket is the remnant of my feeding money from that day.”
“How come you had the money, does it mean you skipped a meal or that you didn’t pay for the food you bought from the food vendor?”
“Sir, I skipped a meal to get that money. The fact is that I usually skipped one meal every day because I needed to save.”
Sophia was there when the interrogation was going on and was dumbfounded. She had always had the notion that all apprentices are bad boys, that they steal from their bosses, downsize their bosses’ businesses, and then flee with the money to establish themselves. The fear of her husband’s business crumbling is one of the reasons for her manners.
Having lost three out of five boys that worked for Mr. Williams, he decided to talk to his wife that night while they were in bed about to sleep.
“Honey, don’t you think you are being too hard on the boys?” Mr. Williams asked.
“Baby, I’m helping you here. If you don’t follow these people like I do they might see avenues to run you dry. If you become lenient on them, they’ll take you for a ride and not respect you.” Sophia replied.
“Honey, I know you always watch my back but I think there are better ways to go around these instead of maltreatment and humiliation.”
Sophia Williams felt disheartened that her husband was not in support of her attitude towards the servants. She slept off still wondering why.
The next day was a Sunday. After Sunday service, Mr. Williams went to their town’s meeting. While Sophia was in the sitting room relaxing, she called Mark and asked him to seat on the couch close to hers, and he obeyed.
“Why is it that after bringing people out from trenches to help them in the city they don’t seem to respect you knowing fully well that your level is higher than theirs and that they are unimportant?” Sophia asked Mark.
“Am I supposed to always remind my servants of what to do at every given time? What is it that I have done that a madam should not do? What is it that makes it look like I am Jezebel?” She continued.
“Madam, do you want me to talk?” Mark asked, unsure if his opinion was needed.
“Of course, I want to hear from you that’s why I called you.”
“Okay, ma, talking from my own experience, it is a great kindness to bring someone from the village to experience city life. You deserve every respect from us. But, permit me to say, every human is entitled to respect. We shouldn’t look down on people because of their social class. That you have people working for you doesn’t mean you should treat them as rags. Try to appreciate them when they do the right thing, and politely correct them when they err. It is an obvious fact that good apprentices are rare to find, but the truth remains that there are good ones. We should avoid the fallacy of generalizing.”
After the discussion with Mark, Sophia became a changed person. She came to realize that truly everybody is important and deserves respect, both big and small. The two apprentices and the housemaid enjoyed their stay with the Williams.