Series, Taxi Tales

Taxi Tales: Even taxi drivers have hearts

By David Tumusiime, Uganda:

It is true that I have had a taxi conductor (money collector) threaten to take away my spectacles when I learned, too late (already in taxi, time to pay), that I had 'forgotten' my wallet in another jean trouser. I, blind as a bat without my glasses, would mean a tragedy waiting to happen.

Yes, once again, I understand you when you cry that taxi conductors and drivers cannot be human. Imagine, they bark at you and torment you until you hand over your fare early. When it comes to you getting back your 'balance' or change, they practically almost have you on your knees begging for it. Then, imagine this, when you are getting out, they throw it at you and it is less than Shs.500!

What do they retort when you dare to protest this treatment? “Are you not the ones mu Kintu? It is you westerners in things. Why do you 'tie' even on this small money?” If you were in league with that cabal of thieves, you would not be in this skirt tearing springy seat taxi!

Yeah, I've experienced it all. How you enter a taxi, on the clear understanding that from Wandegeya stage they are going to drop you at Kampala Pentecostal Church stage, only for the fools, citing traffic jam, to change course and driving up past Buganda Road Primary School, will drop you so far that you are forced into extra expenditures. Even hiring a boda boda too! Or risk reaching your appointment sweaty after a walk under the intense Kampala sun that makes you repent and promise to go green.

Let us not even start on how malaria and other killer diseases are beginning to look enviously at taxis as real competition in the mad dash to feed death's maw. They have to 'work' one by one. Who's this new kid who thinks nothing of swallowing fourteen or even fifteen people at ago, without even belching?

Yes, all that is true. If UTODA cared at all, it would organise several free taxi ride days a year to mollify you. But they leave it to MiniBuzz instead. Yet, yes, yet I have encountered the kindness of taxi drivers and conductors that disputes exasperated road users' belief that they cannot be human or have a humane bone in their bodies.

They may do it gruffly – grunting assent that this once the rules can be broken. But I've seen taxi drivers/conductors give free rides to other 'public' servants like prisons, officers in uniform, basket snacks peddlers tired of walking and frightened school kids in the evening trying to get home. Sometimes, yes, these guys have a heart. Maybe that's why their 'eye' are on our daughters in the taxis too.

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