Series, Taxi Tales

Taxi Tales: Graceless Taxi Exits

By David Tumusiime, Uganda:

There's no way to exit a taxi with grace. At least I've never yet seen anyone do it. Patience won't help. I've seen passengers; with all the dignity of ambassadors, inform the conductor that they wish to get out at the next stage. Two stages past the stop they wished to alight from: they get out of the taxi cursing more volubly than two slum dwelling women quarrelling over a man.

Angelic disposition towards the conductor won't do it either. You travel all the way from the time you get on the taxi in good natured conversation with the conductor and driver. In total agreement that the country is messed up and you blame the same person. This fuel, this KCCA, these greedy landlords – you share the same foes, are almost friends, surely siblings from different mothers. But when it comes to getting off the taxi, you are left wondering how it all went wrong so fast.

When it's your turn to get off the taxi, suddenly the conductor suffers from amnesia and does not remember you had negotiated for a reduced fare. All the camaraderie is tossed out the door and you're kicked out to follow it; collar first if you're a man, slurs about how you earn your money following you, if you're a woman.

You cannot win, if you're getting out of a taxi. A beatitude silence, mind your business attitude throughout the trip won't guarantee you a controversy-free exit. Something is bound to mess up your escape plan. Like handing over your exact fare and the conductor erupts, “Kale look at this one! Naye I don't know what's wrong with Kampala people. I've been asking for some 'change' and this one was sitting with it as if she is Bank of Uganda. Did you think you were going out with it or were you removing your witchcraft charms before handing it over?”

However, I did once meet a barb-retort rich passenger who solved the problem of getting a taxi to stop exactly where he wanted it to. Even in front of a Police NO PARKING notice. How did he do it? Only when the taxi was in motion did he loudly inform the conductor and driver that he did not have any money on him. But someone was waiting at a stage to hand it over to the conductor. That taxi parked right where that passenger asked, the driver even offering to reverse if they had overshot it by a few centimetres. How's that for a graceful exit!

Note: Taxis here is used loosely to refer to Kumbi (South Africa) or Matatu (Kenya) or commonly known 13-15 seater omnibuses.

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