Held Up in Traffic

 If you’ve ever been robbed at gunpoint, you know what it’s like, how they steal your money, your property, and your dignity. – from Wiki

It was a pleasant Thursday evening, around 5pm. I had just left work at Upperhill, walked to the parking lot where I met Kareynzs, a friend and former classmate. We were going to the Safaricom Women in Tech monthly meet-up at Safaricom House on Waiyaki Way, Westlands.

For Nairobians, we all know what a nightmare evening traffic is, especially around Upperhill. This means instead of a direct route to Uhuru Highway- Waiyaki Way, we decided to go use Valley Road, then to State House Road, to the Kileleshwa Bypass then to Westlands. I don’t think Google Maps has the Bypass mapped though, it kind of misled us but in the end we reached our destination in time. However, that is not the interesting part.

Roughly, same the route we used to Westlands via James Gichuru road

Roughly, same the route we used to Westlands via James Gichuru road

 

We flew (yes flew, my car is so light :-D) down Valley Road towards the junction at State House Road, and then stopped for the traffic lights to turn green. Okay I lie, we were waiting for the cop to (mis)direct traffic because at peak hours, traffic lights are hardly functional. As I stated earlier, it was one of those sunny evenings, and our windows were rolled down to enjoy a cool breeze. My friend and I were catching up as we listened to music and waited for the cop who was 3 cars away, to wave us on.

Suddenly, we got held up.. at shit point. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense!

There appeared at my window a chokora (street boy). He held down my window with his left hand so I could not roll it up. He was a wearing black, dirty coat and an equally filthy hat. In his right hand, he held human faeces, which were smelling fresh (and apparently steaming, said Kareynzs later). He said quietly:

“Auntie, haina haja nikupake hii mavi. Let mia mbili tu.” (Auntie, there is no need for me to smear you with this. Just hand over 200/-)

I had frozen when I saw that shit. In fact, it’s exactly like they show in the movies. Time freezes. The cop’s hand froze mid-air, there was silence in the air, the only sound was our heartbeats. I remembered reading on facebook of such incidents where people are held up, not at gun point, but at shit-point, by street boys.

And then, time unfroze, and I realized I didn’t want to have human shit smeared all over me. I scrambled around, found a 40 bob coin in -that space in the car where we put phones – and handed it to him. No way I was going to give him my last 200 bob (it was around payday and like most Kenyans, I live paycheck to paycheck).

“Shika hii 40 bob ndio niko nayo” I gave him the coin.

“Hapana, leta 200”. (No, bring the 200)

“Aki, hiyo ndio niko nayo” (That’s all I have).

Later, is when I realized I have bargaining skills, LOL. I am being held up at gun-sorry, shit-point and here I am bargaining instead of handing over the 200 bob.

 

kenya-40-shillings-coin

The Kenya 40-shilling coin. Image from http://www.kenya-today.com

He left, slithering quickly away among the vehicles idling in traffic. I rolled up my window. The whole exchange took maybe, 1 minute, but it felt like forever. I was shaking afterwards, still in shock. I realize we had been lucky, I mean Karey had in her hand her Samsung S3 mini, while just next to where I had removed the 40-bob coin, I had my Samsung Note III. But he hadn’t asked for them.. though I think if it had come down to that, I would have fought back and maybe we’d both end up with shit on our faces. I don’t know.

While evaluating the incident later, we wondered where he got the shit from. Did he um.. ask a friend to drop him something into the black plastic bag? Did he do it himself, and how did he know to stop? How much is enough? He also must have panicked, I mean there was a cop barely 20 meters away. That’s why he didn’t ask for our phones. We also knew it must have been unpleasant for him, I mean no matter how you live, human shit is not pleasant to handle

I felt so helpless and angry at being held up and there was nothing I could really do, unless I wanted to end up with shit all over my face (urgh!). How low can a human being sink, to what depths does the search for a livelihood lead one to use shit to rob people?

Although I try to keep my windows up in traffic and switch on the air conditioner, no amount of AC will ever beat the feel of a pleasant breeze across your face on a tropical afternoon/evening. Guys, keep your windows up and your doors locked in Nairobi traffic.

Afterwards, I still had to navigate the roads using Google maps that misled us, since the bypass appears not to be mapped. Somehow, we ended at ABC Place on Waiyaki Way, crossed the road and joined other women in tech trying to (or already did) scale the corporate ladder.

That is the story of how I got held up in traffic.

N.B.

Learn more about human faeces on wiki. Apparently, it comes in all colours including blue and purple, and can actually smell nice depending on a certain diet. However, what we saw on that day, was a normal, soft, brown, and smelly disgusting mess.

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5 Responses to Held Up in Traffic

  1. Mackel9 says:

    Oh shit, pole!

    Like

  2. woolie says:

    You were caught by surprise but you held your nerve – that was pretty cool. If you had made the wrong move this crook would have made a huge mess of everything which would just have added to your misery. Why or how do people sink to that level? The harsh realities of poverty and perhaps substance abuse may be the answer – consider the fact that he only ‘requested’ two hundred bob. The lessons of Nairobi, eh?

    Like

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