Matatu Conductors

Everyday scenes

Everyday scenes

Next to morticians (I think) and hospital janitors, matatu conductors have the worst jobs. And to believe I actually envied them (the conductors/touts) when I was young for the free rides to and from town. They have to hustle for passengers in between peak times, bribe lots of hungry cops along the way, contend with frustrating passengers who want to be dropped off anywhere or who refuse to pay up, keep up with who’s paid fare and who’s not (it’s not like they issue tickets so they have to rely on memory.) To compound it all, there is the attitude they face from most people about their job, after all, there are no qualifications apart from the ability to shout at the top of your longs. So most people just assume conductors are losers who never made it beyond high school.

I have met my fair share of smart conductors, charming conductors, polite conductors, but more than enough share of rude and crude conductors. They poke your back to demand fare. They literally push you into the matatu, and figuratively push you out when you are leaving. They will share your seat and put their arms over your shoulder, so your face is buried in their armpits. They will chew in your face and talk suggestively.

This evening is no different. It has just rained, and there are long queues for matatus or giant crowds pushing and shoving trying to get a ride home. I decide to stand aside, wishing I was elsewhere. It’s been about three months since I finished high school and I have a lousy job as a salesgirl at some bookstore. Let’s just say am glad it’s a fixed salary otherwise my commission would amount to almost nothing. It’s been a hustle getting home every evening.

As I stand here watching these crowds, wondering when they will thin out, one conductor approaches me. Great. Now he’s going to poke my back and ask me if I want to enter his matatu. However, he just asks me politely if there was anything he could do to make my evening better, since I look like hell. I retort that he can get me a comfortable seat in the matatu and then leave me alone. He does just that. He guides me to the front seat of the matatu, makes whoever was sitting there leave and I finally feel like I can catch a break.

The following day, I get off from work about the same time. Is it coincidence that the same matatu I boarded is here today at this time? I look around for the conductor. He smiles and nodes towards the front seat. I can’t believe he reserved it for me. Now I don’t have to stand aside or join in the jostling for a matatu. He then continues waiting for the matatu to fill. He’s really something, I realize. He’s tall and well dressed. Of course he’s not wearing that generic maroon uniform but a fitting t-shirt and jeans. Maybe some Timbaland boots. Real or fake, who cares. I can’t tell them

That’s how it started. Every evening, I would find my seat reserved. I would pay my fare then settle comfortably, knowing the matatu will be stopped as near home as possible and he would open matatu door to usher me out. Once in a while, I caught the matatu in the morning, but all evenings, I made sure I waited for it.

He never suggested anything untoward. He was always respectable. He treated me like a damsel in distress, and he, the knight in shining armour. He was always charming, always saying the right thing. He made my evenings.
I could not help but compare him to the other conductors I had encountered. I realize I want to know more about him.

That’s how I started asking the personal conversations. And we became good friends. I could tell him anything. Including my problems and my dreams. I even told him what I thought were my faults and mistakes. And he said lines like I am not here to judge you, am just here to love you.
How could I help it? I fell for him.

And now my friends are wondering how I can be going out with a conductor. Perhaps this narration will answer their questions.


One Response

  1. Just stumbled upon yo blog on a friend’s blog.

    You write so well.

    About this particular post, lovely. You fell for a conductor not because of what he does but for who he is. I like that. True love indeed.

    All the best in your relationship.

    It was actually a friend who was in a relationship with a conductor…but I don’t know how or when it ended.

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