Kimani is the nicest of his kind that I know. There might be other nice ones I am yet to meet but in the meantime, it’s Kim. He and I were seated at the back seat of a 38 seater mini-bus: just the two of us on a five-people row. Now imagine!
Kim was counting money. I bet they were thousands, in denominations of a hundred, fifty and a majority of twenty coins. ‘So much money on such small hands’, I thought to myself as I smiled! It’s a thing I do whenever I see raw money. It happens very unconsciously and mostly accompanied by hallucinations and distorted vision. For instance, I have never seen an ugly rich man or woman in that matter. Does someone relate? Never mind.
He seemed tired but happy; the day must have paid well. He was chewing profusely, mugukaa (khat) as I later found out.
Then what I dreaded the most; the vehicle veered off the road to evade traffic, so we were basically driving next to some bush, slanting at an acute angle and as usual no passenger ever complains, numb, gripping onto their seats and holding stiff, if I didn’t know better, most of them were in their reminiscent moments, a convenient jolt to their memories on the existence of a protective supernatural power/being.
“God, if I die today, it is your will but please protect us, steer this vehicle because the driver doesn’t seem to care”. Contradictory humans and heck yes, of course they don’t give a hoot about your life! Why should they?
Mr. President, (now that we are allowed to address you directly this days) i would ask that you find a way of closing down these modern driving schools that train people that overtaking should be done from the left, it brings so much confusion on the roads plus please Sir, launching a school that actually teaches citizens to stand up to their rights would really do.
I remember the last time I played advocate and ‘bitched’ at the conductor,
“Konda, ambia dere apunguze speed kwa hii rough terrain, kuna mama ana mimba hapa.” (Tout, please tell the driver to slow down on this rough terrain, there is an expectant woman here).
The supposed ‘pregnant woman’ stares at me with irritability then croaks; “Ni nani ana mimba? Hakuna mtu ana mimba hapa msichana, tunachelewa kazi wacha dereva afanye kazi yake”.
Only two things, if she wasn’t pregnant then her paunch must be as a result of taking too much beer and that would also explain her croaky voice.
How did she even know I meant her? I think she gets that statement a lot. Women!
Till now, Kim and I had not exchanged a word, basically random stares but I felt at home all this while.
“Why are matatu drivers so rough? They carry passengers, fellow human beings like they are carrying a bag of cabbages.”
He looked at me and smiled, I didn’t smile back, I was wearing my Ms. Concerned face, warm but not happy, basically just friendly blank.
Wait, did I mention that Kimani was one of the two touts in that bus? Sorry, I forgot that important bit. I was hoping you would have figured that out by now.
“Sometimes we have no option, even the driver does this hoping that no accident occurs but for him to pay rent, his children to go to school and his wife to dress like other women in the estate, he has to do this.” Kim explained
I couldn’t resist it. I always like it when people talk money plus the whole sponsorship thingy being so common in the sphere right now, maybe there could be avenues women have just ignored or even been misinformed so they haven’t really explored; so I popped the question.
“Does being a tout or a driver in the public transport sector pay?”
I knew he would tell me the truth, I was positive. Kim was probably also looking for a nice passenger like myself to have some job conversation with, you know, talks about the bossy boss, the thin gossipy colleague and the lazy non-competent womanizer diploma-holder who screws interns and earns more than he deserves; in my context of course that’s all I would have had for him.
Anyways, I had also been looking for a nice tout to get some few facts about the public transport sector for a feature I was to complete last year. Wait, where is that manuscript at? Not important.
“Yes it pays well,” he said. “On a good day, the driver and I will go home with at least kshs 3500 each.”
“But that also really depends with your hardwork and some external factors like the police. In some days, we get as little as 100 bob, more like transport home.”
Oooh no, NOT A SPONSOR ALERT. You know, our ladies these days have a high affinity for generous men with consistent and reliable sources of income. They say life is too short to live with uncertainties. Questions of whether he will afford to buy you slush, take care of your uber home (they have an uber app that’s wasting their infinix’ phone memory. Hallo!); can be very detrimental to their health, it is actually a breeding environment for brain cancer. Well, I don’t know if it is true, some blonde told me, I am just reporting.
