On The Highway

I have lived in the city long enough to call myself a born-town, so it usually confuses people when I ask for directions to some place in this big town. How I have not travelled around much is because of one thing. Or a few. I can not seem to make up my mind. What I know is that I like to sit at home and do my three favourite things. Eat, read, and sleep. At least that’s when I’m not Netflixing or Subway Surfing or in a war zone surrounded by countless armed shooters with a shortage of medical supplies and a team that is two kilometres away, all the while shouting: nirivyvu! These gadgets keep me busy. But I know a few places, and with Google maps, why worry?

Most, if not all, of the places I know, are along Thika Superhighway. I am writing this while in the kitchen, and one never knows. I might add more than enough salt to this beef stew. Talk about tactics.

The experiences on the road, however, are what I enjoy the most. For the regular folk plying this route every day, sometimes using multiple vehicles in a day, there is so much to see and hear. There are the quiet neighbourhoods, the classy hotels, the playing fields, schools, car dealers… you get the point. The places people go to fulfil their needs. Sometimes you do not even need what you are going to get there. But since nani has it, and you want it… why not?

Then there is the fun stuff, some of which I’m pretty sure is not legal: the lone bike rider who causes everyone to turn to see them zoom past you in traffic, the noisemaker with the Subaru, the traffic police officer pulling the conductor aside to ask them how their day is and if they are happy with their life choices, the bus drivers flashing lights and honking at each other, I want their level of happiness when they do that, the drunk driver eloquently expressing his feelings in the Queen’s English, and then the Ssssssodamajibiskit folks.

Nevertheless, I have grown to love and contend with some of the experiences on these roads. How one day I’ll be amused by the mama hassling the conductor for change, and on the next day it will be my turn. How anxious I’ll be each time the conductor walks towards the door with my phone. How each time I try not to stand up too early or too late before we get to the stage. How one day I’ll be busy minding my own business going to queue for a bus that isn’t there then a rival kamagera or conductor insults me for not boarding his vehicle. I mean, come on man! In fact I am not going to use your buses for a year. And on some days I’ll see a young man driving his boda boda with no helmet, no reflector jacket, at high speeds, and I’ll hear someone say ona huyo anataka kwenda kwa baba. So sad. Or maybe he’s just in a hurry to get to Milimani. You never know.

And on days when I’m full of enthusiasm, I’ll be busy trying to pull that nifungue roho ama dirisha line, when I’m ambushed by cartons and nylon papers. My body will jerk into action as I struggle to close the window I had deliberately opened all the way. These efforts are always futile. I’ve found the windows are usually stuck on some black stuff. What is it anyway? On these occasions, my strain causes my face to appear annoyed, and some hawkers will take advantage of that. Customer, hii inatoa hasira. Nunua customer. Ni kumi pekee. Nunulia madam. And the musical nature of their practised pitching statements! Ahh! I can’t help but smile. To fend off the rest, I grab one packet of family biscuits. The driver saves me by putting the vehicle into gear. Maybe next time I will buy some biscuits for madam too.

On some days, nothing will happen. I will sit quietly in a matatu that is blazing Mejja’s Okwonkwo nikikupea utawezana next to other folk lost in their thoughts, and I will observe them. Most of them are busy with their phones. A few will have headphones on, and serious faces, but I know they are listening to Uwepo wake Bwana. No need to feign being a gangster bro.

These past few months, however, I have not travelled using matatus. The economy has made me realize how economical buses are, and one kamagera insulted me the last time I used them. So instead of listening to the sing-song voices of hawkers, I am listening to Classic 105 more. But I do miss the old days. The Ssssssodamajibiskit days. Ssssssodamajibiskit. I like the sound of that. Reminder to get one when I alight.


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