That’s a random picture up there. It reminds me of an old tractor in my neighborhood as a child. I’d climb up the tractor and call it a taxi, one that was taking people to the market. Other kids would climb it and sit like they were being driven to wherever. There was a conductor kid who enjoyed that role. Then the use of taxis became real for me.
I’m a regular user of taxis. I sit in them everyday. I breath in them, read in them and doze in them. Sometimes, I like them. Other times, I don’t. It’s a love-hate relationship. Taxis take me to work and return me home. My movements are constructed around them. There are things about them that both excite and annoy me at the same time.
I watched one whizz past a pregnant woman, raising dust to feed her nostrils without sparing a thought. I imagine the driver said, “Ah! There’s lots of iron content in that soil. It’s good for the pregnant species.” And he drove on, completing this move with an evil grin like a monster’s grandchild, accelerating further.
His acceleration was random, overtaking from anywhere, most times from the wrong side of the road. I sat at the back and saw him do this with such thrill my fright is short-lived. Have you noticed how they brake? Insanely erratic episodes. All you can do is mutter under your breath at how ridiculous our taxi drivers can be.
Look, these guys can hit your car, leave it with a dint and blame it on you. They will tell you how carelessly you have been driving, point to a previous dent at the back of your car, one that has got nothing to do with what just happened as evidence for your embarrassing road user skills.
They will accuse you of being so reckless your great grandchildren will be ashamed of your driving skills. Their arrogance can get to the top of a tree.
If you are the calm type, quiet and meek, you’ll walk out of your Vitz, inspect the damage caused to your baby, shake your head and let them go. You won’t exchange insurance details. “It isn’t worth it,” you’ll think to yourself. Who exchanges insurance details in this country? If you have, raise your hand and teach some of us how you do it. These guys will drive off in their unfair victory, happy that they survived making any payment.
So you will call your mechanic to give him the bad news but he won’t pick up. It is good news for him. Your broken car is his source of livelihood. He will call back and tell you he’s out of town but that won’t mean a thing to you. You will drive to his garage in Wandegeya and fork out an unplanned for whatever amount in the middle of the month to get the body of your car fixed and sprayed. You’ll be sad, like a cat whose milk was stolen by a mouse. Your bank account will swallow a lump down its throat. It’s getting drained. It’ll beg you to have mercy on it but there’s nothing either of you can do about it. You’ll both accept the situation and understand it’s for the good of your beloved Vitz.
On the flip side, if you are the type who rejects getting bullied and trampled on by these crazies and you know your road rules, you’ll pull out the whip and turn the tables around. You’ll paint the picture of how impossible it is to be on the wrong side of the driving laws when your car got knocked from behind while moving at 30km/hr. You’ll draw the permutations on all available options the other guy had for his taxi not to ram into your adorable Vitz. Your high school mathematics teacher will be proud. “That’s my A student,” he’ll say.
You’ll tell the taxi guy he’s got to fix your car or else, you’ll warn, both of you should drive to the nearest police station. You’ll be stern. He’ll stay speechless, looking at you with begging eyes.
First, he doesn’t have a valid driver’s license. Second, he’s third party insurance policy expired. It hasn’t yet been renewed. How possible is that? He will be afraid his heart will sink to the lowest dip. He will say a prayer to his God and beg you to allow him kiss your feet.
“Please boss, not like that,” he’ll say in Luganda, “Let’s not bring the police into this. I’ll do as you say.”
You are in a position of power now. You know it. This is a possible win in your bag. You play your cards right. The conductor will join his friend. Negotiations will take place. Those two will painfully pull out whatever they can. Not a bad deal from an irresponsible taxi driver. You’ll drive off with a smile. For once, you have inflicted some form of punishment to the bullies of the road, the taxi guys. Will they learn from it? Maybe they will. They probably won’t.
The guys will get back to their taxi, their passengers at this point irritated. Some biting their nails, others staring out the window. They will hit the road again with their focus on reaching their destination, alive or dead. They will break the same traffic rules again. These guys! And sadly, this cycle will continue.