Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: A Day As A Mumbejja’s Handmaid


At Ntinda stage the game is to lie to potential passengers that there is only one passenger missing for the taxi to move. Therefore you will hear cries of asigadde ommu even when one clearly see that the taxi is empty. Like the theory of relativity I have given up trying to understand it. So today as I take the “last” seat,  two men leave and we have to wait for some more, then others move out and we wait again until we finally get the fourteen passengers needed and start moving.

At Capital Shoppers, a finicky looking girl alights leaving behind a whiff of an evil odor all over the taxi. But this isn’t the worst part because at the same stage we pick up one of those nightmare passengers. She is probably on the other side of sixty, has that mindboggling yellow colour and is round. She is carrying an enormous red handbag with several other plastic bags containing what seems to be the detritus of her life.

As she enters the taxi, she asks the conductor to hold her bag and asks the nearest passenger to hold her hand almost pulling him out of the taxi with the force of her weight.  Disaster is averted when he grabs the rails just in time. Miss Mumbenja settles on her seat and begins to wipe sweat from her face and when she raises her armpits, I shockingly look away.

In typical Ugandan style, another passenger decides to alight a few meters into the journey and the Mumbejja orders us her “surfs” munkwatireko and munkwateko .  Those words really begin to grate on my nerves because she refuses to move from the evil seat where the passenger has to constantly move out of the taxi. The conductor’s pleas that she occupies the behind seats fall on deaf ears. Every time she claims that she is about to disembark and as we enter Jinja road, it’s not just me but the entire taxi that is considering calling the minister of disaster preparedness for help.

At Nakawa stage the whole process of munkwatireko and munkwateko begins and this time I am seething with rage at Mumbejja because every time she crouches out of the taxi, she causes a solar eclipse with her huge butt. I am also forced to notice the straggly beards on her chin and wonder why she is keeping those. Is she perhaps considering a sex change like Bruce/Caitlin Jenner and is keeping them to reduce the cost of facial hair treatment?

As we are hurtling down Jinja road in order to beat the traffic light which just turned green, the Mumbejja decides to shout mumasawo. The driver brakes hard missing her preferred spot by a few inches causing the mumbejja to erupt like a volcano. She starts a shouting match with the driver and conductor assuring them that she doesn’t pay her fares only to be forced to roam the earth like the devil.  Needless to say everyone is astounded by her self-absorption after enduring her munkwatireko/ munkwateko nonsense talk of “Asante ya punda”.

Now this is some advice for all you potential taxi bambejjas. Just in case you didn’t know, public transport is basic transport meant for the common man meaning that there are no valets, stewards, air-conditioning or any other frills that you are used to in your limos. If you cannot do with these conditions, instead of inconveniencing the masses, please commission a yatch or carriage since I doubt you will find surfs to carry you on a ricksaw.

And another thing, do you have to carry all your land tittles every time you decide to gladden us with your presence?

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.