The narrative picks up after Obinze quits his first job as a toilet cleaner. He next finds a job cleaning a detergent-packing warehouse, but then is fired because of downsizing. He then works helping build kitchens, working with white people who call him “laborer.” Once he trips and falls on his knee, and one of his co-workers says “His knee is bad because he’s a knee-grow!” and everyone else laughs.
This scene is a good example of the casual and socially-ingrained racism that Obinze discovers in England, just as Ifemelu discovers it in America. Obinze already feels invisible as an illegal immigrant working under someone else’s identity, and even moreso when he is so expendable as a worker.
Obinze is then transferred to work at a new warehouse. His new boss, Roy Snell, is friendly and welcoming to him, immediately calling him “Vinny Boy.” Obinze starts working with Nigel, the youngest driver. Obinze is amused by the men at this new warehouse, how they boast and talk about women, cars, and soccer. Roy seems protective of Obinze, and finds extra shifts for him.
Obinze experiences racist and dehumanizing work, but then he finds a boss and coworkers who respect him as a real person and try to help him. When he is treated as an equal and friend, Obinze gets to experience more of English culture without always being afraid.
One day Roy suggests that Obinze should find a girl for a “shag,” but Obinze says that he has a girlfriend back home who has “magical powers.” Roy thinks this is hilarious, and says he would like to visit Nigeria with Obinze sometime. Nigel offers to show Obinze the London sights, and so after their deliveries they drive around and see the landmarks, with Nigel talking about his girlfriend.
Obinze hasn’t spoken to Ifemelu in five years, but he clearly still has deep feelings for her if he can so quickly invoke her presence when trying to come up with a diverting lie. Now that he has a real English friend, Obinze gets to really experience more of England.
One day Nigel asks Obinze for advice about talking to a girl. Nigel admits that his girlfriend isn’t really his girlfriend, but he wants to ask her out. He says Obinze looks like he knows “what to say to the birds.” Obinze gives simple advice, and Nigel seems disappointed. Nigel always splits his tip with Obinze, which the other drivers don’t do. Once Obinze is working with a different driver, and an old Jamaican woman slips Obinze a secret tip, saying “thank you brother.”
Nigel not only treats Obinze as an equal, but also respects him as the kind of man Nigel might aspire to be. Nigel’s friendship with Obinze is an example of real human connection across racial and cultural lines. There are often differences, but there is still often a sense of kinship between black immigrants to England.