In a world when women of easy virtues throw in every bait for easy money from men, Esther Achibong is seriously engaged in a business that seems unusual for ladies in Abuja.
She does not want to associate with lazying about but has rather opted for a means of livelihood that looks unsuitable for a lady. She is dutifully washing cars to make a living in the heart of the city. No doubt, Esther has the looks that can afford her attention among ladies but instead she feels the best she could do with her flashy looks is an honourable means of living. She did not get such job in an air-conditioned environment but out in the sun and rain where she engages in cleaning cars and gets paid for it. There are very few ladies like Esther in Abuja; in fact, apart from her, it is not commonplace to find lady car washers in the city, but she doesn’t care standing alone for good and to satisfy her intention of earning a reputable livelihood as she told Abuja Metro that spotted her at her place of work in the highbrow Utako District of the city.
According to her, she can square up with the men in the business and because of her dexterity, the male customers insist she must wash their cars.
But unfortunately, she doesn’t feel happy that some of the men cash in on such opportunities to make advances to her.
Esther is the only female child in a family of six. As the first child in the family, she has the part responsibility to cater for the rest of her siblings.
A second year Economics student of the University of Abuja, Esther said that she was introduced into the business by her mentor when she got admission and there was nobody to pay her bills.
The 25-year-old bright skinned lady from Akwa Ibom told her full story.
I work in a car wash and the name of my company is Royal Machine Car Wash. I am in full employment, and came into the business when I got admission to study Economics. I was in dilemma over how to pay my school fees? I did not know how to go about it. So, I started looking for a job. Somebody introduced me to a carwash. At first it was not funny to me how a woman can work in a carwash as the one actually cleaning the car. But when there was no option I decided to accept the offer. I tried it the first time in Wuse 2 at Ray Royal Car Wash. I worked there as cashier, supervisor and a manager. As times went on, I picked interest in it. That was how I got into it. I did not go for training. I just watched them do it and then picked interest. That was how I started washing cars myself.
Do you have any relation doing this kind of job?
No. I don’t have any relation doing this kind of job.
How do you cope with men who work with you?
At first it was not easy. But when they got to see that I can match them they decided to respect me. Some of the men that work here are not educated. Some of them have not seen the four walls of a classroom. Sometimes we fight and quarrel and I am equal to the task. But we don’t break bottles. Just the way mechanics do. I have also seen a female mechanic.
How do you cope with the tedious nature of car washing?
At the beginning it was hectic for me. But I am now used to it. I don’t feel pains anymore. Even when I sustain injuries, I don’t feel it. I can only feel it when I see the blood. After a while I forget that there was blood. Usually, when you have an injury anywhere, you might want to forget working. But I don’t do that. You can see, I just had a cut.
How much can you make in a day?
It depends on the location of the business. Where we are now, in a day you can make between N15,000 and N20,000, or even more.
How much are you paid in a month?
Most people pay based on percentage of work one does, while some have fixed monthly pay. Some of us here are on fixed monthly wage.
What about you?
I am on fixed monthly salary.
What do you tell ladies that lazy about and refuse jobs like the one you do?
Well, I will say for those ladies that hang around men to pick their bills, that they will end up ruining themselves and their future. All that glitters is not gold. In any situation you find yourself you try to do something tangible; something that will earn you respect.
How do you feel when your course-mates see you washing cars for a living?
My friends know what I do and when they see me they laugh and some ask what I am actually doing in this kind of job. I will just laugh with them as well. I don’t give a damn. This is my job. This is what I do for a living and to pay my bills. They also do one thing or the other to pay their bills. It is about individual choices.
How do you pick your bills with such meagre pay?
I pick my bills through monthly contribution of N10,000 or N5,000. We are about 10 and in a month somebody will pick some N50,000. So, if you calculate N10,000 into 10 places, you will have N100,000 in a month. That will pay bills and I don’t need to be begging somebody for money. I also pay my school fees by instalments and buy my books and hand-outs. I might not have all the books but I try to have the major ones.
What is your position here at the carwash?
I am a manager in the company and also a cashier. I also wash.
Does it affect your studies?
Not necessarily because I am on part-time programme. My course work or lectures hold on Fridays and Saturdays and most times I read at night. I don’t feel tired after the day’s job. However, it was at the initial time I felt the impact on physical ability. It is just like being a cashier in a bank. They are the last to close because they have to balance the accounts and the next morning they are at their desk. You will feel that they cannot cope but they are always the first to resume the following day.
What kind of man do you want to marry?
An industrious man, of course. I hate lazy men.
Do you have affairs?
Because I work in a car wash and wash men’s cars, I find myself in a situation where so many men want to take advantage of my situation to want to have affairs with me. I cannot allow myself to be so cheap.
Do you have a relationship?
No. I don’t have a relationship. But I have customers that admire me. Even if their car is not dirty they want to come and wash them. And when they come they will want me to personally wash the car. But when I tell one of the boys to wash, they get angry. Then I will wash the car myself to keep a business relationship.
What qualities in a man are you expecting?
The man should educated, honest, trustworthy and loyal.
My parents are in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and I am the first and only girl among my siblings.
How do you handle men’s advances?
That was one prayer I prayed to God to help me control. A woman should have self-control. I prayed to God to help me so that I will not misbehave so that I should not be jumping from one man to another. God has actually answered my prayers.