We get to the main road, Gayaza road. The taxi driver is blasting Akaboozi radio at decibels beyond what is allowed by law. They are playing Bobi Wine’s Kiwani. Don’t ask me what decibels are allowed by law. I’ll go blank. I have no idea.
Our driver steps on the accelerator. We are cruising, high and fast, like a comet. I’m enjoying the show on radio, moving along to the beat. The cold morning breeze is whizzing through my window. My right ear is getting chilly it starts to itch. Our driver splashes the patches of water on the road like he owns it. He’s the boss. He’s on a roll, moving to the sound of music off the stereo as he drives. He’s the jolliest taxi driver I have seen.
We reach a children’s crossing. It’s faint black and white paint only people with terribly sharp eyesight can see it. The children’s guide raises his red flag. Our taxi slows down to a halt. I bite my fingernails.
Some guy driving at God knows what speed rams into us, at the side I’m seated. The brake lights go crashing. There’s a dent at the back. The metal on my seat cringes. It lifts its hands up and runs for life. I’m squeezed between a crying chair and passengers looking to the back to see what just happened. Thank goodness my mother is a praying mum. I’m unscathed.
Our taxi driver, the guy who was blasting music at unearthly volumes like he owns a Subaru jumps out of his seat, bangs his door with anger like he’s been robbed by a rat. The conductor follows him. He slides the side door with force the taxi moves three inches ahead. They dash to inspect the side that has been knocked. Oh man! The driver kicks the front tyre of the car that knocked his. The conductor throws in a swear word. He’s swearing in Luganda. Have you heard someone swear in Luganda? It sounds like crickets.
The guy who knocks us, let’s call him Petero, is driving a Nissan double cabin, registration number UG. He’s a civil servant. His two daughters whom he was taking to school, one at the co-driver’s seat and the other at the back, stand up to see what’s happening. They are cute little kids both wearing ribbons, one blue and the other red, on their braided hair. I wave to them. They wave back smiling, oblivious of the fire their dad has landed into.
He gets out of his government car and examines the mess too. He returns to the car and ignites its engine. He wants to drive to the side of the road. The taxi driver and his conductor think he’s trying to escape. Maybe he was trying to drive off. The driver jumps back into his seat and cuts him through to avoid the possibility of any escape. Our man, poor dad Petero takes his government car to an open space across the road.
Taxi driver and conductor go for the Petero’s jugular. And us the passengers are still in, me in shock. My backside survived getting knocked by a hairline. I needed to thank my God. So I sit there biting my nails as I recover.
Our conductor is wearing a long sleeve shirt. He folds the sleeves. His eyes are red from the wind. Petero is scared the conductor and driver might lynch him and feed his body to the leeches. He’s afraid for his daughters who are seeing him get humiliated by a taxi tout and driver. His manhood is being trampled on. His dignity stripped down to the bone by two arrogant boys calling him names which are not his. All this is happening before his daughters’ eyes. He’s having a bad day, the opposite of what he probably envisaged when it began.
I imagine when he woke up; he whistled his way to the bathroom as he danced all the jabber moves he could remember. He felt high school-like. His wife Anna, peeked at him from the side of her eye and blushed. They were high school sweethearts. He was sixteen. She was fourteen. They struck up a friendship at the school sick bay when she had a toothache. This friendship blossomed into love, the love they share today.
He got ready for work. She got the kids ready for school. She told him she didn’t like the boxers he wore. They joked about it. She’s a housewife. He kissed her goodbye. The kids hugged her so tight before getting into the car. They were one big happy family. It was drawn out to be a fantastic day, a day they would register as a good one when it ended. But terrible plans by an unknown fellow lay ahead.
The taxi driver and his conductor were shaving his head bald. They pulled his beards apart his face was left bare. He was bleeding from his nose. What should he tell his little girls? That daddy is sorry for knocking another man’s car? What will he tell his boss when he gets late to work? Maybe he’s the boss. What about his wife? What will he tell her when he gets home? The taxi guys are breathing down his nose. They are banging the bonnet of his car. It’s only morning but they are running high on stupidity. They want him to fix their car. They don’t give him space to think or defend himself. They are going all-out attack, guns on fire.
A crowd is gathering like they always do in such scenarios. They are inspecting both the taxi and government car. The conductor has locked us in like he doesn’t care. Time doesn’t give a toot what we are going through either. I have to get to work. I have a deadline to beat.
The taxi door fails to open. It’s faulty and Petero might be blamed for the failure of this door to open as well. His fatherhood is being punched in the face. His manhood being insulted.
The driver and conductor are pointing fingers, slamming the side of his car. The girls are looking at their dad, their superhero getting a beat down. Driver and conductor don’t care what words they are saying. They don’t care for the man’s feelings. Not even his children’s. What happened to courtesy? What happened to respect? Their mothers would have been embarrassed by their actions.
The thin woman, small as a young eucalyptus tree opens the taxi door. We find our way out and no one is paying. I wasn’t going to pay either. Conductor isn’t bothered. He’s going for the kill. They’re planning to drain Petero of all his money. Anything they can pull out. He’s probably going to go back home in boxers, checkered boxers which his wife asked him not to wear because it had holes. He didn’t care. It was a happy Friday morning after all. Why take things too serious anyway? It’s not like he was going for a boxer fashion show. Who thinks about what they put on underneath on a Friday morning when the day promises to be blasting good?
I leave the drama going on and get in another taxi, wondering if those two didn’t tear the life out of Petero. What happened to insurance? Does it not work in this country? Maybe our taxi guys know nothing about it. I hope Petero knew it well. It just might have been his life saving trick.