The hustle and bustle that punctuates an early morning in the ever populating city of Kampala never seems to register at all despite that it is routine. Every morning one gets up to an arduous day ahead, it is like living through a fresh nightmare, writes Happiness Kwagala.
05:50am I am walking to the stage because I have a job interview at 07:00am. I so need this job that I am willing to love the worst mannered and slowest conductor in Uganda. I know these morning conductors can try the patience of Maria Theresa but I will not allow this one to get on my nerves today. I have to look like my name – happy and loving - when I walk into that interview room. I have to impress.
06:10am I board a taxi opposite Shell Kireka. The conductor asks for money before we even set off. I am yet to figure out what’s up with these little guys. No wonder they are all short little men. Maybe it is true what they say; that their mother is the same.
06:20 We are still two people in the taxi. We threaten to get out if the driver doesn’t set off. Why don’t conductors get into their short little heads that we get into their taxis with a purpose? No one leaves their warm bed at 05:50am because they want to pass time in a taxi. We leave because we have a plan…a destination…a purpose… I start getting angry.
06: 28 We finally set off. We are three in the taxi. The taxi is moving at a snail’s pace.
06:32 The conductor tells the driver to wait for non-existent passengers opposite Total Kireka. ‘Baabo basala,’ he says, although no one is crossing the road. I tell him that I am rushing for an interview, unlike him who is already inside his workplace. He says that I should have woken up earlier if I was in a hurry.
06:34 We leave Total.
06:40 The conductor hits the damn taxi again! ‘Stand up!’ He orders the driver. He stops a few meters from a jjajja’s toes. Driver speeds off before Jjajja even finds a seat. Poor jjajja lands in my laps.
06:46 We stop again at Banda although there’s no waiting passenger. Still, the conductor yells ‘Balinde babano,’ despite our complaints. The nearest ‘passengers’ are a kissing rasta and a girl in uniform. “Mugenda?” he asks them, but they ignore him. The driver reverses towards them, only to realize that they have no plans of going to wherever we are headed when they continue kissing.
06:50 We leave Banda. Ten minutes to my interview. I swear I can kill this conductor. I ask him for my balance but he refuses ignores me. A lady gives him a 10k note but he throws it back at her. “Sirina kyengi oyo,”(I have no change) he says.
She pleads that it’s the only money in her bag. He answers with a litany of abuses about how she is using his taxi to show off with some man’s money. The only happy thing about this is that the conductor has forgotten to call for passengers, since he is busy abusing the 10k lady.
07:05 “Maaso awo,” I say as I get to my destination. No response from him. I shout again but the dumb conductor still pretends not to hear. When I shout a third time, he turns and asks “ovayo?” as if I would have said so just for just.
07:06 I ask for my balance of sh500 as I get off this goddamn taxi but conductor waits until I am out. He says he is charging sh2000 this morning. I am a bag of anger as I look at his stupid face and, at this point, there isn’t a single ounce of kwagala and happiness in my frame.
07: 10 As the wretched taxi speeds off, the conductor from a taxi we found at the stage asks if I am going to town. As if he doesn’t see that I just got off a taxi headed to town! One, he saw me getting off the taxi.
Two, I am walking in the opposite direction, so how could I be going to town? I ignore him but he continues to call after me, and grabs my hand. I chose a white shirt today, so you can imagine the feeling when this goddamned conductor touches me with his dirty fingers. I forget about living upto my name and slap his stupid hand off me.
07: 15 I am still angry when I walk into the interview room. The interview has already started. My only consolation is that I finally slapped a conductor this morning. I hope I pass the interview.
A morning in the life of a taxi passenger