Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Unscrupulous Hotel Receptionist from Mbale.

Away from my usual taxi tales today, I bring you a glimpse of my fun filled experience at Olive Leaf Hotel in Mbale.

 On arrival at the hotel after an early morning drive from Kampala, we parked in the courtyard and headed straight for the reception area. 

We were anxious to settle in so we could go about our tasks that had brought us to Mbale in the first place, but to our shock our upbeat manner was met with the receptionist’s laxity and look warm behaviour.

My sister: “Hello, how are you?

Receptionist: “Fine!” she responded in a manner that made us feel like she was doing us a favor.

My sister: “I was here about 3 weeks ago and I stayed with you for a few days. Do you remember me?”

Receptionist: “Yes I do but not the other visitor.”

Me: “Yes, this is my first time staying with you.”

My sister: “We would like to check in, do you have a room for double occupancy?”

Receptionist: “……. Ahhh let me see,” she said after a long pause.

My sister: “So is there a room? Can we look at it?”

Receptionist: “Ahhh Yes!” she responded but I picked up a note of hesitation from her tone but at that exact moment I could not understand why.

My sister: “How much does it cost, can you show us a room?”

Receptionist: “120,000 ….. No 100,000.”

My sister: “100,000 that cannot be right because rooms at Mbale Nile Resort go for that same rate. Your rooms should be between 70 - 80,000. You do remember that I was here 3 weeks ago so I remember the rate.”

Receptionist: “Okay it is 80,000.”

My sister: “Eh I was wondering how it was 100,000.”
I smiled at how quickly the rate dropped after my sister’s statement but nothing prepared us for the statement that followed from the receptionist.

Receptionist: “Nanti I have to make up for some money.”

My sister: “What money?”

Receptionist: “200,000 which I lost when a customer checked out without paying. So my boss is deducting it from my salary,” she said this as she walked us to the room.

Me: “How does a guest just walk out without clearing their bill?”

Receptionist: “Munange, some people are funny.”

My sister: “I see, so you wanted to make us pay for that mistake.”

The receptionist only responded coyly with a smile and I decided not to rub it in any further but at the back of my mind I thought to myself, “How did she honestly think she would get away with it when she was dealing with an auditor.”

We settled in quickly and the day went by with almost no incident until later on in the evening when there was increased traffic from late check in customers and soccer mayhem from the locals around the hotel - who came to watch at the bar of the hotel dining area. I expected no other interruption of my sleep that night after the end of the world cup match only for the bar to begin playing an entire Abba album at their highest volume. I watched a movie on the laptop with the aid of my head phones and eventually nodded off in the wee hours of the night when the music finally died down.

It was only the following day after our check out that we encountered the receptionist who attempted to hike the room rate. After packing our luggage in the car and clearing the accommodation bill, I decided to have lunch as I waited for my sister who was running some errands in town. As is the norm I prefer to pay for my meal before I begin to eat so that any change issues are dully sorted out by the time I want to leave.

Me: “Here is the money for my meal, I will be finished shortly. Could you get me my change quickly since I am in a hurry?”

Waitress: “Yes!”

I completed my meal and headed to the bar area of the dinning to pick up my change and there was no one there so I proceeded to the receptionist thinking that would have been a quicker option. Much to my surprise, she was also not at her desk which was stationed right by the entrance of the hotel with the gate flung wide open. Amidst this hunt for the hotel staff, my sister got back from town and we both began searching for the waiter for about 10 minutes. We ended up at the back of the hotel only to see the receptionist appear right around the corner from the kitchen with a heaped plate of rice and peas with a soft drink. I could only smile and she looked at us wondering what we were doing there.

My sister: “We would like our change.”

Me: “I just had lunch and I gave the waitress my money and we cannot leave until we have received our change.”

Receptionist: “Eh, she is not there?” She dialed the bar area I guess to make sure that we were indeed telling the truth and it is then that the waitress run through the gate and to her station to answer the phone.

My sister: “No she is not that is why we came looking for you.”

Waitress: “Sorry, I had to go outside to get your change.”


Me: “Thank you!” was all I could say but now I understood how the guest from the previous day had checked out without paying his bill. 