At this point my curiosity was boiling, in my head I was like, “tell me more brother, tell me more”.
Then I realized we were slowing down. Simultaneously, both of us looked out of the window. Ooh yes, what else could make a driver decelerate from almost a 100 to 20km/hr? Only yours truly, ‘the robbers without violence’ otherwise referred to as traffic police in the constitution.
This particular one was very interesting; a woman of generous proportions, plump and short, a little attractive I might add. Observing her curiously, Kimani smiled from the sides. I knew she must be higher on the rank based on the stars on her uniform, maybe sergeant, I don’t know, police hierarchical identifiers can be confusing.
“Huyu mwanamke ni waya!” Kim said with a strange enthusiasm. “Huyu kwanza akikupeleka Kilimani police station, huwezi rudi nyumbani na kitu.”
I giggled, that thought was funny. I didn’t understand if he meant that she was good at her work or rogue at her job but yes, she looked tough as Kim had alluded. If you care to confirm, she stands at junction mall, you will notice her, you must notice her, she stands out. Uniquely, she doesn’t operate in a herd. I haven’t seen her stop vehicles often but she sure is the cause of some major traffic jam between junction mall and Karen. How? Well every driver slows down at her sight. She always seem to remind drivers of some of the basic traffic rules they pretend to forget, keeping distance between vehicles, not overtaking from the left and what have you. Haha I love this woman empowerment crap, it might just be what we need to straighten our society.
So we slowed down till Kenya Science, then we were out of site, and the driver remembered the deplorable state he had left his children, memories of the harsh woman he married waiting to have a piece of the day’s pie, if he didn’t hurry, it would be his funeral.
Kim looked back at me. He must have been on a trip with his thoughts, maybe remembering an incidence he had had with the sergeant lady.
“Hawa polisi husumbua sana, ni kama huwa tunaamka kuwafanyia kazi.”(This traffic police are really a pain in the a**, it’s like we wake up to donkey for them).
Of course he didn’t say those exact words but am sure he meant just that.
Kim explained that for most of the minibuses especially, the owner requires at least 10,000 bob in a day where they have made five squads. A squad is like a trip to town and back, in this context, a trip from Ngong to town and back. That aside, they have to fuel the vehicle with anything from 4,000 bob a day, take the vehicle to the car wash, servicing over the weekends (which they rarely do), O&Ms and of course if they bang on a monstrous traffic police, they witness the movie, you know, the one where the villain mistreats the main actor and gets away with it. I hate such movies. Why would a producer hit the studio with an objective of telling viewers that bad people in the society can get away with wrong doings? It should never happen. Even if it does happen in the world that we live in, a producer shouldn’t make it seem so normal. It’s not right.
So the public transport scenario is like a complex food chain sort of relationship: owners of vehicles and traffic police eat off on the drivers who later feed on passengers by either overcharging or over speeding, death and exploitation are the vultures: short chain but very dangerous.
Oooh Kim, this life can be so unfair to such good people as you. I imagined his wife waiting for him, short statue, fat, not smiley at all, no. Then him, so feeble, so slender.
Wait, I thought someone was working on a structure/ reforms that would make it possible for drivers and touts to get monthly salary and some basic health insurance. Yes, there was such a caravan which NTSA was a part of sometime last year.
Any progress so far? Anybody? Alright, maybe that story was a creation from one of these mushrooming gutter presses. But, I must have read it from a credible source because i don’t waste my time in gutters.
Okay, one more time. Anybody? CS Transport maybe? What are you called by the way? My ignorance sometimes scares me. (Very random thoughts)
Okay, nobody knows.
And then you wonder why in the name of evading traffic jam you were taken through some bushy rough road? Why the driver took a swerve you have only seen Vin Diesel pull out through a petrol station and back to the road, only managing to get ahead of one vehicle…that is saving time, and time is money. Hurreh! What an achievement.
Wait, what if the vehicle actually hit that petrol storage tank thingy and BOOM!
May God save His people.