I almost got arrested.
Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as am making it sound, but considering I’ve been arrested once (here is the story, but you won’t find an official record, that’s for sure) and as the cop explained to me, there are procedures to be followed at such times. See, I’d been caught handling fake money. I’d just ordered for a drink with a fake two-hundred shilling note.
The cop who was also at the counter, explained to me that the first thing he should do is arrest me, take me in for a thorough questioning so I can give clues to the source of the fake money or to find out if am possibly involved so I can lead him to my fellow criminals.
Okay, am beginning my story in the middle. Back to the beginning.
In Nairobi, Thursday is the new Friday. People go out on Thursday, whether they have the work the following day or not. There are students who don’t mind skipping Friday classes, and there are plenty of those with neither school nor work. The scene: Westlands. Any club in Westie is packed to capacity at midnight on a Thursday night, with constant lines of people streaming in and out. Uptown Thursday it is, or more appropriately, bendover Thursday because every club worth its name plays the song several times in the night.
This past Thursday was election day for our university student union officials. Which means a free day for us. After doing a CAT (continuous assessment test) in the morning, we headed to a hotel nearby to swim. At around 4 p.m., we took a break to have lunch and a drink and after that, it was swimming and drinks. There are a lot of generous people by the poolside and drinks just kept coming and we swam and made merry. Around 7p.m. it was time to leave so we changed and said bye to the drink buyers, among whom I came to learn later was an MP from some constituency whose name evades me.
Back in campus, we psyched each other up for Uptown Thursday. One thing we kept reminding ourselves is the fact that this was our last semester and we have to make the most of it. That means taking every opportunity we have to go out. So we got into a matatu, and I paid my fare with a five-hundred shilling note. One of my friends paid with the same amount too. The conductor was very quick to give us back our change, and whoever checks to see if notes are fake? Unless it’s 500 or 1000 note. But a 200 shilling note? I just made sure my change was correct and put it in my pocket and that was the end of that. I don’t remember the conductor’s face, what he was wearing, the driver, not even the colour of the matatu. The conductor gave us a total of Kshs. 800 in fake 200-shlling notes. Of course at this time, we didn’t know it.
We got to town and immediately headed to Westlands, first checked into Rezorus. We ordered our first drinks with this money, and made ourselves comfortable. We had arrived a little early, it wasn’t even 11p.m. yet but the place was filling up. The DJ at that time was boring though, DJ GMoney (or something like that) hadn’t arrived for his famous reggae/ragga uptown tunes so we decided to club hop a little and come back later when the place would be on fire. We decided to pass by Qs? Qz? Definitely a Q somewhere which is mainly a pool center, say hi to some friends over there, possibly play a game or two, then Changez, then Red Tape, possibly Black Diamond before heading back to Rezorus. These clubs are all next to each other.
It was at Qz where I almost got arrested. So we were both remaining with a fake Kshs. 200 note each. We hang out a little, played some pool, lost badly and then my friends wanted to leave but I wasn’t ready to go yet. I told them to go ahead, I’d meet them at Changez later. I wasn’t alone though, I was with the other friends whom we had met at Qz. (notice I decided to go with the z. though I think it’s Q’s).
I went to the counter to order a drink, rather a shot and I was to pay the lady 120 bob. I gave her the 200-shilling note, she gave me my poison and I was waiting for the change when instead she returned my note and was like, “Pesa yako ni fake.” Of course the first question you ask is:
“What do you mean pesa yangu ni fake?” I asked, disbelieving. She held up the note to the light. OMG, you
should have seen the lion. It was a sleepy as hell! Have you ever seen that lion picture in real notes? It’s wide awake and staring at you, possibly very scary. This one had droopy eyes and was sleeping at a most awkward corner of the note. She also showed me the UV light thingie, and this note was the fakest I’d ever seen, it’s like they used normal A4 paper, and even the texture could tell you that ladies and gentlemen, we have a bootleg.
By this time, a small crowd had gathered to look at the note, and the cop was among them. He started asking me questions: “who gave you this note? Are you sure he’s the one? What was the colour of the matatu? Number plate? Conductor’s name?” and I was losing patience trying to explain to him that no one ever takes note (no pun there) of these details when they are taking public transport. I wanted to tell him if I ever got involved in a fake money scandal, I wouldn’t print such fake-looking money and certainly not 200-bob notes, I’d go for the thousand ones and I wouldn’t be stupid enough to be an actual user of the said notes. But I didn’t because my special friend was there and he calmed me down. The cop let me go because he said he was off duty anyway, but it would have been better to launch investigations so they could get the source of this fake money.
My uptowny mood was ruined by this time, and I decided to leave Qz and join my friends at Changez. It was only when leaving I managed to see the humour of the situation. The fake note was very funny. The bartender kept it, I told her to punch holes in it and display it or something. I could’ve taken a pic, but it wouldn’t show anything fake so there was no point.
At Changez, I asked my other pal whom we had been given change with to show me any money she had left. So we checked out her note and it turns out it was fake too! We advised her not to use it, because if she was caught with it, things might turn out ugly. Anyway, some more drinks and good music later, my good mood resumed and it was almost 4a.m. when we headed back to Rezorus. By this time, the music was awesome though the crowd had lessened a bit, and we danced a little, had final drinks and it was six in the morning when we finally arrived at our rooms.