Have you ever been in a crowded place, somewhere dingy and with a lot of people? Obviously you’ll be cramped to an extent that you’d feel your stomach and intestines squeezing flat toward your backbone.
In the games same as the van
Now, if you played hide and seek and had a ‘best hide out’, where every ninja would pondo, you will understand this kind of crowding. The kind I experienced in a matatu few months ago.
I was in one of vehicles we often termed as unroadworthy but still see them ply our routes. Nothing was particularly strange with this one: from the crudely fitted body, the missing side mirrors, the broken headlights, dark exhausts, window panes that wouldn’t open, and a lousy tout.
These guys always had a ‘sidekick’ who would negotiate a price with you before you boarded. This was the norm, in the matatu business – continuously built by unemployment and mediocrity.
Unfortunately, when aboard, the tout would deny anything ‘mtu wake’ had agreed with you and demand a totally different amount. In short, the touts had a tendency of kuruka watu. Some folks got used to them, or perhaps they feared the confrontations, but not me.
That day, I did not pay him any cents more. There were also these two women who seemingly did not like the tout and I rallied their support. Being younger, were I alone, angenirarua but I had a batallion. The tout obviously saw it pointless arguing with noisy ladies all jeering at him and left me alone. In short I had watetezi. Perhaps you will feel that lucky someday.
But the unfortunate happened – a fart. The worst you could ever expect besides the sweat and filthy bodily odors. It was like being locked in a hot unventilated tank slowly being filled with ammonia gas. My friend Kizito knew how to deploy this tactic back in the days in order to chase us away from a hideout – also for another gain.
You’ll probably get tapoed (originally tapped; now a dialect slang) when making your escape. Being tapped meant an end for you in the game while he would get to hide longer. But in a van with permanently closed windows where would I go? I remembered Kizito’s silly grin after he did his stuff, and cursed imagining he was looking at me now.
Older people with tabia mbaya
From what I observed that day, there are some things the orgies do that would make you disrespect their ages. Weren’t they the ones who cautioned us that ‘blowing air’ in public was tabia mbaya (bad manners)? But they just did it, and with no apologies for it. They probably started it even before we existed; even during those days when the flogging started. Worse was watching these naughty ones point fingers at each and make faces.
“You did it,” one pompous lady was attacking a rather skinny man. “It’s obvious to tell from the way you are sitting!” She cursed.
The old man didn’t have anything to say and simply stared blankly at his attacker but maintained his awkward sitting position.
It was until his neighbor explained that the old man was nursing a boil on his backside that the ladies gave him some peace. One even offered a handkerchief. She was the same one who had pointed the tout with a rosary.
I failed to see the sense of such childish talks among the bald fellows. They should have handled themselves better, so I thought. The giggling the mockery and all was befitting of some nursery school kids who obviously would be oblivious of their stupidity. But grown ups?
Preferred cheap over expensive? It comes with pain
The van was evidently overcrowded. The old man was seated close to the door with the tout leaning over him. In normal situations, the tout was to sit exactly where the old man was, and half the people inside the van would make the quarter of another and thus leave this comfortably full, one seat per person. But if the lady with a child chose to stay, she even offered to carry one more on her lap.
We also had our share of a bumpy ride. One minute we were into a pothole the next we were being toasted out of our seats onto the roof. Such a pain and a nuisance! It seemed as if there was no ‘room’ enough for the matatu in the road!
Even in my disgust, I sympathized with the sick old man. Obviously he was in extreme pain – worse than all of us combined. But he just sat there, calmly and at no point did I see him flinch a muscle. It could be true then, men are used to pain – or he ad endured it to a point of going by it.
None of my many safaris had been long and exhausting as this one. The worse part was acknowledging that I chosen my ride alike other passengers in the van. Therefore I had to face all the discomforts that came with it. A part of the package was painful joints and an acing stomach – from all the bad gases.
That’s all for now folks
The menace continues though; bad roads, overloading, over speeding, overlapping, corrupt officers, and lousy touts. What more could you expect in a place where people prefer the ‘other’ route?
But now, I had learnt my lesson.