Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: Diplomatic Crisis Made In A Taxi


Today, a taxi from Mukono I notice an elderly white couple with their teenaged son seated in the front seat and even though like most Ugandans my immediate reaction is to ask whether they are ok and try my forced accent on them, to show all those around me that I know how to speak the queen’s own language. I resist this temptation and remain engrossed in my world of counting all my unhatched eggs and what I will do when they hatch.

You know ever since the day our ancestors set their eyes on these visitors and realized that they meant business, especially with their fire spiting sticks. Our relationship has always been parasitic on both sides, they take what is most valuable, but we also take what we think is most essential for our circumstances as we grin and message their egos. No less our conductor knows this and did not except the script to change when we reach Nakawa and the elderly man whom we shall call Ian Clarkish hands over a ten thousand note and our conductor promptly gives back balance of four thousand shillings after deducting two thousand per person.

And all hell breaks loose.  Ian in an angry belligerent voice demands for more money.  “Come on man I boarded at Bweyogerere” which of course sounds “un bwogable” but we all know what he means. And I know it is one thousand from thereto here. “I could understand if I had boarded in Kasozi, Kiwanga, Katambwa or Kikubamutwe. But I came from Bweyogerere man. I want my money back.” He argues.  I needless to say we are all stunned by this little presentation because most of us do not know where these places are. We are all shocked to see a white man in the flesh who knows names of places and the cost of stuff. The conductor is obviously very embarrassed and has the look of a dog that has been forced to drop a juicy bone. Mrs. Ian on the other hand looks on with the stand by your man look. By this time, their son who is a Jamie Oliver look alike is thoroughly embarrassed and has turned crimson from ear to ear. The conductor without even our urging hands over the three thousand.

The whole taxi descends into an uncomfortable silence. I don’t know what everyone is thinking but what I am thinking is that the head of European Union needs to call UTODA and iron out this diplomatic crisis. Their man has obviously committed a taboo.

First no white man has a right to demand for balance on any purchase of less than ten thousand. And again what sort of white man and crams all those names and places on Ugandan roads. White men need to look confused and stumble around asking for directions so that we can come in and show them the way around and feel useful as well as important. For someone to snatch all your muzungu moments in one go is a bit naff.  Anyhow, any of you who think your Christmases have come the day you meet a muzungu beware that not every mzungu is David Greenlaugh aka Mr Bad Black.

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.