Deaf waiter talks of his career and service to Jomo

Monday, September 16th, 2019 00:00 |
Gerund Mutethia serves a customer at the Continental Hotel (right) in Meru town where he has worked most of his life. Photo/PD/DORCAS MBATIA

He cuts the image of a man who knows his job well. True, he loves what he does. 

Dressed in a white shirt and a black pair of  trousers, Gerund Mutethia’s warm smile welcomes everyone who enters Continental Hotel and Restaurant in Meru town.

What most do not know at first glance is that Mutethia, 69, is deaf and dumb and he has worked at the hotel for over 30 years.

The highlight of his chequered career was when he served Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1969. He was just 19 years and Kenyatta walked into the hotel and ordered chicken.

“I did not know he was the President because he acted normal and interacted with other people with ease but I knew he was somebody important since there was a lot of security around him.

But I could see his eyes following me maybe out of curiosity because my colleagues were using gestures to give me instructions,” he said, through a sign language interpreter.

Famous joint

 About eight years earlier Mzee Kenyatta had opened the hotel, at the time, the most prestigious in the larger Meru region. 

Many dignitaries and top government officials used to stop there for a meal. The hotel which, was nicknamed ‘Staffroom’ because of teachers who thronged it during weekends and holidays, is still famous for succulent kienyeji chicken and samosa.

Born and raised in remote Marimanti, Tharaka Nithi county, and the second born in a family of eight, Mutethia says he was ostracised by family and neighbours, who perceived him to be a bad omen. 

He told People Daily even some of his peers refused to play with him or graze animals together, literally making him an outcast. 

“It was deeply traumatising,” he said. 

At the age  of 12, he ran away from home and sought casual jobs of grazing animals in Tigania and Igembe. Six years later, a friend took him to Meru town where he landed a job as a cleaner at the hotel where he rose to become a waiter.

Living with disability

However, Mutethia, who said he has never married, left his job temporarily in 1989 and joined Kaaga School for the Deaf. He learnt cattle milking and poultry keeping before going back to continue with his job at the hotel.

The charismatic and jovial hotel attendant has aged but his energy levels show no  such signs, and today he refers to Continental Hotel as his second home. 

The hotel manager Nicholas Munene says Mutethia  has developed a loyal clientele over the years, with many customers asking to be served only by him. 

The manager says the waiter, though living with disability, is the most trusted and genuine employee as he is committed to his work. “He is very intelligent, social and humorous. Customers, especially, at the bar wing love him so much some leave when they discover he is off duty,” he said.

Naomi Karimi, a customer, said she has known Mutethia since 1986 and prefers his services anytime she visits the facility.

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