Recently I witnessed a most interesting sight. I was in the car with my mum and we were headed to town from somewhere quite suburban (read outskirts of Nairobi) where matatu drivers are even less courteous than those in the city centre, if that’s possible. We are used to matatus stopping in the middle of the road to pick or drop passengers, or just for the driver to enjoy the scenic view.
So it came as no surprise that one matatu was smack in the middle of the road as we were driving. The car ahead of us was being driven by a man who apparently could not take such behavior lying down. So he decided to firmly place his hand on the car horn and leave it resting there. This seemed to irk the matatu tout and the driver who of course did not move an inch. The man continued to hoot and finally drove up next to the matatu to hurl insults, I presume.
No sooner had he done this than a war of words (which I couldn’t hear, thankfully) ensued. The matatu driver proceeded to hit the man’s car with his fist several times. At this point I thought the driver of the saloon car would get out and start fighting, but he didn’t. After his car received several fist blows form the matatu driver, the matatu tout, who was on the road, opened the man’s passenger car door to challenge him to a duel or something. I don’t know what the man said but the tout proceeded to close the door and kick….yes, KICK the man’s car on the passenger side, several kicks by the way, some even on the passenger window. My mouth was agape all this time because I couldn’t believe the nerve!
On a different day, I was in a matatu with a friend. (All the drama happens in matatus, I see a trend!)
There happened to be a white man in the matatu who seemed a little off (his feet were resting almost on the passenger seat next to him) but we ignored him and continued our conversation. Soon it was time for the matatu tout to ask for fare from the passengers and no sooner had this guy been asked for his fare than he pointed his middle finger at the tout and proceeded to accuse him of trying to con him because he was white. The rest of us couldn’t understand this since we were all paying the same amount.
However he continued to rant about his troubles as a white man in Kenya and all he has to suffer. I couldn’t take it anymore and promptly got his attention and told him we were all paying the same amount. His argument was that the tout had told him a different price only to change it when he entered. I couldn’t argue with that; having not been present then and also largely aware of the fact that most touts do that anyway.
I guess this was fuel to his fire and since he had found some unsuspecting listeners, he proceeded to lay all his grievances at our feet, telling us how many women are after him thinking he is rich, but if he was rich would he be riding in a matatu?, he asked us. He kept flashing his Kenyan ID card to further prove his point. This was the first time I had met a bitter white man in Kenya. I mean they are always praising Kenyan hospitality and affability so this came as a shock.
Basically, there are very many angry people around. It’s understandable, I mean, that matatu driver and his accomplice would drive anyone mad. The white man’s grievances are also valid; I can only imagine what he has had to go through with false assumptions about his wealth.
However, thinking back on these incidents, I realized one thing: anger and rage never helped anyone. It’s just a waste of energy, really. I mean, the angry saloon driver just got a car battering for all his road rage and, mind you, the tout and matatu driver didn’t give a hoot about him. They probably laughed all the way to town.
The disgruntled white man, after complaining and proceeding to insult the tout, got dropped at the wrong stage, all because he was not courteous to the tout despite not knowing his way around Nairobi very well (which begs the question of his Kenyan citizenship for five or so years, as he claimed, but I digress).
If you have road rage, matatu rage, tout rage, bad-customer-service rage, people-bumping-into-you-in-town-when-you-are-in-a-hurry rage, you need anger management techniques. Breathe deeply and close your eyes for ten seconds. Think happy thoughts. Go to your happy place. Or just enroll for anger management classes.
I know I will!