I am no enthusiast of birthdays. That is why I have always been reminded about my birthdays by those close to me and, sometimes, from very unlikely quarters like social media and companies that have a special interest in me. It is only then you hear me ask, “Oh! You mean today is my birthday?”

However, today this annual reminder that I am aging fast did not come from anybody close to me. It did not come from my missus; neither did it come from my mother or any of my other cose family members. Today, the first person to remind me, that yet another year has been subtracted from the total tally of years I am supposed to do on earth, was the unlikeliest of them all.

It is six in the morning and my phone beeps. I wonder who the hell is texting me so early on a Saturday. I don’t like the sound of that beep because nobody sends you a text at six in the morning to wish you a pleasant weekend. I am also sure there is no way it be an M-pesa text that usually starts with some jargon which looks like, “JIC62RWQUY” followed by the adorable words, “Confirmed. You have received Ksh20, 000.00 from….”

Since I am still sleepy, my foggy mind tells me that if the text has anything to do with M-pesa, then it must be an M-shwari reminder informing me – for the umpteenth time – that the soft loan I took from them is long overdue. I reluctantly turn over and stretch my hand to get the damn phone from a chair that sits on my bedside. My hand is still unsteady, so the phone accidentally slips and falls, making the lid and battery to scatter as I silently curse whoever sent the text message.
So now I am forced to come out of bed to gather the different parts of my phone from the floor, and then take a few seconds to piece the gadget together while seated at the edge of my bed. I switch it on and once it blinks, I know it has survived yet another nasty fall.

Thank God this Nokia baby is made in a way that when it falls, the lid automatically opens up and the battery leaps out. Otherwise it could have been dead by now, from the impact of the numerous falls that it has had to endure in the past few months, thanks to my four year old son and eight months old daughter.

So I check out the messages inbox and I see there is one unread message from Safaricom! Now this is totally unfair. How can my sleep be interrupted this early, then my phone gets involved in a near fatal accident, just because of a stupid message from Safaricom? I feel like lifting my middle finger and use the F… word.
Obviously if they are not reminding me that my internet data bundle is getting finished, then they are informing me of yet another promotion that they have devised to squeeze more money out of me. These guys never run short of schemes to make more shillings from ordinary folks like us! I go ahead and open the message anyway. Then what do I see?

“Hallo and Happy Birthday. Safaricom wishes you joy and good health today and in days to come. Thank you for staying with Safaricom.”

It then dawns on me that today is actually my birthday! So Safaricom is the first “person” to wish me a happy birthday? How did they even know that I was born about thirty-something years ago, on a date like todays? Though I am touched, I still regard Safaricom very suspiciously. I am thinking, “So these guys are wishing me good health and they want me to live for ages so that they can continue to milk me dry through their exorbitant calling rates and expensive internet bundles!”
You see I have had this Safaricom line for almost 15 years now. That might as well be since I bought my first phone; a Motorola which came complete with a horn, just like that of a police walkie-talkie. I remember one had to climb to the top of a hill or some tall building to meet the network, before making or receiving a call. I don’t even remember where it went. I guess it might be somewhere in my personal museum.

Since then, I have always been a devoted customer of Safaricom. This is regardless of the many tantrums that I have thrown, about how they steal from me in broad daylight blah blah… For instance, how does somebody sweet-talk you to okoa jahazi of 100 shillings, only for the person to poke a big hole of ten bob on the same boat that they sent to rescue you?

Of course I have cheated on Safaricom a couple of times but every time I have tried it, I have always found myself coming back with excuses like: I only wanna use M-pesa; It is only for a while as all my business contacts have this number; all my friends have a Safaricom line; let me get one last M-shwari loan then I will switch networks; or let me deplete all my bonga points before I say quits.
The list of excuses for staying in the abusive relationship with Safaricom is endless. Soon you realize that it is as much part your daily life, just like your family is! In other words, we are all hooked. We swallowed the bait long time ago and all the noise we normally make is usually choked by the hooks in our throats.

Safaricom is this nasty wife or husband you have always wanted to divorce but when you sit down to consider the implications of the divorce; you grudgingly change your mind. You suddenly realize that this spouse is actually the glue that holds your family and, by extension, your life together; he or she is the smarter of the two of you and you might as well feel lost without him or her. Yes, he has cheated on you severally, yes she has exploited you and made you lose huge sums of money, but you can’t simply walk away!

There are a number of things that you stand to lose if you go ahead with the divorce! What will happen to the children? What about the enviable public image that you have built together? Will you still be friends with people from his or her side? What will your enemies say? When you think about all these, you decide to stay. This is the type of relationship that is called, “Being friends with benefits.” And you will have to pretend to like each other, if you have to.
However, even if there were no other reasons to make you stay, in this case you also realize that you are simply fond of your spouse. Who can’t be mesmerized by the smartest company in the region? I guess this is what happens in long term relationships. Just like wine, they have a way of maturing with age; and I have been in this relationship with Safari-com for 15 good years now!

You see I am a very pragmatic human being. That is why I love smart people or companies. If you steal from me and I realize that you did it in a very smart and non-violent way, I might end up applauding you instead of getting offended. I am very much aware that Safaricom is in business and you don’t go into business just to sit pretty, smile and be nice to people. You will find yourself out of business sooner than you can pronounce the word “losses.”
Safaricom knows its stuff. Right from its inception, it knew how to get all of us hooked. It doesn’t get satisfied with its 20 billion annual profits and then go to sleep while thumping its chest. It keeps on reinventing itself with new marketing strategies and churns out new programs and competitions that keep the billions flowing in. Above all, it knows that even a grumpy customer like me is really important. It is customers like me, who have stuck with it through thick and thin over the years that have made the company the giant it is today. That is why they ensured they were the first to wish me “Happy birthday” today morning.

When my son woke up and I told him that today is my birthday, he laughed so hard. I don’t know why he found it so funny, but I guess my little boy thinks that birthday parties are meant for little children below the age of ten. You know what? I am of the same opinion too. “So are we going to sing happy birthday for you?” he asked. When I answered in the affirmative, he laughed even harder and told me, “happy birthday daddy.” Then I saw the funny side of it and laughed with him.

Come to think of it, the most exciting part of the birthday song for children is when the singers ask, “How old are you now?” and the birthday girl or boy answers by stating her or his age. You see when the answer of that question is a number below ten; it blends in well without spoiling the rhythm of the song, but if it is a double digit that starts with three, then there is a slight problem in keeping the rhythm intact.

I picture myself (with all my beard) standing there before a cake that looks like a burning bush because of the thirty-something candles burning on it; my boy and other kids are singing, “happy birthday to you X 2, Happy birthday dear daaddy, happy birthday to you. How old are you now……?”
And that is where everything goes wrong. How do you even start answering that question with, “Thirty-something”? I know you are waiting for me to state my age, but I won’t. Just know that I am proud to be thirty-something; say I am doing life at the speed of mid-thirties.
Since, they say that life begins at 40, I still have a number of years before I start living. As for now, let the party begin, and by the way lots of thanks to Safaricom and all those who have wished me good health. Keep those best wishes coming but, for your information, I wouldn’t mind M-pesa messages too. So long as they start with the words: “Confirmed. You have received….”

There won’t be a better wish than that. I thought you should know.

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