He stands nowhere in particular and even if you can spot him, he has to stare at you for 12 seconds before he can acknowledge that you need his help. He is the god of the supermarket, and no wrong can be made right without his involvement. He is nearly worshipped.
If you have never met him, consider yourself unimportant. The Guy with the Password at the supermarket ranks so high in the social order, and is the civilian equivalent of the Officer Commanding Police Division in the police force, the enforcer in a gang or even a Lieutenant Colonel in the army. He is untouchable.
The Guy with the Password at the supermarket is one of the most coveted jobs in Kenya, with many children now aspiring to be that guy when they grow up. So powerful is the position that when a former governor lost his job, it is rumoured that he unsuccessfully tried to secure one such position at a medium sized supermarket in the city.
The position is full of power and splendour. On average, the largest supermarket chain in Kenya receives over 824,000 applications for the position every year, but only two are accepted. One requires to have very deep connections in order to be interviewed for the position, and if successful, one has to undergo a paramilitary training before they can be deployed to work.
After following up for nine months, our reporter was able to catch up with one such officer who granted him a five-minute interview at the customer care desks, though with interruptions as he had to occasionally go sort out the mess created by cashiers and customers.
Joe told our reporter how he had worked hard to rise to the coveted position. He had worked in a hotel, sold second hand clothes, been a taxi driver and started a thriving mushroom farming business, before he discovered where his passion was. That is when he enrolled for a Diploma in Condescending at a city college, after which he applied for the job.
His experience came in handy in securing the job. He was able to show how he dealt with people both great and small, but more importantly how he was able to make great people appear small and helpless before his eyes. Even with that, he still had to start as a cashier before rising to the position of the Guy with the Password after 12 years.
But the wait was worth. He now oversees sixteen cashiers and thousands of customers every day. He is consulted to solve all major disputes that arise in the mall, and sits at the top of the escalation food chain. The number of people who look up to him has also increased (we forgot to mention that he is a very short guy).
His day starts with silence. He does not utter a word until he gets to work. His family knows this. His bodaboda guy knows this. The guards at the mall know better not to greet him on his way in. He only starts talking after he uncovers the first mistake at the supermarket. Luckily, that does not take long.
He is busy all the day. He has neither time for lunch nor interest in the food that is given to the other staff. He needs to be alert all day so that he can detect fraud and heists taking place. Theft is left to the security department and he is above that.
When not busy, he always spends time cleaning his right thumb which he uses to override transactions when he does not want to key in a password physically. On his desk is a copy of the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
He has no further ambitions. He has made it in life and with everybody looking up to him, Joe knows that he is the best. He sits comfortably at the peak of self-actualization.
His work is not without challenges though. Due to the sensitivity of his work, he has to be careful of where he goes and what he eats. He does not drink as it can impair his judgement, and he cannot mingle freely with ordinary people as his job is very sensitive.
Occasionally, he has to take very firm stand. When a Lipa na MPESA customer was stoned for holding the whole queue at hostage, Joe stood there without intervening. His position does not allow him to intervene in such small matters.
All in all, when the list of who is who in Kenya is made, Joe is confident that he will be there.