By David Tumusiime, Uganda:
I have to confess I entered the taxi with a little trepidation. The conductor hopped out of his taxi as soon as it screeched within feet of my alarmed toes and asked me, “Sir, are you going?”
It was not the English that had put me on my guard. Although on any other day a Kampala taxi driver addressing me in English would have had me shaking my head in refusal; never to board that taxi. There were far too many tales I had heard of drugged, beaten and robbed friends in taxis at the back of my mind.
This was a near midday taxi, so there were no such worries. That was not what put my guard up. The conductor's dressing had. He was wearing spectacles but we know since Kanye West and boda bodas became ubiquitous, no-lens specs have become a fad.
This conductor was wearing a tie. A tie, in the Uganda national flag colours, worn only by public officials who joined the thieving service in the 1970s and 1980s. But not just a tie – this conductor had his shirt smartly tucked in. He continually ensured his shirt remained tucked in throughout the journey. And his short sleeved white shirt was ironed. Well ironed.
Any wonder after I got into the taxi and settled in my seat, that the first thing I did was tap my pocket to ensure my wallet was still in its place?
The conductor was not a young man. Neither was his driver. They looked like they were in their mid 30s: Family men to be sure. But each time the conductor wished for the taxi to stop, to pick up another passenger or drop one off, he would unfailingly call to the driver, “Taata (father) can you stop ahead?”
I was not the only one who was making mental eyes of what the…eh! Each passenger who paid was thanked fulsomely, “Webale ku sasula (thank you for paying). Here is your balance. Have a good day.” Several passengers would start to open their mouths to bark arguments that they had not paid the right fare and then realise they were being thanked: The initial argument dead.
We would leave each passenger at their stop with a puzzled look on their faces. I don't think I was the only one who noted the number of that taxi. I still look out for it when I'm travelling.
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