Series, Taxi Tales

Taxi Tales: Licence to Speak

David Tumusiime

We were on the highway to Masaka. Full tilt. Late for an accident. But the taxi was dead silent. Though looking around nervously, I noticed only my neighbour was dozing, drooling down the side of his mouth like a Sipi flow.

Like the other passengers, I tried not to look too much to the road though I wanted to know what was going on. I had a Sunday Monitor to read but I kept stalling on the second paragraph of a Timothy Kalyegira article. My eyes would lift each time to check if the driver was still awake.

He was always awake but when I looked at him I was not too reassured. My eyes always ended up watching, not how his hands were working the steering wheel but how his jaws were working what he was chewing. I could see all the teeth on one side of his jaw gnashing down on something he was chewing like Alex Ferguson with Manchester United level 1-1 with Manchester City, five minutes to the end of the game.

The plan was to celebrate a new year with new beginnings in a new town but I don't know if we thought we would live to yell the new year in. Yet the taxi was dead silent; with people with classy white earphones on, rolling the balls of their iPods, newspaper-readers pretending concentration, novel readers, and twitter addicts scrolling through their feeds looking for the latest news – about to become news themselves.

None would speak up as boda boda riders hurtled into bushes on the side of the road in our wake. None would raise their voice to ask why a bus driver had put his hand out as we overtook him and tried to wave us down. But when we skidded around a he-goat that skipped out onto the road in pursuit of its mate, my neighbour jerked awake.

Everyone had urged the driver and conductor not to let his brewery breath onto the taxi. But he was the only one that spoke up. “Owaye, driver, what are you up to? We are supposed to eat goat meat this New Year not become meat on the tarmac! If you can't afford meat, ask for donations, but don't become a cannibal,” he roared. He had given us licence to speak and we entered the New Year vocal.

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