A few of my closest friends will testify that in me is a confident clown whose confidence on days I am masquerading as a cartoon misses the hooligan mark by a point or a half. At this point, I will mention that I have been a matatu conductor at some point. I think it is even somewhere in Kriscalf Exposed… It was one of those things that just happen. Like how you can be told to boil water in a beauty parlor and pour it in a basin for some cracked malodourous legs to be washed and scrubbed, and then you add to your CV that you have experience in cosmetology. That is my story in relation to being a conductor. Let us be clear, not when you volunteer to pass the old fifty shillings note from the passenger behind you… Thika Road – Kahawa Wendani route. Several years later I live in Umoja and the thrill of artistic matatus is just too much to handle, and I want to be a conductor. But I want to be a conductor of a beautiful new flashy matatu that either plays gospel music (Read Nicco, ROG And the still sane Utimo) or funny clips and snippets of documentaries and not the buses that park on a hill to ease jumpstarting or across a pavement in order to act as the handbrake of the poor jalopy… A beautiful glitzy matatu.
I have therefore engaged with many conductors on various levels. Including grabbing the collection of a Rongai conductor who charged me Ksh 100 to Wilson at 2pm, and throwing it on Langata road because as he put it; “Mapilot Wana pesa“. RONGAI WAS 50/- THAT HOUR!!! I had to call my mother that day and ask her to send me money – I am very serious. I bet the clown would have killed me given the chance. This is a longer story. That was the end of me and Rongai manyangas for efficiency. ‘Let me sit in a St Mary’s Sacco matatu, and sit in traffic for an hour from BS to Haile Selassie like a good boy’. Along that line, I have met others who read novels; I have never come across one in campus myself – I always see people posting this online. As if they are not people like us, or they shouldn’t read. Some mothers, some beautiful young ladies, and others who let me ride for free so that one day I can bail them out (Read talk to “my friends in blue” and get them released)… Then, there was this one I never spoke to…
I am that guy who enters the bus at the end of the line irrespective of how long it will take to get to capacity. So that I can sit where I want, how I want, and choose who to sit next to me. – Sometimes… When you see my grey bag on the seat next to me, and I am not making any attempt to move it, move on fella! That seat is reserved. Earphones in my ears or earplugs depending on the situation, I sit and wait. Today, I am listening to a Bishop Dag podcast, and I am praising and ‘Challeying’ my evening away internally… I don’t even notice the bus getting to capacity. Then we start moving. I identify an unfamiliar voice I have not heard before, and people laughing. So I pause my podcast and listen out.
Githurai buses – CBD outbound Kamagirae (1 Kamagira, 5 Kamagirae – If you have a problem, take your colonized mind elsewhere, who said, only Oxford could come up with new words? your creative element is lower than your professor expected it to turn out) will only tell the driver that that bus is full once. The incoming passengers never learn of this, until you get the end and realise no seats… & behind you are like 20 people. Woe unto you if you act like you are in a hurry and enter a full bus. 45 Kamagirae in a full bus are like the flaps of the tricuspid valve. Once inside there is no leaving until you are at Githurai or when you are being semi kicked out at the Garden City rumble strips and Roysambu’s illegal stops. So you have to stand all the way. Well at a discount of Ksh 10/- off the fare of the moment. But that doesn’t matter much. Imagine a day of heavy-duty operations, and someone wants to move you from point A to B while standing. I can’t! There are people however, who hustle for this ride seriously. I mean… many are the times, I have had to wait for over thirty minutes waiting for the lowest bidder at rush hour – 30/- not forgetting after alighting you have to walk another very many kilometers to get to the house… City life though…
By the way, if you are not a Kyuk, pole. I am not the one who said Kamagirae should be Okuyos. With some hilarious mouth game at their job. Well, Kamagirae and market women. Those two. So I heard:
“Suma! Suma! Nituthie!!!” Well this is simple, “Metal! Metal! Let us go!”
This just means that the driver can leave at his discretion, but the bus is full to capacity and a few other passengers are travelling javelin. – By the way, is this where the term, ‘Jav’ came from? Travelling Javelin is direct translation but this is when you hold that bar fixed to the roof. By some coincidence or just by sheer luck, either the girlfriend of acting kamagira on duty was the one who was collecting the fare on this ride. And the guy was too excited. Did I mention that this guy had a whole boiled maize cob in his hand? So you can imagine one hand holding onto the metal bar fixed to the doorway, four fingers and the thumb on the maize cob and the small finger struggling to handle the rest of the body weight fixed to the other bar.
