The Day a Bus Outwitted a Man

The following is based on a true story

Capoeira 1

Judging by his tense posture and the way he paced up and down that bus depot, you would think he was waiting for a fight he had trained for all his life. In a sense he had. He had fought off many large-but-not-really-obese women for a place on the cues of bus stations all over East Africa. He had endured the threats of being smeared with feces if he did not produce the five dollars necessary for protection from the street boy mafia that worked bus stops throughout East Africa. And now, 1000s of miles away, he was ready.

The bus depot struck him as rather odd. Unlike the bus depot he was used to that had only three bus stops, this one had close to a dozen bus stops within it, each with their own benches. That didn’t strike him as too odd. This bus depot also had things like timetables in every bus stop and had things like sign boards that declared bus arrival times. The contrast between this and “the African time” he was used to shook him a little bit. What run the risk of almost terrifying him was how calm all the vanilla-complexion fellows were around him. So far they had been nothing but lovely to him, but this he did not understand.

Did they not know the battle they were about to enter into?
Didn’t they know he had been training all his life?
Didn’t they know, that he was going to win?

And so he paced back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, demarcating his route close to perfection like a pendulum waiting for the crack of midnight. Every so often in the middle of his repetitive charge he would peer at a piece of paper written:

888 – Nunawading

Capoeira 2

That was the bus that would get him one step closer to his destiny. No one was standing in his……

888! 888! 888!

Though the bus chugged along at the pace of a tortoise at the Biggest Loser competition, his mind raced faster than a teenager’s libido. His posture changed, his psychology changed, HE changed into……attack mode! He began by adjusting himself to the rhythm of the bus. It’s slow pace irritated him as he was used to the breakneck speed of never-serviced-how-on-Earth-can-they-still-roll buses that roamed the towns of Kenya. But that was OK, the lion merely had to adjust to his prey.

And yet the white people were not moving, what on Earth is…..The bus zipped (well, trotted really but the mind flies when in fight or flight mode) past him and he took off after it. His locomotion only ceased when the bus entered into what his good friend and soon to be professor, Bonniface Mutua Omondi (he was from two tribes and he wanted to be associated with the spirit of grandiloquent intelligence of the lakeside, yawa!) calls ,

“An absolute Kelvin of a stopper” (what temperature had to do with motion, only Newton knows really….)

Perth bus

Now at this juncture you must understand how the weird fellows who lived in the land down under designed their buses. There were two doors, yes, a front door and a back door. But for some weird reason everyone who was meant to leave was leaving through the back door and a couple of people were cuing at the front door (”with more to come,” he thought hurriedly). They were actually cuing as though the front door was the only way to enter the bus.

“Fools!”, he thought as he began to make his way up the steps of the back door. Whenever he encountered an obstacle, or as evolutionary biologists call them, people, he quickly shoulder checked them out of the way in a manner that would make African women blush with pride. He ploughed through the crowd, through obstacle after obstacle until he was eventually nestled firmly in the embrace of 888! 888! 888!Nunawading. The obstacles…eh, people, many of them with internal bleeding at this point, backed away defeated.

Lo and behold, he had been taught well. He was the first passenger in the bus. He turned to face his pale faced accomplices who had brought him to the bus stop. Their jaws were in danger of burrowing through the ground and all the blood had escaped their face and chased their jaw. Obviously they had not seen battle like he had.

Mommy, what is that African man doing?

“I have much to teach them,” he mused smugly.

“Nimebook viti!”, he declared to them before he realized that they didn’t know Kiswahili from French.

“I have booked your seats!” He quickly translated, shaking his head at how on point he was today.

He sprawled himself across a chair that could accommodate two and stretched his leg out across the aisle to rest it on the third seat. Kwa kweli alikuwa amebook (For real! The seats were booked!)

The bus driver slowly made his way towards him. He could smell the driver’s anxiety. I guess he hadn’t seen battle either…..

“That’s odd!” He thought, for someone whose life work was driving these rolling war zones.

“Excuse me sir, what are you doing?”

“I am resting and waiting for my friends to come in.”

“But sir, you enter through the front.”

“Then why do you have two doors?”

“The back seat is for exiting only. The front seat is where you enter and pay for your ticket. Do you have a tic…..”

“Isn’t that what a conductor is for?”

