Struggles of keeping my rickety jalopy on the road
Monday, March 9th, 2020
Just over two decades ago, I bought my second car (do not ask what happened to my first) and it was a rickety jalopy that required a lot of coaxing to get moving.
Truth be told, I had bought it from an Asian friend and I wasn’t sure I was not harbouring a demented banshee in the engine compartment because the contraption had to be persuaded to take me to work every day.
To make friends, I had to switch it on and let the engine run for a few minutes.
Even then, as soon as I engaged the then manual gears, I had to rev the engine until plumes of black fumes billowed to the sky and the entire car rattled as if it had a fever. Which was probably the case.
I once hit a pothole on my way to work on a rainy day and my left front rim was so badly hit it jarred me awake and into a thin sweat.
After that, the damn thing lost its once smooth ride and started a sort of soukous dance, which made me bob up and down as I rocked to the unwelcome music of a car that even matatus avoided like the plague.
In the middle of my troubles, a matatu driver hooted at me and I unleashed an involuntary chain of unsavoury expletives that I am sure the bloke recalls to this day.
I just stuck my head out of the window and let loose epithets that would have made my mother cringe.
But that is a story for another day. One evening, as I drove home, it started raining. Suddenly, I hit a pothole and the entire car was filled with dust.
Where do cars get dust from when they are washed religiously every day?
The dust was the least of my worries. The rain got heavier. I was doing just about 60kph when suddenly, my headlamps picked a handcart, which forced me to brake hard. The car screeched.
In the few seconds it took the car to halt, the folks pulling the cart were nowhere. I never saw them jump for dear life or anything. They were simply not there.
I stopped a little distance on and got out to reassure the blokes that I did not mean to dispatch them to the life hereafter. I saw no one. Nothing! Haki!
I continued my journey home, thinking the fear of death stalks more humans than we care to realise.
The only daredevil, sub-humans of sorts immune to that fear of death are the matatu drivers and touts.
Having been a regular user of the diabolical, noisy, hell-holes that ferry folks home and to work every evening and morning, I know only too well what goes on in there.
For starters, they tread where eagles dare, taunting cops and doing stunts you will only see in a James Bond movie.
Then touts collude with pickpockets who are so deft that folks only realise they have been relieved of their pockets or handbags when they get home.
A popular trick is to spread a newspaper across your thighs, which promptly invites you to read the paper.
Underneath the paper, your bag is emptied of money and other stuff such as phones.
Another trick popular on the Kawangware/Nairobi Hospital route is for a bloke to drop coins, apparently by mistake.
If you are ever asked to help pick a coin for any chap, please secure your bag as fast as humanly possible and decline to do so.
Tell them your back is held together by glue and the grace of God and could they please help themselves? Or say if you bend you will fart.
Chances are that as you bend to pick the coin, another fellow is busy opening your bag.
By the time you get to your destination, you will do a little dance, looking this way and that, and turning round and round, wondering what ghost got into your bag.
Of course falling asleep on whatever route you are travelling on is inviting trouble. Chances of being ferried beyond your drop-off point are as good as 100 per cent, with your bag or pockets full of air. The joke is on you!
Unless you are the legendary James Bond, or Sylvester Stallone, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, please be on the lookout.
Or you can borrow from my favourite trick and look like a cop. That stops them in their tracks. And it works like magic. If you have droopy eyes, of course, it won’t work. You gotta look tough. Good luck!
Have a safe week, folks! – The writer is Special Projects Editor, People Daily