The Bus Ride

Kimathi Mutegi

I am seated in this Matatu and I am brooding. I am in a lousy mood because the open sewer passing right across my estate has become very careless. This is the second time that I have dipped my foot in it in a week and now I have to go to work with a blackened trouser foot and a soggy sound from my shoe. I could not go back home to change because I happened to wash my other trouser the previous night and it must be dripping wet.

I am seated right at the rear of this thirty-something sitter and I can tell that the stench from my foot is causing some discomfort to some folks. I don’t care. As I said I am in a lousy mood. The conductor is a good man though. I gave him a hundred bob to take out his 50 and he gave me back a hundred and fifty.

Right in front of our bus, held in the same traffic jam is a motorcade of five state-of-the-art-vehicles. I start to think that one man is driving around in five guzzlers, while 32 of us have to be crammed in this rickety bus that has a suspension system from the Flintstones era and sounding like it is running on 20 year old cooking oil.

I start to think that unlike the miserable rest of us, this man must run on electric power. I am also doing some math, that it will cost an approximate Ksh. 640, inclusive of fuel, wear and tear, to transport the whole 32 of us to town. I am also doing the math and finding that it will cost an approximate Ksh. 640 to transport the ‘electric’ man to town.

I am beginning to think that the man has 32 hearts but the guy seated next to me grunts loudly on account that he is sound asleep and the bus just hit a pothole. His mouth is wide open and I have this immense urge to toss the crumpled piece of ticket I’m holding into it. Temptations were made to be given in to -ask Adam, and so I do. The man half shuts his trap, opens one red eye and turns the other way. I am looking at his belt to check whether there was a way I could fasten it to the seat belt since his shoes didn’t have laces to tie together when I notice that the pretty girl on the next row is watching me. I smile at her and she smiles back.

The ‘electric’ man has since diverted some place, probably to some air-conditioned, red-carpeted office of 32 staff members. I look around me and imagine that if this bus was cleaner, if we had a bus lane, if public transportation was made attractive, then a lot of guzzlers would be left home for the bus ride. My stage is next. The conductor is standing by the exit doing math with a puzzled look on his face. I am feeling guilty and think that I should give him back the tip. I walk towards him and the exit, smile at him and walk out.


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