Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: A Jailbird Reawakens My Androphobia


I am one of those people suffering from the extremely irrational fear of men aka Androphobia. People who have this fear may fear men in general or some particular characteristics of a man and for me the trigger is any man who looks like a criminal or has facial scars.

So this morning I am happily looking forward to the ride hoping for a funny tale to tell until I turn and look at the guy seated next to me. I immediately become jittery, sweaty, and numb, while doing my best to keep a panic attack at bay. Because I have had to deal with this problem all my life I have developed some strategies that make coexistence with men possible.

With the aggressive type I use the millipede strategy where I pretend to be dead; most will leave you alone if they realize that you are lifeless. With the illiterate and semi-illiterates that I meet often on my taxi rides the best strategy is to pretend that I forgot my brain at home and I need to borrow theirs for this day. I always remember to shower them with enough ssebos to last them at least a year and everything is sorted.

But today none of these strategies seem to be working as I realize I am seated next to a jailbird. Mr. Jailbird is clean shaven and his head glistens like a cobra under the afternoon tropical sun. He dons black round sun glasses. He has got so many scars on his face and hands where the world has been taking strips off him like a fussy eater. I begin to wonder whether it will swallow him up or dump him in the trash bin.

When he gets calls, he whispers into his handset or answers in monologues. And when the prisons’ maroon bus comes level with our taxi on Jinja road he cranes his neck to see who is probably going to court, but I doubt he sees anyone because usually the window seats are occupied by prison warders. Perhaps reminded of his luck to be in the free world by the bus, Mr. Jailbird tries to engage me in conversation as soon as the it disappears. He encourages me to take his number just in case one day I need it and I do so reluctantly. He tells me that he is between jobs and he is trying to get a visa to go for kyeyo in Japan. Therefore the reason why he wants to have a number of a nice lady like me is for when he finally makes money and starts sending stuff to his favorite people back in Uganda.

He tells me that a stranger like me can be trusted more than most relatives, but I still refuse to give him my number. Even us the naïve have our limits. So when the taxi stops at the old taxi park, I take my time getting out so that I can lose him in the madding crowd. But I also first check if I still have my ears, my fingers and two thumbs. With a sigh of relief I walk home happy to be alive.

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.