Friday, 17 October 2014

Day 3/7 The rise of the taxi stage manager

For all of us who have used private means of transport at one time or the other know how painful a process it can be. From the long waiting periods at the stage while the taxi or bus fill up to full capacity, or the noise from the shrill voice of the conductor calling out the route he intends to take as you sit silently baking in the African heat. Nothing can be worse than a half empty taxi especially when you have to urgently get to a meeting or that life changing appointment.

With all that in mind, there is this disease that has crept up with the registration of taxi and boda boda drivers and riders respectively at their resident stage. The disease is the rise of stage managers. I asked myself; what do they manage, how do they earn a living, why are they necessary and who really benefits from their presence. However, in my opinion they are a more of a menace than a necessity and I will back my opinion with an example.

There was this day when I boarded a Wandegeya bound taxi from Kiwatule and as we approached the Ntinda stage, the conductor got weary and began to grumble audibly to the driver as pulled into the parking area.  Frankly I did not understand what the fuss was about until a fat and smelly gentleman approached our taxi from the official stage and leaned into the window as he held the passenger door shut. As I sat in the front seat next to the door he held a 3 minute conversation with the driver about how he was misbehaving and not conforming to the rules. 

I leaned out of my window to confirm that the driver had indeed parked off the road and not in a bad spot; he had indicated on exiting the main road and was waiting in queue for his turn to pick up passengers. After all it was not his fault that a passenger had walked up to his taxi and asked to get in leaving all the rest in line.

Conductor: ‘Gwe man lwaki ondemeza okukola (But you man, why are you preventing me from working)

Stage Manager: ‘Sirika njogere ne mukulu wo. (Keep quiet, I am talking to the big man/ boss– to imply the driver as he was more senior in age than the conductor.)

Conductor: ‘Vayo, kati kyo gambe ntino nze siri mukulu?’ (So what you are saying is that I am not mature enough to have a conversation with you?)

Stage Manager: ‘Mpa byange tukole fena.’ (Give me what belong to me and we all work.’

Driver: ‘Naye gwe kati oganye omuntu omu okuyingiri mumotoka.’ (But also you, now you have refused to let only 1 person get into the taxi,’ he said politely.

Before he could even finish his statement, the stage managers enforcer flew from the taxi that was parked ahead of us to where we parked and right into the middle of this conversation. Without knowing what was going on he began to thumb the side of the taxi with full force like a rabid dog with his fists.

Enforcer: ‘Tuwe sente za fe.’ (Give us our money.)

It was only when he said this that it finally made sense; the stage manager has to be paid by the taxi drivers - almost something similar to a stage affiliation fee of sorts so that they can operate here. Now remember this is early in the morning and we were all in a hurry to get to town and go about our business. So after wasting an additional 10 minutes and reversing and moving forward continuously, when it was clear that this situation was not being resolved or going anywhere I began to exit the front seat only for the manager to push my door shut.

Stage Manager: ‘Ahh neda nyabo mugenda, bera steady’ (No madam, you are leaving relax.)

Driver: ‘Kwata ezo, said the driver calmly.’ (Get that)

 I was about to give him a piece of my mind when I saw a 5,000 shilling note in the drivers hand being issued to the stage manager and then in a flip  of a second, we were welcomed into the fold.

Stage Manager: ‘Kati oterede! Wandegeya, Kamapala Road ne Park enkadde. (Now you have shaped up! Wandegeya, Kampala Road and the old park), he called out. He did this as he flung the passenger door open and ushered people in speedily. His personality flipped as distinctly as night and day and we were off in a jiffy.

After a brief moment of reflection it dawned on me, all these positions that continue to creep up at stages and in government ministries with 2 0r even 3 people carrying out the same work, it is a problem that cuts across all levels of society in Uganda. It is an evil that exists even at the level of a taxi driver and boda boda man at his stage – Uganda we need to change and fix this.
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