My Name is Vonita

I had the wonderful fortune of landing a part time job in my last year of school. I worked four hours on a Saturday morning for a local optometrist. Technically, I was not the best candidate as the receptionist position required the person to be bilingual (English and Afrikaans). In those days towards the end of apartheid South Africa, there were many people who spoke Afrikaans and Afrikaans only. Whilst I can certainly understand Afrikaans being spoken and can hold a basic conversation kindergarten level, I can hardly say I am fluent (or even sound half-normal speaking it). But good fortune prevailed and I got the job. As an aside, it was a life-saver. The four hours per week paid well, and covered all my university pocket money expenses, driving lessons, and part of my last years tuition. Without taking focus away from my studies.

The optometrist was a tall man. He also lectured at the local university. At that stage I attended a convent, had minimal male interaction (at all), and found him totally, completely intimidating. Being a man and all. And a big, tall, older one at that. And an important one. His wife ran the practice and she was the one who hired me. She was lovely. Grace personified. One of my duties was to make hot black tea, and lemon, and serve it to her husband in his office. I must have appeared as a timid little mouse. I hardly said a word to him, would deliver the tea and escape. One day I spilt the tea in the saucer. It happened just as I was about to place it down. I didn’t know what to do. I placed it down. He kindly gave it back to me and told me to bring a new one. The tea would would drip on his desk and papers and he couldn’t have that. I apologized, took the cup and saucer and returned with a new one. Unspilt. Dry saucer. Yay! (And I never made that same mistake).

I must have been working there for a good few months. One morning I took the tea into his office. He thanked me, but addressed me with the wrong name. Thank you, Michelle. Michelle was the person who worked there previously. In that moment, I managed to rise above my feelings of intimidation, and overcome my shyness. I thought to myself, just say welcome. Easy, then leave, exit the office. Instead I replied

You’re welcome. 


My name is Vonita.