The Kameme Day

Right from when I was little, I always had a terrible and almost unredeemable bias towards taxi conductors. From the time I joined Bat Valley in Primary one up to the time I had to be shipped far away from the city for my boarding school education, I had several not-so-memorable run-ins with taxi conductors. Either I was being rubbed the wrong way by the overcrowding and over loading that they did or I was being pissed off by the foul smells of their armpits. And if it wasn’t that, then it would probably be the impatience that they displayed; reminding you to pay every after 20 seconds – something that absolutely pisses me off. There was always something about taxi conductors that simply made me mad.

Taxi ConductorStress

Sometime last month, I was reading an inspirational book about becoming a better person. A*- number of recommendations were made in the book; among them was walking in someone else’s shoes before judging them. After much thought, it occurred to me that the only way I would understand the madness that taxi conductors display was if I was willing to walk a mile in their shoes – or at least a few steps in the very least. I therefore decided to set aside one entire day to study the workings of taxi conductors.

I began by talking to a taxi owner who agreed to give me a day to ride in his taxi and monitor how his conductor ran affairs. Better still, the conductor and I agreed that I would play the role of conductor for a few hours – just so I could get the feel of how the job goes down. Below is a documentation of the events that transpired in what might as well be the worst day of my life thus far.

6:00 am – The Beginning

Mugwanya the taxi driver is calling me at such an ungodly hour. Why can’t he wait till 7:00 am when there is a bit of daylight? Ah! Anyway, let’s get this show on the road. I’ll take a quick shower and wait for my driver.

6:17 am – Mugwanya is here!

Woah! This dude is keen on his timing. I thought I would slide back in bed for another 5 minutes but look, it’s already almost 6:20 am and Mugwanya won’t let me get in any more sleep. Oh well, might as well go make myself useful.

6:25 am – What the hell … Is it snowing?

We have started picking the batambuze (passengers) but with this cold, I might freeze to death. Since we are doing the Kiwatule – Ntinda – Kampala route, we are starting from the Kiwatule stage, just next to Wings Coffee. No time for a quick cup of coffee though … the place is even still closed.

6:35 am – Where are the people?

We have been here at Kiwatule stage for about 10 minutes but the passengers are just trickling in. Where are the people? So far just 3 ladies and 5 gentlemen have boarded. 6 people to go, Mugwanya thinks we shall pick them along the way so we get moving.

6:50 am – Ntinda Stage!

We are arriving at Ntinda stage and one of the passengers seems to be looking suspiciously in my direction. She must have recognised me from somewhere …probably an old friend from High School who is too embarrassed to have a taxi conductor as an OB. Ah. Whatever. She will be fine. She is getting out … along with four other passengers. A few others have boarded and finally the taxi is full. Mugwanya tells me to remind whoever boards that it is 1,500 /= to town. Seems a bit too much but hey, I don’t make the rules. Between Ntinda stage and Kamwokya stage, passengers have exchanged positions with some boarding and others alighting along the way. One of the ladies handed me a 50,000 /= note when we were at Kira Road. Apparently it is the only note she had and so I had to figure something out. Mugwanya had some smaller notes so we survived that one.

7:15 am – Kamwokya Confusion

Good Lord! All this confusion at the Kamwokya stage. It seems like people have just emerged from their houses. Everyone suddenly wants to board at the same time. Then there are these noisy seemingly unemployed guys taking over my taxi at the stage. Apparently I have to pay them for bringing me passengers. What the hell! People leave their homes fully aware of where they are headed. What’s this bollocks? Mugwanya says I should not throw a feat or he might not be allowed to operate here tomorrow; when I am gone. Another passenger seems to be throwing strange glances in my direction. Maybe I should have worn a cheaper tshirt so I can be more in character. Also, I have a feeling htat conductors are generally not meant to carry Samsung Galaxy phones. I should have thought of carrying a cheaper phone. Ah!

7:30am – Wandegeya Jam

Now where are all these cars from? Too many taxis, too many private cars and one heck of a mad traffic jam. I wonder what time we shall leave this place. Hope we make it to town and back to Kiwatule quickly coz I need to get back home and survive this madness. Small problem though – one passenger insists that he will pay 1,000/= to town because that is what he usually pays. Apparently he did not hear me tell passengers that it would be 1,500/= to town. Should I throw this one out or what? I hate confusion. Mugwanya says I should be very clear when telling people how much they will pay. Fine! But first, this dude must pay 1,500/- before I can move on to other passengers. Traffic is now flowing and we are on Bombo Road.

8:00 am – City centre Madness

We are getting into town but it appears the traffic jam is even worse. How do people get to work on time with such madness? This other guy is still not paying up his full fare and I’m starting to run out of patience and ideas. A different passenger is alighting from Watoto Church. A pretty woman boards, she goes to the back. But why didn’t she take this seat next to me? Meanwhile the other passenger at the end looks really suspicious. Does he even have the 1,500/- for fare? Looks like he just emerged from a drum of freshly fermented liquor – unkempt hair, dirty shirt and overly wide grin – must be a robber. Wait, is he paying …. Crap! I don’t have change for the 20,000/- note he is giving me. Let me ask for these others to pay as I try to make his change. Suddenly four other passengers hand me 20,000 /= notes. What the hell is this? Mugwanya weaves his way through the traffic and enters Shell Ben Kiwanuka. He instructs me to ask the fuel pump attendant to bail me out with some changed money; something that the attendant does – especially since we are buying some fuel from him. Almost all the passengers have left. Time to hunt for more passengers. Crap! Street parking chaps are on our case…

8:25 am – What a crazy city this is!

From the time we entered the city up until now, it appears no one has noticed that there is a Son of Serere masquerading as a Taxi Conductor. This is good, this is very good. I just might be able to pull off this game of pretence, assuming I do not die from the stress and noise making. And what is this I see about other Taxi conductors struggling for the same passengers as I am? WOAH!!! Three taxis want the same guy who seems in the least bit interested in getting on any taxi. This is frustrating!

9:00 am – Heading out of the City

Finally we are getting out of the city but Mugwanya tells me I should be planning for the ‘Ticket’. Up until now, I thought I knew everything we were supposed to. All I knew was he drives, and I collect. Turns out there is more … I have tickets to pay with authorities. Crap! Mugwanya insists we shall make the payment on our next trip. Wait a minute …. You mean there is another trip? Oh Lord No!! Let’s go back to Kiwatule so I can rest my head down

…. To be Continued.


a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
Follow @beewol on Twitter



6 thoughts on “The Kameme Day

  1. This is a nice one. I’ve always wondered how amidst all that confusion and passengers getting on and off, they are able to remember where they picked every one from and what fare they have to pay plus deal with rude passengers, passengers who want to get off right at the corner of the road or at the roundabout or illegal parking spots. Perhaps we need a day off on our calendar to mark as Ugandan Conductors Day or UTODA day or something..and yes an excuse to stay home from work (for all of us lovely people) because it will be a public holiday and the chaps will have a day off the streets of crazy Kampala and without taxis, a lot of us can’t get anywhere. Loved this piece Bernie. Ode to the Ugandan taxi conductor.

    • Taxi Conductors really go through a lot. Some are really ill mannered and somewhat too noisy but there are those who are genuinely hard working and are stretched and stressed by arrogant and undermining passengers. I wonder why there is no public holiday to celebrate their work yet.

  2. I must say you are one tough cookie!
    I do not know if I could pull that off myself. Kudos to the hardworking conductors.
    Kudos to you as well. This piece is deep.

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