How to deal with unruly matatu touts

matatuOkay, actually this happens to me nearly everyday. Here is the typical scenario: A woman is patiently and innocently waiting for a matatu. Out of the blue, five touts come rushing toward her, seemingly from nowhere. She has barely been watching her surroundings; so lost is she in her own little world.

Suddenly she is grabbed by her arms, shoulders, hands, and even her poor tired legs. Her first thought: “Oh no! I’m being kidnapped! What was that I saw on CSI? Pepper spray…nope. Kick the attacker…” But alas! Her legs have been grabbed!

Slowly she snaps out of her reverie and hears: “Madam, thirty bob! Thirty bob!”. She cannot free herself from their grip. She ends up being dragged into the matatu with the strongest tout.

That’s kidnapping if you ask me. I mean, being grabbed without your consent, then dumped forcefully into a strange vehicle? Why can’t they just sell their services (they can yell all they want) and leave poor law-abiding citizens alone? Like I said, this happens to me nearly every day.

So I have started coming up with a few remedies or tactics, if you may. So far, they have been 50% effective 50% of the time. (Hey, I’m a woman against five or so strong men, cut me some slack!)

  • Always carry an mp3 player and listen to it when at the matatu stop (your radio-enhanced phone will also do). This gives the illusion that you couldn’t care less about what the touts are saying. Your player may be off; it doesn’t matter since they can’t hear it. It would help to bop your head to the “music” and have a faraway look in your eyes.
    Disclaimer: this will not prevent forceful grabbing but it will prevent further conversation and forceful “pleading” by the touts
  • Be very adept at flinging your arms every which way when touched. This will show the touts that you are a fighter who won’t take kidnapping lying down. It will also buy you some time as you analyze your attackers’ strength and ability and come up with an on-the-spot getaway plan.
  • Have a stern look on your face when approaching the matatu stop. It may not prevent “kidnapping” but it will buy you time as the touts rush towards the peaceful-faced happy-looking victims
  • Speak harshly with a slight (or exaggerated) sneer. This is effective as touts are generally afraid of confrontation and embarrassment.
    Disclaimer: only do this if you are sure the cute guy in your neighborhood doesn’t use the same stop as he may see your sneer and vicious behavior and avoid you for the rest of your life
  • Stand discreetly next to a burly man at the stop. The touts may mistakenly think that you are together. Even if they don’t, they may avoid you for fear that the man may get irritated and come to your defense.

If any of these points worked for you, please let me know…so I can try them too! 🙂

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