Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mat Mad


Are we sliding back to the matatu madness days? If you have answered this question, I suggest that you go back to pre-school and do research on rhetorical questions and write an essay on them. Then keep it for future reference. Of course we have slid back to the matatu madness days.

When Hon John Michuki fished us out of the matatu madness sludge, we suddenly developed this urge to go to and from work. We became a working nation. But not anymore, courtesy of one Ali Mwakwere, who treats the public transport docket as if Michuki carried it in his shirt pocket to the Ministry of Internal Security. As well he should have. Mwakwere brought in the diplomacy docket to the Ministry of Transport.

Atleast Dr. Murungaru brought in some notable changes like for example breaking the yellow line. With Mwakwere, there is absolutely no change.

The City Council also seems to have signed a MoU with the route 44 operators, where they fenced the stage so that all passengers along Thika Road are herded into underground tunnels. At first, we Thika road passengers had been duped to believe that these were ordinary safety measures. But it has turned out that the tunnels are traps to trap us into matatus. This is how they work.

A person emerges from the tunnel and finds a route 44 mat parked at its mouth, so that the only way to go is into the mat. Some local tourists just touring the city find themselves in this situation and so try to fit themselves into some small spaces that the matatu leaves on both sides of the tunnel. The touts are always on the lookout for them and they grab them and hurl them into the mats where they find terrified passengers cramped in the mat. Regular passengers on other Thika road routes have learnt to use the windows as exits to their respective matatus. The lost tourists are hurled right out once the mat reaches its capacity. I don’t know whether they find their way out of that man-made hell.

Leaving the bus stage is another tedious bureaucratic experience that we would appreciate to do away with. Vehicles are parked in front, behind and besides each other which results in reversing, hooting, banging into other vehicles as touts shout insults at each other for upward of an hour before we can leave.

As all this is going on, the driver plays very loud music and added to all the noise outside, one’s head is usually inches from exploding. The music causes the fillings in your teeth to vibrate and your ears to stop. One will once in a while try to lift up their head to see how everyone is coping and your eyes rest on a graffiti with this sound advice ‘If it is too loud, you are too old enda shags ukalime’ (another City Council connection).

There are those of you who still think that fastening your seatbelt in a mat is a safety precaution. Don’t do it on route 44! Those who do are driven straight to Mathare Mental Hospital , where you are kept under observation for the whole night.

Another thing you don’t do is ask for change. Do not give anything less than fifty bob and if you give any amount above it, kiss it goodbye. The typical response for those who think that Kondas are employed to do their math is that they are grabbed by the collar and dangled out of the vehicle for five minutes. By this time the vehicle is cruising at speeds that need only two passengers seated at the windows to stretch out their hands on both sides of the vehicle for it to convert into an air bus and fly. The driver also makes sure that the vehicle is balanced on its left side wheels because he has to drive on the road reserve bordering deep trenches because he has no time to waste on the infamous Thika road.

The Konda then brings in the passenger and drawls, ‘Do you still need your change?’ No one has been courageous enough to find out what other steps would be taken if your answer was yes.

Since we don’t see any help coming from the Ministry of Transport any time soon, the Ministries of Tourism and Sports can work together and promote route 44 as a tourist attraction. The Londoners would especially love the thrill away from their mechanical train and bus hours.

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