Taxi Tales: The Smelliest Passenger
By David Tumusiime, Uganda:
His smell announced his presence before he got onto our taxi. It was the smell of shoes that had tramped miles in the sun and the rain and the mud. Shoes that had been in such long tramps, the feet sweated through the socks.
It was an unforgettable smell every boarding school student knows as “carbon mugere.”
He had plenty of it. He was not embarrassed about it. He was hardcore about it. Struggling into our taxi with his mountain of a backpack.
We could not understand why the conductor had let him in. A Mukenefish seller, with this guy's armpits in our nostrils, would have seemed to smell like a perfume peddler with liberally applied amounts of Chris Adams. The smell of this guy was that bad and worse.
But this was a truly Ugandan taxi. No one protested that he should be speedily ejected.
The woman he sat next to could only shake her head when this man pulled out two bananas from one of the bag's many side pockets, peeled one and began to eat it, with the relish a teenage girl at Santos licks her ice cream.
She could only shake her head, lean as far away from him as inconspicuously as possible. Then her nails flared out, stabbing furiously the innocent touch sensitive screen of her Samsung phone that had a Megapix glamour shot of her as its screen saver. A dashing smile on her photoshopped smooth skin that screamed she deserved way much better than she was going to endure now.
When the door clanged shut for the journey to start, we all exchanged a look that telegraphed a message: Tuffude! (We are dead!)
It was my personal attitude until several passengers getting out later; he had to sit next to me.
His mountain of a backpack had tears and ears of stuffed shoes on all sides. Boots. I could see through one of the tears a tightly folded camouflage green UPDF uniform.
The smelliest passenger I had ever travelled with was a UPDF soldier. A man who walked miles to patrol our borders to make sure we are safe. Here I was – we were, holding our noses in disgust.
I was ashamed of myself. I wanted to pay for the man but he would not let me.