Gone are the days when travelling by bus was so much fun! ‘A bit slow: less noisy and less crowded,’ that’s what my dad told me. Oh how I wish I lived in those times, I can only imagine that kind of sophistication our city had, right here where everything is up-to-speed. I mean what’s the rush for?
In one trip where the conductor seemed like he was interning some drunk guy, he let him do all the touting; everything, that is, except collect the money. The duo relentlessly smacked the poor bus with their hardcore hands, announcing every stage as they collected more customers. With no sympathy, they made it hard for the people getting off the bus. Poor people: men with young kids, women with toddlers, trying so hard to be fast so the bus wouldn’t drive off while they were trying to disembark it. Gosh, how chaotic!
Furthermore, the driver was not making it any easier. I couldn’t help but hold on to my seat for dear life. Surprisingly enough, everyone else was seemingly unfazed by the experience: some slept through it all. Were they all so used to this? I couldn’t stop but think that the driver too was sizzled.
The most confusing part of the ride was when the two conductors went in unison mentioning the next stage while cat-calling and whistling, something I think is more of a super-power. How are you able to purse your lips, take a deep breath, and be louder than an actual whistle? I guess it’s a survival tactic.
At one point, a lady while disembarking stumbled because this trip has been nothing but catastrophic. The drunk [intern] conductor, suddenly irate, hisses at the poor lady: “Unataka kuanguka tena ulete hasara?” ( you want to fall then become a liability?) Luckily though, she was already off the bus for no sooner had she disembarked than she lost control of her feet. I could not help but feel a twinge of irony at the fact that while she was about to fall, the [drunk] intern helped her find her balance while telling her these words.
The saddest, yet oddly reassuring part about this trip which was that I – myself – was an excess passenger. I stood for close to 10 kilometres before getting a seat, all the while, hoping the cops won’t be on my case for this offence. Not to point a finger or two at the [drunk] intern but he let me into the bus in spite of the fact that it was full. And all this so he could make some extra change, since there are people who would get off the bus halfway the trip when they get to their destination, thus the profit.
I took refuge in the knowledge that it was much easier to find my balance on my feet while the bus was at speed; rather than if I had been sitting for the force of the brakes would have knocked me off my seat.
In the heydays, buses would never shy to travel with empty seats: You had to either be there in time or be left by the bus. The bus would have an automated message running at the very top of the windscreen. This way, you would know the exact destination of the bus then you would board one at the specific bus stop.
I bet other countries have this system running. Our country, oh well… The roads are a death threat: if it is not for the passengers, it’s the personal vehicles. You are always on the lookout for vehicles when you are en-route through a road with many PSV’s you run the risk of getting hit.
This reminds me of a similar trip where I was at the passenger seat with the driver of a bus I was in, and there was so much traffic. Usually, one is supposed to be at least a metre away from the vehicle in front of them during traffic; this guy was close to a centimetre away from the bus in front of him, I had to point this out by telling him ‘Huogopi? (aren’t you scared?)’ he looked at me and he said, ‘Hii ni kawaida (this is the norm), vehicle’s hit and get hit any time, any day, anywhere, don’t be scared’ What I said next was proof of my being adapted to this: ‘Yea, well, look at the dents on the bus in front of us’ is what I said, and the trip went on. I was unable to tell him to just keep his damn distance, I was very scared that the windscreen would just come straight to my face. I thought sitting at the front was much safer than the back where you have to watch people get in and out of the bus: where if you’re sitting at the aisle seat, people would rub their assets on your shoulders while passing to the sits behind you: where you feel the bus making turns and driving through the side of the road, where it is a little bent so you all end up leaning to the left side (oh here we keep left on the roads), it is just so uncomfortable.
Oh while we’re at it, remember the small talk episode? Well, I had small talk again with this driver who was driving too close to the bus in front of him in traffic, and his conductor came sitting next to me when an old guy who was travelling to Lukenya got off at the Machakos Country Bus stage – and the driver kept hinting at how the conductor was single: they both asked me for my number. Guys, should I have given them my number?
Feature Image Courtesy: Nairobi Business Monthly