Column Squad

Taxi Memoirs: Falling Out Of Love With Kali Boys


When we were young, smoking was trendy and as a result BAT was a major sponsor of most social events. It had these massive billboards by those days’ standards showing us how cool it was to smoke and encouraged everyone to join the smokers’ club. I remember one of our maids, Gorretti for being one of their biggest clients for their Kali brand. These were little cigarette sticks without filters that one had to smoke by putting the lighted end right into the mouth. In fact you wouldn’t know what a person was up to until you saw them spit out the ash from the finished cigarette.

So when I saw the words “I love kali boys” emblazoned on the yellow t-shirt our conductor is wearing proudly, it felt as if I had met an old friend. In fact I was so comforted that I was sure I was going to have a pleasant ride. But you know appearances can be deceiving and soon enough our conductor’s ugly kali side rears its head.

Just before  joining Jinja road our conductor starts giving passengers orders on how to seat. He begins by telling a lady spotting a wetlook that would make Michael Jackson green with envy not to lean anywhere. He is apparently worried that her wetlook will leave a mark on the taxi seat. This singling out of one person because of her hairstyle shocks me as much as it annoys me. Everyone knows Kampala taxis are infamous for their grime and dust embedded in every seat. The poor woman feeling victimized and looking every bit embarrassed seats up without complaining.

Next to be told how to seat in the unfortunate long legged man in the seat right behind the driver locally known as Kameme. Because of the cramped space, the man tries to stretch out his legs onto the Kameme trying to ease his discomfort. The conductor however is having none of that and strongly forbids him to do that. He goes ahead to shame him question his upbringing “ewamwe mulinya kumeeza?”  (Do you step on tables in your homes?) . But the man just ignores him and stretches out his long leg. In my head I try to understand why the conductor would equate that space to a table because it looks nothing like a table and would totally fail to function as one even if some crazy designer tried to force it on people.

Having lost that battle, the conductor turns his wrath on poor helpless girls who tell him that they are getting off at the small gate stage. He insists that they pay him first and as a result refuses to inform the driver and the girls are taken all the way to Spear stage.  This act annoys everyone in the taxi and passengers start cursing the conductor to his face. Our conductor being as kali as his t-shirt says ignores the general uproar and orders everyone to pay him there and then or else no one would leave the taxi.

This is when I realize how tired of fighting Ugandans are. Instead of uniting against their sole tyrant, they all start fumbling in their bags and obligingly pay up for the sake of peace. Riding high on his triumph, the conductor issues new orders reminiscent of Napoleon after conquering power. He seems to sincerely believe that the rabble is moved by terror, but he doesn’t even know the half of it. Does he?