*Matatu – a van used for public transport.
Based on a true story,….most of it.
You know, we had a van once..a Toyota Town Ace to be particular; I think it was a ’97. It had the nickname ‘bushbaby’; I dont know why but it did sound like an animal; a hyena. It saved our skin very many times, because it could tell you when it was coming. It would squeak and giggle; it choked once, and its aubidle from 200 metres. That way we could turn off the TV and resume our homework before the old man walked in. We were never caught thanks to it, and so we almost cried when it was sold.
That’s just one of the many unroadworthy vehicles to ‘drive’ the roads of Ngumo. *sigh* the Route No. 33. I was once told that they were ‘miracle mats’ – *matatus, that were once written off and given a second chance on the road. I was really late one day on my way to school, and there was no time to choose a decent matatu. And the first one I see is being harassed by the police for he is blocking the road. The club is really poking his head but he cant seem to get the van out of the way. I move closer and I hear him saying , “lakini afuande hii gari hainanga reverse…” Thats to say, “But officer, this vehicle has no reverse…” ??? I’d heard of them once, never saw them actually but I was surprised they existed. A car with no reverse.
I boarded the next one. At least it looked like it could reverse. I squeezed my long legs between the rows of seats and stretched my hand out to open the window before a gust of wind stopped me. The window was wide open – rather it wasn’t there. I maintained my composure and as the vehicle started to move, rather noisily and jerkily – if I may say. I later understood that the van’s first gear wasn’t too well, so he had to jump it to second. And this matatu needed no speed governor (a law in Kenya); that would be the same as putting a ‘No runnning’ sign in a Veterans’ Home. Pointless
Then we went down a hill, and the back part of the van was really wobbling; the back left wheel was just in place – and it was threatening to get away. But what surprised me most is how the driver switched off the matatu not to save fuel, but to prevent the engine from overheating…I believed him; for it once happended. The cap of the radiator gave way and steam was released into the front part of the van. And the driver was the first to jump out. I lived.
About 700m from my destination, we were met by a major snarlup. Usually I would alight and start walking but I’m not really the enthusiastic type for school (no one is anyway) so I decided to wait. And the driver decides to overlap the cars ahead. Though, he kept pumping his foot on the clutch pedal; it would not engage. He depressed it like 15 times. And before we knew it it engaged and the van jerked forward. But the time to react before he could fully depress the pedal and stop our vehicle from hitting the one infront was too small. And so we shattered the backside of this nice Toyota Vitz; i felt for it, and the owner, a 40 something year old mother taking her (hot!) daughter to school and evidently had problems of her own, came out like the devil from your dreams breathing fire and brimstone. I couldn’t blame her; the monster inside her that was waiting to come out…that’s when I remembered the song Monster by Skillet and giggled…and their attention turned to me. Damn
And so I was forced to take a side in the predicament and nodded like a thousand times to whatever they were saying; I actually can’t remember because I was busy making eyes at this gorgeous, beautiful..*ahem*… I alighted and prodded to school, tired..and I was 30 minutes late. Good thing the ‘raia’ (mutual friends who came to know one other by being late) were there, amassing their numbers to bypass the teacher on duty by stampeding through the parade grounds. It’s usually a 98% success..good enough though. And so I was forced to do another troublesome task. The crowd of high schoolers sped by Mrs. Ogenya, making a great deal of noise. It was imperative that I get away unnoticed. And as soon as i reached class I put my head on my desk, with my arms to cushion it, just hoping that the day would pause for a while. I think they knew. I wanted to be one of them. The clouds. So free… I was exhausted on arrival..
It’s just another day in a 33.