Series, Taxi Tales

Taxi Tales: In Issa’s Taxi

By David Tumusiime, Uganda:

Issa tried to get everyone into their taxi. In the beginning, he would shout at Issa, trying to get him to see some pedestrians would always be just that: pedestrians. A taxi was not for them. But Issa would not listen.

Issa would insist, “Taata, we're the last Democrats left in this land. Abantu bakoowu. Our passengers are already visitors everywhere else; our taxi is the last place they don't need a visa to ride. For us we take everyone regardless of tribe. Kati even here you want to discriminate? Taata bela fair…”

So he let Issa have his way. He let Issa assault the mannequin thin campus girls shrinking from his white spittle sales gimmick just as he was patient when Issa wanted a Kitante primary pupil to get into their taxi.

Issa so eager to get a seven year old into their taxi, he would offer to carry the child's bag for him because, “Let me help you. Maybe you never know your knowledge from books can rub off me by osmosis”. The kids were often glad to let him. He learned from Issa the kids nearly always paid without haggling, rewarded him with wide-eyed wonder.

He learned from having Issa in his taxi, kindness bounces back. Like to the panting, matronly woman who wanted a seat and a half to herself, saved them when they were in a jam and were about to be hit with a traffic fine for malingering in a no-parking spot. In a few, quick Swahili words to the cop through her window, turned out to be the wife of the boss of that cop's station. She was the best waste of space he had ever had.

Issa was like his wife. He would leave the taxi a hermitage of three people; fingers on a touch screen, nose in a Monitor newspaper scandal, eyes through a window on street life. Return to find a babble of Uganda vociferously arguing with itself. With Issa in the taxi, he often did not need to turn on the radio. There was no one like Issa on any radio.

He rode his taxi like Issa ran his mouth; Kampala's mazes his video game. When they revved onto a taxi, everyone knew who they were.

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