Collector’s conflict

IMMEDIATELY after graduating from college years (and years) ago, I decided that the idea of working under a supervisor and report to work from regular 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, stare at the four walls of a bleak office every second of the day eagerly waiting for 5 p.m. to go home did not sound inviting.

I decided I wanted more elbow room in my work and not being chained to the office for most of the day, or stand on tiptoe, quake and quaver with fear and pressure when the boss is around, and serve as an emotional outlet when superiors get cranky, miserably living from paycheck to paycheck.

With this in mind, I set up my own business making and distributing schoolroom devices and visual aids to help ease the burden of teachers and rake in some income as well.

Working as my own boss gave me the chance to travel out of town, stay up all night without worrying about getting up early the next morning. It also freed me from the pressures and hell petty corporate office bosses and superiors could give. I was also spared the fear many employees face that at any time the company will start to sink (or start sinking faster) and they would find themselves jobless on the streets.

Albeit I had my share of pressures, I had more flexible hours and was the ‘ruler’ of my time. I got up when I wanted to, not because I had to. Instead of being cooped up in an office or inside a classroom filled with screaming kids, I had the chance to meet more people and get more sunshine (sunburns and sunstroke, too) and enjoyed travelling from place to place.

Understanding the life of teachers as employees whose salaries are usually gone long before the paycheck arrives, I distributed the devices like sample lesson plans, flipcharts, pictures, posters, and visual aids for easy classroom teaching on credit and collect the payments during paydays.

Needless to say, I took advantage of the teacher’s plight.

I went through several classrooms in many schools and took note of what the teachers needed for their classrooms.

My life revolved between hopping from school to school and creating new products.

It was already 15 minutes before 12 noon one collection day when I approached the last teacher on my list in a school in Kidapawan, Cotabato. With sweat drenching my shirt, I trudged the last few steps towards the room of a spinster-teacher whom we shall call Mrs. X. Her room was isolated from the main building and I had to brave the broiling heat of the sun to reach her. I hurried as my stomach has been persistently sending hunger signals already.

When Mrs. X saw me and the receipt in my hand, she met me at the door and fished out a crisp 100-peso bill from her wallet, telling me to come back the next month for the remaining balance as we have previously agreed on, and then she turned her back on me.

I stood dumbfounded and stared at Mrs. X’s huge retreating back. She didn’t even allow me collect my breath first. She owed me P250 for an English flipchart and as rule, I don’t accept installment payments.

I went after her and told her we didn’t have any such agreement. She insisted we did and so we spent the next ten minutes arguing, our tempers rising with the noonday heat while her whole class sat with mouths and eyes open, attentively listening to our heated exchange of words.

Finally, Mrs. X declared that she has decided to return the item. As I was hungry, tired and on the verge of temper, I readily agreed. She went to her table, dug underneath a pile of odd objects in a drawer and pushed a jar of body lotion. I shook my head and pushed the jar back to her, indicating that it was not my product.

She then went to a corner of the room, unlocked a cabinet, and to my chagrin she thrusted a big can of floorwax in my hands. She obviously has so many items acquired on credit she couldn’t identify one collector from another.

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