Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: This Is A Public Announcement


Personal grooming is something that should be done before leaving the house. In emergency situations it may be acceptable to perform vital touch ups, such applying a touch of lipstick or patting your hair into place but under no circumstances should it be carried on public transport, especially not when sitting next to me.

You might wonder what could be so bad that a taxi loving, reasonable and down to earth woman like me is issuing public announcements. There is a limit to everything and just when you think you have seen it all, something unbelievable happens and you realize that there levels and depths to every experience.  After what I was subjected to today in a taxi, I am considering giving up this adventurous part of my life for the safety of private transport.

At Zzana, a disheveled young woman takes her seat next to me looking harassed and hungry. As soon as she settles down, she digs into her battered, voluminous bag, rummages around and pulls out a hard-boiled egg. She cracks the shell using her scaly knuckles, removing it in one fell swoop. She pops the whole egg into her mouth chomps on it about two times and swallows. She gets another one and the whole process begins. After the second egg, she gets a sachet of Fresh Diary, bites off the corner and gulps down the milk.  By this time, her lap is full of all her breakfast debris which she scoops up and throws outside the taxi window without even a shadow of embarrassment at the littering.

Next, her bag produces a half liter bottle of water which she sprinkles over a face towel and begins to wash her face, neck and armpits. She sips some water and uses her finger as a toothbrush after which she spits everything into the bottle and then tosses it out too.  I pray that the boys who pick these discarded bottles and resell them for packaging local juice miss this one at least.

With her ablutions done, she pulls out her makeup kit/toilet bag and proceeds to wreak havoc on the already tired face. She splashes color after color all over her face, grey on the eyelids, pink and turquoise on her cheeks.  She gets an orange lipstick and applies a generous amount of it on her lips and then draws an upturned black line around her pout.  The outcome is so ugly that if God ever created a person with such lips, we would have women activists picketing churches baying for His resignation.

As she winds up her makeup session, she turns to me and asks me what I think.   Think?! Really?! Could it be possible that someone who subjected a total stranger to such repulsive and obnoxious treatment even uses her mental faculties?  What did she really want me to tell her? That not only is it disgusting but it’s also rude to force people to smell your stinky breakfast in such a confined space at eight o’clock in the morning?   Did she want me to tell her that I am almost going out of my mind thinking that some of her bodily waste could be anywhere between my shoes and hair and I am considering returning home for a thorough shower?

As I take in her scary and clownish face I am convinced that today I sat next to a mental case and my mind tells me to flee. I turn and look at my other neighbor and as if waking up from a nightmare I am assured that there is nothing worse that can happen to me with other twelve passengers around me.

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 into human nature.