Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: Be Kind Relieve This Emperor Of His Prado


There is an old Japanese story about an emperor who had ten treasured vases that he insisted had to be wiped and shined everyday although they were well wrapped in mink and velvet. Eventually the inevitable happened and one of them smashed down during the process of being cleaned and broke into a million pieces. As expected the emperor was incensed and decreed the offending servant should be executed. The tragic event was relayed throughout the empire and many advisers tried to intervene for the servant in vain. The day before the execution, an old sage arrived at the palace and requested an audience with the emperor which he was granted. Their conversation naturally involved among other things the broken vase and the servant awaiting execution. The sage requested to look at the precious vases which the emperor granted but not before begging the sage to be careful.  When they were brought, the sage proceeded to break all the nine. The emperor was shocked into coma. When he came back to life, the sage explained that his intention to break the nine vases was so that he could spare more nine lives that would be lost because of those vases.  The emperor was shamed by this wisdom and he let the sage and servant go.

This story came back to me in a taxi that had scratched an “emperor’s” Prado on Kibuye roundabout causing a mighty jam. If you have been in a Kampala jam on rush hour you know how everyone drives as if they are being chased by demons. It’s in fact a big miracle that we don’t have bodies piled by the roadside every day from this madness. There are collisions; there are crashes which get dealt which are handled with as less drama as possible.

But not this emperor’s Prado! When our taxi scratches his rear metallic guards, he stops in the middle of the road and refuses to budge. Our driver’s apologies and remonstrations fall on a deaf ear prompting a delegation of three “wise men” from our taxi to go and mediate. Soon the taxi is empty as all the men and wise women join the fray and I choose to stay put because the only technology or mechanics I know is how to charge my phone.

But the hooting from other inconvenienced drivers soon becomes terrifying and dangerous so for my own safety I get out of the taxi. By this time, the emperor has thrown all his toys from his pram and is having an earth moving tantrum. He refuses to accept the money our driver has offered him to repair the barely visible damage done to his car insisting on getting brand new guards.

He informs us how he bought his guards from Dubai making it sound like Dubai is the holy of holies not a place that all kinds of crawlies eke out a living just like the rest of us. To make matters worse, the traffic officer at the scene looks like a kindergartener on his day out and he just stands there being as unhelpful and unprofessional as he looks. In the end, we are saved by the head of traffic (so I was told ) on his way to work who just orders the stupid emperor to drive his car off the road or risk having it towed.

The coward drives off ending a thirty minutes holdup without even a whimper. As we board our taxi, I feel so cheated because if I could I would have borrowed that Prado and thrown it off the cliff of the highest mountain thereby saving people’s time and peace. If a simple scratch causes such chaos it’s better to get rid of the whole danm thing altogether before heads roll in case of major accidents.