Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: How Do Hunchbacks Do It? #Just Wondering


Growing up there were a lot of myths that just didn’t make much sense to me even as a child. While most of them were meant to protect (sewing a garment you are wearing) others seem to have been a way of preventing stigma. One of those that really scared me senseless was that if you ever laughed at or you made fun of a hunchback you would give birth to one.  Chances are that you have ever seen a hunchback in real life before but if you haven’t, there is an animated film called the Hunchback of Notre Dame buy one and you will understand my terror.

Today our conductor spots a cobra tattoo on his cheek. His ensemble of yellow anorak, worn over black jeans and a beanie makes him look like an extra on the set of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. In fact he looks like a black Johnny Depp  complete with his rumored BO(bad odor), except that he wears the demeanor of an altar boy serving at mass on Sunday morning. He surprises everyone with his politeness calling whoever enters the taxi nyabo or ssebo. This guy is an enigma I fail to read him completely concluding that he is one of those Saul turned Paul cases.

I am so taken up by the conductor that I don’t look at my neighbor until a whole ten minutes later and when I do I immediately begin to panic. The person seated next to me is so small she could pass for a ten year old.  But she is cradling a book so big I wonder how she could have carried it aboard. It is Tolstoy’s War and Peace; the book I am currently reading too so I am now more fascinated than scared. This little hunchback unlike many I have seen before is well read. Most disabled people are associated with beggarly and greedy NGO’s. And in Buganda hunchbacks seem to be only good for hogging the “blankets necessitating whoever is sharing their bed to tell them off”.

A whole twenty minutes elapse before I can gather the courage to talk to her and realize I am losing time. When the traffic grinds to a halt at Najja, I clear my throat and ask her to open the window a bit and I have time to engage her. We hit it off as we discover our love for the written word, like two alcoholics at a beer exhibition. To my surprise, I discover that her name is Kate, pretty name if you ask me. She apparently went to London School of Economics and works with one of the foreign missions in Uganda as an accountant. She boarded this taxi because her car broke down in Lubowa and therefore our chance meeting.

I try not let me surprise show when she tells me that she has two children attending one of the international Schools. When I ask her about their father she tells me a story I have heard too many times. Apparently Kate met Edgar in London and it was love at first sight. I don’t ask her whose side of the story that was. She apparently shared her flat with him, watered and fed him for five years because her parents are well off. In the process the children were conceived and born, but when she came back to Uganda, Edgar disappeared at the airport. Kate wonders why someone would do such a thing but I know why and you also do. He later sent her a text apologizing and promised to keep in touch. Nowadays he often visits in the middle of the night blaming traffic jam and state persecution – apparently our guy belonged to a rebel outfit which he had never mentioned to Kate and a busy schedule.

When he comes he usually climbs up the tree, harvests some fruits, and then rushes off again blaming traffic jam, state persecution and a busy schedule.

At this juncture I want to interrupt and ask Kate how he handles the whole fruit harvesting issue. Seeing that her back is well …swollen, doesn’t she feel pain when she you know. But I don’t know how to ask this without sounding like a pervert. So I conclude that being an elephant she knows how to carry her tusks. I leave it at that, we promise to keep in touch but we don’t. I go away wondering about men like Edgar. And promise myself to hit Google and find out how hunchbacks do it. Hint: I know it is not missionary style.

Hey, I am a Ugandan woman who spends a minimum of four hours daily travelling in taxis. Like you, I used to dread the taxi rides until I realized that it is a source of a variety of free entertainment and an interesting study of human nature.