It must have been pretty easy to pull off after all the staff was pretty absentminded.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The day I bullied a conductor

On a daily taxi ride I expect to be shoved, unsettled and squashed from side to side but never did I ever expect to be quizzed by the driver on matters of the heart.This entire conversation took place in the Luganda dialect.
Female radio host: “So now we get to listen to the views of our callers on the topic of the day – what is the most important aspect in marriage?”(With the radio playing in the background)

Caller 1 (female): “Trust and honesty.”

Caller 2 (male): “Sex of course and not just any sex but a good sex life.”

Female radio host: “Oh okay so what is a good sex life,” asked the host as she giggled all through the discussion. (The conductor jeers at this point)

Conductor: “But also you, I do not know why you like listening to stupid things like that.”

Back to the caller responses.

Caller 3 (female): “It is having a regular time set for your spouse. So that you do not carry on grudges for long and brew hatred that is how marriages end.”

Female radio host: “Regular, but what is regular?”

Caller 2 (male): “Regular as in once a week or even once a month.”

Female radio host: “Once a month…. Really! Won’t things grow rusty?” (The entire time all that went through my head was - how do people discuss such things over the radio like it is making a purchase or asking a friend for advice on picking a school for y0ur children. But lucky for me I was saved by the commercial. )

After the commercial

Driver: “hihihi I am not stupid, I like to hear different people’s opinions on different topics because no two people think alike.”

Back to the caller responses.

Female radio host: “So welcome back from that short break we are still on our same topic and I will continue to take callers.”

Caller 4 (male): “Once a month, that one is telling lies. Anytime is dinner time and every car needs regular service whether morning, lunch time or even evening so it can be 2 – 5 times a day.”

Female radio host: “5 times a day – that seems rather excessive, don’t you think so ladies?”

Caller 4 (male): “Excessive, but I do not understand you women. The man tells you the truth and you complain it is excessive so will it still be excessive if he goes and finds it elsewhere.”

Female radio host: “hihihihi my goodness as that man eats well.” (Direct translation of the host as she giggled into a break with a song she began to play)

Now up until this point I thought it was only the taxi driver, who I sat next to at the front of the taxi that was keenly listening to the radio discussion but I was surprised when a lady in the midsection responded,

Female passenger: “But men will never get satisfied.” (She angrily retorted as she let out a long jeer)

Now on this particular day I was so tired that the last thing I thought to myself was I do not even care what these fellows are saying on radio I just want to get home. Then my mind wandered off to the hot shower I was looking forward to after a long day only for these pleasant thoughts to be interrupted by a gentle nudge at my elbow from the driver.

Driver: “Wama, what do you think?” he asked me. (He was totally distracted at this point that he missed a turn on the left that would have taken us on one of the back roads all the way to the Ntinda stage in order to avoid the jam)

Me: I did not give a response.

Then I thought to myself, this is why Uganda has such a high fertility rate, if at every hour of the day there is a sexiest joke, sentiment, radio show/ discussion, chit chat between friends on the subject of sex. We could do a lot more with our time. I  pondered on until we finally got to the Ntinda stage and after waiting a while for the taxi to fill up I could not take it anymore – I had enough and decided to alight from the taxi in search of the nearest boda boda stage to try and home quicker.  Then it happened;

Driver: “Eh friend, you are leaving me like that with no response.”

I starred at the driver with a blank face and simply jumped out quickly closing the door and not looking back hoping to never see him again. Unfortunately for me by the time I had walked all the way down to the Total station in Ntida - heading towards Kiwatule, his taxi was full so he sped up alongside me. As he got to where I was walking he slowed down and the conductor asked;
Conductor: “Sister ogenda!” (Sister are you heading in our direction)

I did not respond and after badgering me for a few minutes he got agitated with no response and resorted to abuse.
Conductor: “Nanti, tomalayo.” (After all you are not enough.)
The conductor said this as he hit the side of the taxi in a brisk and firm manner, it sounded like a balloon popping and gave me a fright so much so that I was startled and leaped in the air by reflex. Initially I was startled but in an instance that emotion turned into rage and before I knew it I moved towards the door of the taxi and hit it in the same manner as the conductor as he was distracted by a passenger inside the taxi. He quickly spun around and was so stunned that all he could say was;
Conductor: “Abachala aba nakuzino!” (This directly translates into - women of these days.)

Silently on the inside of me, I smiled all the way home for I had successfully bullied and gotten back at the taxi conductor and I felt damn good about it.