… and so the narrative continues:
            As I said in my earlier narrative, Matatus are a phenomenon. One thing that I still can’t understand is how did the name matatu came about. I asked many people about the origin, but I never got a satisfying answer. The closest that could make sense, but I am yet to know if it is authentic, is that during Jomo Kenyatta’s era, the cost for the fare was only thirty cents, yaani mapeni matatu, hence the name. The biggest obstacle for the matatu owners, are the traffic police. The two sides have formed some kind of an alliance, that if the driver can produce something to make the policemen pockets heavy, then the law will be bent or broken without wasting the utumishi kwa wote’s ink. I remember once I was heading to Shimo-La-Tewa, and just after Shanzu, there were two traffic police stopping each and every matatu, passing. The one I was in included. When the police came to the driver, I heard the driver telling the traffic police, “ Muheshimiwa nimeanza kazi sasa hivi, sina chochote. Wataka chukuwa hizi big G zangu nikirudi ntakuleteya soda.” To my surprise, the police took the big G and told the driver, “ Na ukirudi ulete soda mbili.” This is how much our police force is corrupted. After you have been out of home for sometime, you start asking yourself, why do we have to fill the matatus that much? What will happen if they just allow the correct number of people, as designated by the law, in the matatu?…… A friend of mine gave me a very good answer. He said that here, meaning in Canada, drivers obey the law because they are afraid of the humongous fine that they have to pay, in case they break the law, or even losing their license, not to mention the increase of their insurance premiums; but then I know of a place in Africa whereby the law is obeyed not because people are afraid of losing their licenses but because they will lose customers. This place is Uganda. In Kampala, if the matatu takes just one extra passenger, the other passengers will complain, and insist on the driver to take out the extra passenger, or they will all come out non-violently, that is if they had been watching the movie Gandhi the night before. Then you wonder what is wrong with us in Kenya?

            Let me give you the blue print of how a typical matatu looks like. At the front, there is a sit for a driver and one passenger. This does not necessarily mean that only one passenger can be at the front. You may come with up to three. Once I saw one of our mothers giving the manamba a piece of her mind. There were three ladies at the front, but the manamba kept asking the ladies to push farther to make way for one more. “ Sasa untufanya mmaguniya hapa. Wataka tusongee mpaka wapi tena. Tumtoe dereva basi kisha matatu yende pekee. Wewe unkaa ukiangaliya miguu tu, angaliya matako yako wapi kwenye makochi yenu mabovu yalotoboka na maspringi kutudungadunga. Waona kuna nafasi tena hapa?” The manamba never bothered them again.Then right behind those seats, facing the other direction, the jua kali mechanics have added a bench to take about three or four with their legs ( the y-axis) at an obtuse angle to the bench ( the x-axis) but perpendicular to your torso ( the z-axis). The jua kali mechanics were able to convince the ministry of transport that, this extra bench that the guys in Japan forgot to add, is a necessary accessory that fits with the demographic figures of a typical African city and its terrain. I never heard any complains from the ministry of transport. Then facing this extra bench is a seat that can take two, but be rest assured that it will take more than two. This seat is by the sliding door, which hardly closes; since the monkey, alias manamba is always hanging by it. Then there is some kind of an alley to let people pass to go to the seat behind this one. This seat can take three. The space where the seat ends, and the car tire bump begins, will be utilized to take one extra passenger, thus instead of this section having three, it will now have four passengers. This particular spot is referred to as the kiti cha chooni. The reason why it is referred as so, is because you will have to squart. Whoever sit in this spot better pay attention to the manamba, otherwise one may become the joke of the ride. Manambas have been heard telling passengers in such spot, who pretend not to hear him asking for fare, “ Mzee wataka tissue paper? Naona unkaa raha mustarehe. Utalipa sasa au ningoje mpaka umalize haja yako?” Then the last seat that the Japanese made to take four, but the jua kali mechanics have convinced the drivers that the seat can take up to six people, regardless of the size of their waist or chest or shoulders. Between every seat there is some space where passengers are forced to bow without the intention of performing a swalah. This is how a typical matatu in Kenya looks like. My dear reader, do not be frightened and think that there is nothing good coming out of such rides. These are the places that you make very fast friends, and start talking about any passenger that comes out before you. I will give you one kisa that happened.

            This matatu was full to capacity. Among the passengers were these two ladies who boarded the matatu when it was already full. One had to take the prayer spots, and the other, kiti cha chooni. These two ladies were dressed to kill. The faces were shining from the paints they put in their faces and the sweat that was drooling along their temples. Their lips were well covered with some red paints famous by the name of lipsticks. I don’t even have to talk about what they did to their eyelids and lashes. You can tell that these two women were on the front line as far as fashion was concerned. They must be reading a lot of fashion magazines. One of the two was wearing a dress, and the other jeans, and a shoulder less blouse that hang by string on both shoulders. When they reached their destination, the one in dress who was seated at the kiti cha chooni, came out with ease. The shoulder less blouse lady had to struggle her way out. As she was moving from one side to the other, she kept brushing other passengers. Once they were out, and the matatu was on the move, one passenger commented, “ Wamejirembesha, lakini makwapa yana nukkka, ah.  Haki ya Mungu nilidhani nitazimiya.” Everyone was in stitches, including the manamba. Here is where the friendship begins. Another guy jumped in with his story,

 “ Wajuwa mimi huwa sipandi matatu ikiwa nimeiona imejaa. Nilipatwa na kisa siku moja. Nilipanda matatu kisha akapanda jamaa basi ikawa hakuna mahali pa kukaa. Ikabidi asimame, sasa matako yake bwana yamenilekeya mimi. Sijui yule jamaa alikuwa amekula nini siku ile. Hata mayai na maharagwe hayanuki namna ile bwana. Jamaa alikuwa akiteremsha tu bwana. Nilistahmili mwisho nikashindwa. Si nilimgeukiya nikamwambiya bwana. Ikiwa wataka kushuta bwana lekeya dirishani sio utulekee usoni. Aaaah nilisimamisha matatu nikashuka bwana. Steji hata siyangu lakini ilinibidi nishuke.”………………. to be continued