“Buses in this country don’t have conductors. Which country are you….”

“Doesn’t matter! I have booked my seats and none of those people will steal them,” he leered as he stretched his finger across all the little bus stops until he had marked the whole bus depot with his finger.

It was then that our protagonist began to experience an out of body experience. OK, that’s not accurate. It was then that our protagonist wished that he could have leased out his body for the next hour or two and had an out of body experience. For you see, only four other people entered that bus that day. The two “idiots” who had bothered to cue and the fellows from the land of Caucasia who-formerly-called-themselves-his-friends-but-now-had-never-heard-of-him.

The bus driver didn’t know what a straight face was as he explained to him how people enter through the front and pay while the people who want to leave stream out through the back (and yes, some through the front) without any battle taking place between the two.

“What about them?” he mapped out the whole bus depot again.

“They are cuing for other buses!”

“So this bus will just go when it’s close to empty” (his foot was so deep in his mouth, it had come back to be re-chewed as cud)

“Yes!”

“Oh…he he….yaani…oohhh…ok…he he he”….blush..blush…sheepish grin…sheepish grin…bahh bahhhh….hmmm….asalala!

If the walls of the bus could talk they would say,

“Today grasshopper, we outwitted you!”

If he could speak he would ask,

“Je huu ni ungwana” (Is this really civilized?”)

If you enjoyed this little tale and want more invitations to the narratives of my mind, subscribe to the blog via RSS or email to get the latest tidbits and anecdotes first.

Have a blessed Sunday and a great week
Mwangi

22 Comments

  • By seinlife, April 27, 2008 @ 5:01 am

    LMAO – Is this still happening in Kenya? Is there enuff time to even book a seat on a bus?
    And what’s with the bus driver trying to run bicyclists off the road and semi-dropping people off without actually making a complete stop – Yawa!
    Good piece…

  • By Mwangi, April 27, 2008 @ 5:03 am

    @seinlife: Glad I could entertain. The piece is set in Australia. It was the first time a Kenyan man tried to ride an Australian bus.
    Kenyan bus drivers I think it’s safe to say are very creative when it comes to things like….oh, safety ;)

  • By seinlife, April 27, 2008 @ 6:02 am

    I understood it is set in Australia but the kenyan man is behaving thus because of learnt etiquette boarding kenyan buses, no?
    So people still do fight to board buses in kenya?

  • By Mwangi, April 27, 2008 @ 6:04 am

    @seinlife: The last I heard mama mbogas still always win out by knocking people out with their elbows and their sacks of produce. Though I wouldn’t know, haven’t been to Kenya in more than four years.

  • By sassy, April 27, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

    its ok on the parcel rack if you can gather dem limbs upo

  • By Mwangi, April 27, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

    @sassy: I would be lying if I said I understood your comment. So my question is, “Huh?” What does what you said mean?

  • By gal africana, April 28, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

    @ Mwangi lol at you (sorry) I think Sassy means that one can ride on top of the bus where they usually load the odd piece luggage, if one can get their limbs to do the climbing.

    I had one of “those” episodes when i first got to the UK. On my first trip on a bus I put my fare coins up the slot intended for the change to come out and they got stuck haha…so the driver had to stop, get out of his seat and spend 10 mins trying to prod my fare out of the slot. I was just supposed to place the cash on the machine but freaked not knowing what to do. I also had to repress the urge to hit the bus roof to get the driver to stop…much easier to press the bells lol

  • By Mwangi, April 28, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

    @gal: LOL! I so wish you had hit the roof to get the bus to stop. The reaction from the other passengers would have been priceless. You know when they say you’ll look back on this and laugh, yup they’re right.

  • By Mwangi, April 28, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

    @sassy: If gal is right then my friend, you are definitely the new King (or Queen) of cryptic language.

  • By sci-culturist, April 28, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

    haha! an african man (read: mwangi) had a priceless encounter!..i like the use of seemingly unconnected images to reinforce your message.
    i reckon sassy was conversing in patois. i could be wrong. patois rocks!