Ever been to your significant other’s office? Should be exciting enough. How about when you know there is the potential of extra cash on the table for you if you help out with the work they have on the table. I don’t know why, but the only picture that comes to mind is, Mrs Kamau of Hallo Children being the Kamagira of Mr Kamau’s yellow School Bus. My guy was like “Umuthi ni bay`bay, bay`bay!” (Today it’s baby, baby). Baby = bae. So the guy was calling his baby all along. All this time, we have not even reached Kirinyaga road, we are still meandering among Sunbirds, ZamZams, Niccos, Virginia Coaches and hmmm… those Kajiado & Namanga matatus outside Posta Ronald Ngala whose drivers know no other urinal besides, the wheels of their own vehicles.
“Bay`bay! Tuongerere andu!?” (Can we add more people?)
“Umuthi ni Bay`bay! Bay`bay!”
“BAY`BAY!!!!” Itika! *Awkward Laughter.*
For some reason, people were unusually in a rush to get home, so they kept coming. At this point our small finger could get relieved, guys would enter into the already full bus and the song would continue.
“Baybay!!! Umuthi ni Mboso! Mboso!” (Bae, today, its beans! Beans!)
At first it had not clicked what this guy meant.
“Bay`bay!!! Ambia watu wapendane, Joohh! Mboso! Mboso!” “Adu Medane!!!” “Medane ta, bay`bay bay`bay,!” “Kana atia, Bay`bay? …. Bay`bay!…. Baybe`ehy! Ona daraigua!”
(Bae, tell the people to love each other! Beans! Beans! “People to Love each other!” Love like baby! baby!, “Or what do you say baby?” baby!!! Baaybeey!? She is not even hearing me!”)
My friend, you would rather be packed into a matatu like a packet of PK. You don’t want to be in a Superhighway 45 packed like a bag of beans. We all know how beans look like when they are in a sack. Right? Also picture, how some of those beans spill over especially when there is a torn part or just a slightly weakened point in the bag. Wait, the best illustration is cooked beans. From your mama mboga, seen how they get filled in the cup and it comes spilling over, then there are the ones which have been flattened or folded into some funny shapes, others peeled already – that was the scenario in the bus. Now apply that into this bus and picture how the people were loaded. So when he meant beans, he meant beans. Mboso! Mboso! Once inside, there is no way out. Meanwhile, bae, is maneuvering through the beans like a weevil collecting the KSh 30/- from everyone who is seated and 20/- from the beans. Oh & never mind NTSA, KENHA, or The Traffic Police – whose headquarters are on the same highway. The bus would still zoom past their cars, & bikes at 120 kph + and pass all these enforcers without any barriers.
Immediately we touch riverside, the mouthy Kamagira, who I later learnt was the ‘Head Kamagira’ was already commanding the pilot with some other coded instruction – for the strangers I mean. Which not to worry, they learnt soon enough.
“Oyaaah!!! Bubu Game! Bubu game! Cheza ki wewe Dere! Nigathakwo!”
(Oyaah!!! Bubu Game! Bubu Game! Play it like you would already!)
The term bubu game in some of these matatus is like the red light to the launch sequence of an ICBM. The noise my friend! First it hits your stomach, reminds you that you only had 3 pieces of Nuvita and half a liter of water, then the eyes twitch a little before they adjust, by this time, your ears are already tingling, a small consistent beep and wax melting its way out courtesy of the boom from the music that comes through the music system. Woe unto you if you are seated next to one of the speakers. At this point, if you are those people who alight at Muthaiga, you start your journey from the back and announce your alighting point while still at the Pumwani exit. Otherwise, if that bus gets to Pangani girls and you haven’t stated your intentions to alight at Muthaiga, my friend, you will alight at NYS or in the middle of the superhighway.
I said the noisy, baby loving, mutungo holding Kamagira was the purser, right? His two assistants were inside. These were like the baggage handlers. The role of these two guys was to ensure the beans were in position to allow for more beans to fit this sack. So at the Juja Road Junction, we picked another three guys, again outside Jubilee HQ, we picked two. This time, my earplugs are too deep into my ears and I can only hear the guys next to the Kamagirae laughing. I am tempted to remove them, to flow with the jokes but I cannot handle the noise. Only my stomach is suffering to this torture because, it is now part of the diaphragm of the speaker. At least the little that is in the stomach, gets digested in style. We get to Ruaraka, and a group of believers from a certain church enter the bus. – I choose to keep it secret, I don’t want to be crucified here. But you could tell from the uniform. This is where you know these kamagirae are animals. He transferred all his attention to them and started making fun of them, from the outfit, to existing stereotypes and why even after all that smartness, they chose to commute in an already full bus, packed like beans.
Image Credits: Nation.co.ke