Man: Comfortability mtu anunue gari (if you want to be comfortable, buy your own car)
Woman: Niko nayo, unataka kuona picha(I have one, do you want to see the photos?) As she scrolls her gallery for the pictures.
Man: Hata sijui na hio mdomo yako kama utapata bwana. (I aint sure that tongue of yours can get you a husband.)
Let us just say, at this point of a conversation, I had had enough. Flashback to where it all started. My two friends and I had gone to town (Nakuru) last month one of those chilly evenings to run an errand. It is 8pm and we are at the matatu stage waiting to board one if we get lucky since it is raining. After a few minutes of waiting one arrives and we quickly get in though a few people got the best seats before we could. Should I mention I am walking with people who have American height as they call it, yeah, I am the only one who is vertically challenged here. The back seat is occupied by two passengers so obviously the three of us cannot sit there, and the seats after that, they are too squeezed my tall friends don’t have any space to put their feet. One decides to sit at the back and another goes for the seat behind the driver. A few minutes later, another passenger tries to sit on the “loners” seat and she cannot find adequate space either, so she sits next to me. An elderly man and his wife want to board the matatu but only two seats are available, the rejected seat and the conductors’ seat. It must be late for them to wait for another matatu, so they decide to hop in and the conductor has to squeeze with the passengers seated behind the driver. In short, we leave town with an excess of one.
I guess “Michuki” rules do not apply anymore or do they? Destination, Lanet, just opposite the barracks.
The driver decides to take a few more routes due to traffic caused by the ongoing road construction and after what is a bumpy road and loads of chit-chat, we arrive at a junction known as Kiondo. Here, there are people waiting for any available means of transport to get home and its drizzling.
Tout: (commanding) Songeni watu wakae (make space for others). To be honest, there literally was no space at the back, and from where I sat, the lady and the gentleman close to her had locked knees, so no space for a #sambaza if you know what I mean, my people from Eldoret can totally relate to this. I schooled in Eldoret and that was the order of the day. Right from the main stage, the matatus there would carry an excess of four people. 14 turns to 18 within a second.
Back to where we started, the lady seated next to me refused to move an inch and that is where the harassment started. The tout wanted to get her out of the matatu and refund her fare, but that was not her destination. So verbal assault reigned, the most interesting thing about this, the people seated at the back decided to come to her rescue and spoke up. I always see those “Zusha ” stickers on matatus and I am sure most of us ever really pay attention to them. In such a scenario, most passengers actually leave it to the tout and the affected person to square it out with each other.
So four of us ended up asking for our fare refund,in solidarity with the lady. Simple math,the tout decided he could not incur such a loss but he still managed to get two extra persons in the matatu, a lady and her son. To tell you the truth, she was pissed that people were not making room for her son and retorted that no one would alight with the car seats, what? Kenyans!!!
A hundred metres from the junction, the driver made another stop to pick another person, at this point there is a heated argument in the matatu,it is no longer between the tout and the lady, the lady now has her supporters, and so does the tout. It took less than two minutes for the passenger who had boarded the matatu here to jump into the conversation, he is the one who mentioned the issue on comfortability. Did I mention that when we left town I overheard my seatmate tell someone on phone that she had given out her car to someone else and boarded a matatu to her destination? None the less, someone was now abusing her for wanting to be comfortable, and don’t forget she had already paid her fare.
The passenger seated comfortably next to the driver was the one shouting that this lady cannot even find a husband.
It was a game of thrones kinda scenario I tell you, but I am glad that we got to speak up.
A week ago I went to town, the same thing and at the same junction, the tout wanted people at the back to make room, the lady who was to sit here was well endowed and so were the people already seated. The new passenger with the support of the tout was now harassing the people at the back and someone asked her if she wanted to sit on their laps (plainly put) So, another fiasco until I alighted.
I have had the worst experiences myself in a matatu, from being verbally harassed to someone not giving my change back. I used to think that touts were the worst kind in some situations, but after this two incidents, I realize that as Kenyans, we can be our own worst enemies. Ain’t overloading one of the reasons why we have so many accidents on our roads?
Are we encouraging a bad culture in our matatu industry? Have we become a #sambazanation. #songenitupendane
Let me know what your experience has been while using matatus in the comments section.
#BrianWanyama of Matwana Culture campaign, your story on what you are doing to help this is for another day
Until next time my people, #ZUSHA