Taxi Tales: Trickery
By David Tumusiime, Uganda:
Every day I use a taxi, I find I have one less reason to despise conductors and drivers. Life is hard in Uganda, Kampala especially, and if you are not “steady,” you soon find yourself rolling in the Nakivuubo Mews sewers. Trust me on this, “ekyebeeyi” that emerges from the sewers does not smell quite as sweet as the one that did not go through those clogged arteries.
These guys who man the taxis have to be extra “steady” not to slip. But even they sometimes lose their balance. I saw it happen just this week. I would have slipped too, if I were that taxi conductor.
A pupil flagged down the taxi. He couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old. He was that tiny. With a formerly army green backpack so tattered, we could all see the strap going around his shoulder would not be holding for much longer than month – If he was lucky.
But he was in his school uniform, very worn but clean, a starched white shirt and khaki shorts with those “infamous” gray socks neatly folded back just below the knees.
This was a poor boy from a poor family whose sole hope of a better future lay in seizing every opportunity the education he was receiving could give him. If it meant bravely boarding a taxi of full grouchy adults to get to school, he was going to do it.
If it meant being “exploited,” by the conductor by sharing 3/4s of a seat he was going to pay with another passenger, he was going to put up with it. This boy was going to get his no matter the challenges, or hardships he had to go through.
One day, he would have as interesting a story to tell as Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya's. In the meantime, it would be us with our own story of him to tell and a more a jaded conductor less prone to acts of kindness.
When the boy piped up, “Maaso awo” the conductor's guard was down. All our guards were down. Quick as a shot, without paying, he bolted out of that taxi faster than a rabbit fleeing a pack of wild dogs. He was so fast, the conductor was speechless, motionless. I still can't believe it.