So I went to my taxi stage later than usual and I found just 1 taxi which I boarded without much thought only to find the passengers at the back grumbling. I asked around and I was informed that it was because the driver had been going back and forth for the last 15 minutes in a bid to fill up his taxi. I was one of the last passengers (or so I thought) until the door slide open one last time before we left and we were packed like tomatoes on the way to market for sale. Before I could wrap my head around the tempers that were further flaring, we set off as the conductor squeezed himself in but had nowhere to sit and resorted to hanging in the air as he clung to the bar that separates the back of the taxi from the front where the driver sits. The taxi cricketed on as if it would break down at any point and it is then that I looked around and realized how old it was both in the interior and out and the comments from the passengers kept coming to the conductor who wisely gave a deaf ear and did not utter a word.
Passenger 1: (female) Sebo where are they going to sit? (In luganda)
Passenger 2: (male) why are you packing us in to the taxi we cannot even breathe (In luganda)
Passenger 3: (young impressionable male) Ate your taxi is old, what if you pack us and we break down due to over loading.
(‘Excess’ as it is commonly known - in luganda) All the cars on the road and even the bicycle peddler are passing by us. Will we arrive?
I smiled to myself as the rest of the passengers chuckled under their breath and I waited to see how this would end. Meanwhile, a passenger had asked the conductor to stop at the next stage but to our shock this is what happened.
Passenger: (male) Conductor stage! (he screamed)
Conductor: no response….
Passenger: (male) Conductor wo ono funa parking - stage! (He screamed)
Conductor: Driver – parking (in a lazy tone)
The driver did not carry out the request and pretended not to hear him or the conductor and increased speed to a point I thought that the taxi would spilt in two and the bolts would pop out due to the pressure. He shot past the stage and took us to a stage further until the entire taxi began to bang on the sides of the taxi and yell at him in whatever manner they deemed fit. Now understand, this was late in the night at a spot where there were no people or establishments at the side of the road where the driver dropped him, what if he had been mugged- that is sentiment that all the passengers shared. He disembarked the taxi and went on his way and the lady passenger who had spoken early jeered him, thankfully this is what brought this episode to an end.
Then in a similar episode a lady in another taxi plying a completely different route, she asked the conductor to drop her off a certain point. However the driver being brighter than anyone else, he did not and stop and it went something like this.
Female Passenger: Stage ku taawo ku mobile money kipande awoo, sente zo ziri awo ku mobile money. (She exclaimed and I thought to myself – this is not going to end well)
Her fare is on mobile money wow Ugandans really take everything to the very next level - give them an inch and they will take a mile.
Conductor: No response until minutes later -Stage sebo. (In a bored almost sleepy tone)
As the driver sped past the point where the elderly lady asked to jump off and went into a Shell Petrol station - I thought for fueling only to be surprised when he only went through for no apparent reason and still did not stop for the lady to jump off. She was quite erratic at this point screaming how the money for the fare was left behind.
Finally the conductor tells the driver to stop and he does and he stretches to the lady to pay fare for the trip, to which she shrugs and begins to grumble loudly.
Female passenger: Sebo nakugambye nti no njagadde okuvira wala nogana- nanti towulira, kati wano sirina omuntu wade kimu. Sente zo ziriwali mabega awo ku mobile money.
Conductor: Mamaa mpa sente zange ofulume twagala okugende.
Female passenger: Sirina sente sebo- tewali muntu gwe manyi wano okumpa sente, ate nkugambye.
This went on for about 3 minutes as the conductor refused to go back with her to fetch the money while the rest of us in the taxi wait- to which he declined. Then the most unexpected this occurred, a young lady between 25 and 30 years old offered to pay her 1,000 fare so we could go and she did right away. The conductor shamelessly collected the money and swung open the door for her to alight. The rest of the taxi passengers scolded the conductor for not listening to people when they ask to jump off- the classic case of thinking for your passengers.
What a week it was.
Disclaimer: I am a Luo from Uganda attempting to apply my skills to capture my escapades in Ugandan taxis as best as i can therefore do not persecute me for my inadequacy in Local dialect skills.