The Real Thing

I like work. It fascinates me. I could look at it for hours.
— Jerome K Jerome

From my hotel room in Lagos I have a good view of the gangs repairing the road.

This is a relentless job in fierce heat. They have no high visibility jackets or other western safety gear, and no hats at all. They never take a break, even for lunch.

For these workmen there is one essential accessory. Each works with a Coke bottle hanging from his belt. The bottles are fastened with a special clip, which enables him, every now and then, to take a luxurious and self-conscious sip.

As I watch I notice a couple of things. None of these bottles has condensation on it, so even if they started cold they must now be getting hot in the blazing sun. And all of them are full, or very nearly full. So it seems that their purpose is less to quench the thirst than to demonstrate wealth and status.

One of the receptionists in the hotel tells me that labourers are paid around $1.50 per day. At the roadside shacks a Coke costs around $0.70, nearly half of their day’s pay. That is a lot of money for a status symbol, and it raises further questions in my mind.

Is this the real thing? Is it possible the bottles do not contain Coke but something else? Or do the workmen make a single bottle last for more than one day?

I am not keen on Coke, even when it is cold. But these workmen are paying a remarkable tribute to one of the world’s great brands.

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.