  • By Mwangi, April 29, 2008 @ 1:09 am

    @sci-culturist: Believe it or not this story is actually not based on my experience. It is actually based on a friend’s experience. You would think after spending so much time at the Kencom bus station in Nairobi it would apply to me…but no, I was pretty domesticated in terms of public transport pretty early on.
    Was that patois? In that case….I will speak in the only creole language and say, safi kabisa!;)
    I always get a kick when people can see the connection between the images and what I have written
    Hint: There’s almost always a connection.
    Thanks for stopping by, I haven’t heard from you since you explained binary fission to me. Why so lost?

  • By sci-culturist, April 29, 2008 @ 2:02 am

    hey mwangi.
    1) sorry, my bad! but the story was told with such conviction and humour that i (incorrectly) assumed it could only be coming from the horse’s mouth! tee hee.
    2) you bring me much joy; it’s like music to my ears – there’s nothing like a keen student to make my life worth living! :) but really, i’m not so lost; i have been a quiet observer mainly bcoz i dont have as much time as i’d like to be online (i.e. reading other people’s blogs or blogging). which also explains the paucity of posts on mine. don’t you sometimes wish there were more than 24 hours in a day?…mind you daylight savings helps much! i digress.

  • By Mwangi, April 29, 2008 @ 2:08 am

    @sci: As always, thx 4 da kind words. Rather than an extra 24 hours I wish the 12 hours that are between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. could be extended…nothing quite does it for me like the night time.
    The story is so hilarious, sometimes I wish it was me it happened to. Then I would have had the flexibility to embellish it a bit. Don’t be shy to just stop by and say hi.
    Btw, since this is the week where I am asking for guest posts, if you ever have a spare moment and something to say, don’t hesitate to guest post.
    Have a great week

  • By sci-culturist, April 30, 2008 @ 1:07 am

    thanks for the invitation, mwangi. my mind is always stirring, churning and grappling with stuff – i’m happy to write a guestpost. will be in touch asap. btw, well done for the rennovations and grand improvements on your blog. plus now you’ve gone audio! you’re giving me much to live up to – reach for dem stars! :) p.s. check your e-mail

  • By Mwangi, April 30, 2008 @ 3:03 am

    @sci-culturist: Thanks for that! This week of guest posts just gets better and better and better! sci, cheers for the kind words. I have so many plans for this blog going forward, stay tuned, we’re about to go 22nd century up in here. I have checked my mail and I have received no email from you. Did you send it to masmilele@thedisplacedafrican.com because that’s the blogs email address or use the Email the Author links at the bottom of posts?

  • By kelly, April 30, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

    This is such a hilarious post!! I can imagine how mortified the dude was to realise that the bus is going empty. Fortunately these days Nairobi traffic is a bit sane, but it’s still something.
    I once read on Mashada about this guy who rode the subway for a month without paying, the guy never realised that it’s up to you to pay before boarding. Luckily he was never caught, he always wondered, kwani US trains are free!
    You’ve got so many posts I’d want to read, but since my internet is being rationed (no longer in the office), I will catch up when I get to the other side. Cheers!

  • By Mwangi, May 1, 2008 @ 1:50 am

    @kelly: A lot of people here in Australia do the same thing with trains and trams, just ride on them like they’re free (even when they discover they are not). Don’t worry the posts will be here waiting for you to read when you get to the other side. And be prepared for some other remarkable speeds, especially when you visit cyber cafes in project Cay.

  • By liberiangirl, July 15, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

    This is too funny..I am at work laughing so loud..people looking at me like i’m crazy.

  • By Mwangi, July 15, 2008 @ 11:40 pm

    @liberiangirl: Glad I could make you chuckle…and the best part is it’s a true story. You know being crazy isn’t always a bad thing:
    http://www.thedisplacedafrican.com/277/you-dont-have-to-be-sane-to-succeed-in-life/

  • By Dr. Mark Bjorndal, October 26, 2009 @ 3:57 am

    Hi. I am currently producing a curriculum here in China dealing with University students and the theme I am working on is culture. I would like to use the story written by Mwangi concerning the bus incident. Acknowledgement will be given in the book. Please get back with me. I would appreciate this.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.
    Dr. Mark Bjorndal
    Teacher/Instructor
    Beijing International Studies University (BISU)

  • By admin, December 24, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

    @Dr Mark: No problem at all. Please send me the article when its up so I may have a look and post it on the site :)

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  1. What Everybody Ought to Know About Friendship » The Displaced African — July 17, 2008 @ 7:26 am

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