Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Tales of a Ugandan Taxi Passenger - 5

Today I was swayed into boarding on taxi over another and really for me it was not really a choice anyway as I went for the one that was ¾ full since I did not have the patience to wait much longer at the stage. Only 2 minutes into the journey the taxi began to act rather odd making gyrating movements from side to side in the same manner of a chameleon when it is in motion. I peered in between the bar separating the front (drivers area) from the back seating area of the taxi and I could see a very calm driver who had his hands full. As he battled with the gear box changing from gear to gear trying to maneuver through minimal traffic to try and make it about 30 meters to the closest fuel station.  Then tragedy came upon us when a passenger said the words that all of us dreaded in that moment.

Lady Passenger: Masawo! (Stop right ahead sir)

Which means right ahead to imply that she needed the driver to find parking so that she could alight right ahead and yet we were still 250 meters from the fuel station.

Conductor: Masowa wa, wano kyenyini oba….? (Where exactly)

Lady Passenger: Wano sebo! (Here sir)

To my surprise the driver came to a gradual halt and the lady jumped off as I began to cross my fingers for him as I was worried that the taxi would not start and I was in deed correct. As the driver turned the key in the ignition, the engine coughed as it fought against all hope to try to will itself back to life for but a little less than 200 meters we had left to arrive at the fueling station. Now usually passengers would begin to hurl insults at both driver and conductor as to why they are not responsible enough to fuel up when they need to. In this case however, the passengers one after another began to giggle under their breath in order not to get attention of their neighbors but after a minute or two they could not hold it anymore and burst into laughter. 

This was not because these unfortunate events were humorous but rather due to the frantic motions the driver made at the front of the taxi where he hit against his dash board and exerted immense force on his clutch, break and gas pedals simultaneously.

It must have been an art he mastered over the years as his hand flew from gear stick to dash board and he gyrated as if eh alone could shake the taxi back into motion. Honestly I did not think he would make it but eventually the taxi crawled along and we indeed got to the fuel station but it was the longest mile of that driver’s day only for me to watch him put 7,000 Uganda shillings of fuel.

He indeed had not learnt his lesson.

As I jumped out I was relieved to leave the rest of the unfortunate passengers in his hands hoping that they would get home eventually and not after any other ordeal. I jumped into another taxi that was heading in my direction and I was joined by a male passenger in the front as I sat down right next to the driver. I made myself comfortable for the ride and settled into my seat before I was rudely interrupted by my neighbors’ shrill jovial tone.

Male Passenger: “I hope you do not mind me eating next to you?”

Me: “Ahh no.”(My hesitation was due to his direct matter of fact tone and nature as he began to engage me in conversation.)

Male Passenger: “So have you been here long?”

Male Passenger: “About 10 minutes.”

Male Passenger:” Oh I hope you are not hungry because i am going to be mean and not share with you my food.” (As he ravaged his fried chicken from a kaveera while chewing with his mouth open as a child would)

Me: “I am fine, I have just eaten.”
Male Passenger: “Ok good, so now I can eat all this alone. It really tastes nice - you know how fried chicken from those machines tastes like – with the nebigenderako.” (As he was throwing the well cleaned bones outside the window one at a time)

Me: …… (Silence)

Male Passenger: “Ehhh wama you know…, nga you are quiet.”

Me: …. (As I mentally blocked him out for the rest of the conversation in a bid to remain with a glimpse of my sanity)

Male Passenger: Eh that was nice; let me put this here (he puts the kavera with the bigger bones he could not throw outside the window on the dash board in front of us as I wonder whether he will leave them there on his exit.)

Meanwhile all this time I sat quietly wondering how he would deal with the washing or sanitizing his hands after finishing his finger licking chicken. Sorry KFC for the reference but I am alluding to the manner in which he nearly mauled his fingers off in an attempt to suck out all the juice left from finishing his evening snack. I continued to avoid eye contact as I hoped this would keep him from engaging me in further meaningless conversation and I think he got the point for he mumbled something about asking me too many questions.

Male Passenger: “Am I making you talk too much? Ok let me keep quiet.”(To my relief the rest of his ride while he remained seated next to me passed without any conversation much to my relief)

Just before he jumped out I watched him run his hands through the decorative rug atop the dash board with no remorse or hesitation, fortunately it was dark enough and the driver was too busy soliciting for more passengers to notice. But I sat there stunned as I watched him jump out, thankful that it at least it was with whatever remains were left in his black kaveera as he walked off in the distance while we drove off and the smell of fried chicken lingered in the air. This Uganda I love is all i thought to myself as I made a mental not to touch anything that may have been touched by him as I exited the taxi 10 minutes later.
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