I enjoy my matatu (Public Transport) ride for various reasons.
The different matatu I use have different kind of music so I end up listening to a range of music- some irritating but hey music all the same. The volume makes many older people wish they were all working in the National Environment Management Authority in the noise department. They don’t know that sitting in the front seat helps because the big speakers usually occupy the boot and I take that advantage to enjoy the best volume with the driver. Do the matatu operators think that the health officers that warn against the high volumes just yap yap? I am yet to find out.
When my Mercedes driving boss asks me how I get to work, I tell him I take a 30 and then a 46 and he asks what’s that? Only that I can’t laugh aloud so I delicately explain that matatus come in numbers depending on the routes they run and then he goes ahead and asks me “so you take two matatus?” tempted to tell him that 98 percent of his employees take two matatus for his info but I smiled and said thank you for the ride- in my mind, thank you for the short quiet ride and dumb questions.
The other reason I like my matatu rides is the interesting conductors who pretend to forget that they have my change hoping I will forget. When I ask for it and see the disappointed look on their faces, I wonder where they learned the art of con I mean; all of them have the same habit.
They change routes like they make them and they are in a more hurry to get me to work than I am. When I am late, I can always trust the matatus to get me to work in a flash especially if I get the newest in the route.
The multitasking involved in driving the matatus amaze me, who said men can’t multitask? The drivers- who are mostly men- juggle between the driving, operating the music, dropping and picking customers, looking out for the traffic police, and competing with other drivers on the roads.
They have the most brilliant eye for business, their mastering of business concepts leave me wordless, When it rains, they realize their customers need to get home asap and they double or triple their charges with no apologies made. They have the right words for anyone who asks ranging from the prices of the fuel, to the traffic jam to how the traffic police are harassing them.
In the evenings as I wait for my fellow villagers – apparently that’s what my good friend Caro calls the suburb where I live- to fill up the matatu, I get to see lovers as they get their loved ones at the stage and I can easily tell which couples are on their first date. Observing as if I am watching TV gets me wondering how I act when in their situations but that’s a discussion for another day.
The art. Oh the art! The matatu industry knows the real meaning of art as a way of expressing oneself. The art is mesmerizing and in most cases matches the music and the volume of the music in the respective matatus.
It is only in Kenya where I can enjoy and extol, curse and complain and still use the same matatus. That is when I know that I am in Kenya my country.