Things that dampen your mood in public transport
Your day could have kicked off with so much promise and you would be clinging onto that vibrancy until you get into, let’s say a matatu. The local public transport is mostly predictable, but there are moments when your energy can be completely be thrown off by certain things that can taint your whole day’s mood, writes CYNTHIA MUKANZI
1. Kiambu mud on your Clarks
This one gets to me every time. I hate it when I leave home with a sparkling pair of Clarks on me only for an unobservant commuter to plant their muddy footprint on it while shuffling past to get a seat or get off a matatu. One is forced to always literally hide their feet to avoid this messy affair, but it doesn’t always work. This can get you and your mood totally unsettled.
2. Strangers forcing a talk
Sometimes after a long day on the grind, all you wish for is to get home for some rest. But some strange passenger seated next to you will shamelessly try hitting on you. Others will force a conversation even when all signs are in the open that you are not interested. And a lot of people who do this without batting an eye are men. Even when you have headphones on, they will insist on engaging you in small talk when you just want to hibernate into a small corner within you and spend time with your mind and spirit.
3. Watch out for falling ‘objects’
I understand that sometimes sleep tends to be stronger than the human will. But when a sleeping person beside me sways from side to side pushing me out of my seat or falls on me, I might not have the strength to be smooth about it. I’m talking about a stranger, deep asleep and almost falling on your lap or in your face. It’s not a pretty sight and it elicits not so pretty feelings when someone is in your space like that. The boundaries of personal space in public transport are almost non-existent; so someone should not have to experience this further threat to the little that is left.
4. No ventilation
It’s no secret that sitting in a public service vehicle with your window open while in traffic could be risky because of the hawk-eyed thugs preying on passengers’ valuables. Hence you find people are terrified of opening windows even when there’s no danger, cutting off fresh air. Other windows just seem permanently hinged and can’t open, unless you break the glass. Sometimes it can get really stuffy and hot, but people will just sit through it. It usually makes me panic when I feel squeezed in a hard-to-breath and sometimes a smelly enclosure.
5. Loud drunks
Most of the loud drunks I have encountered in Kenya’s public transport happen to be men, again. It’s a common show of raging hyper-masculinity. They will even pick on other commuters and people will just watch as the uncalled-for drama happens. The bystander effect is one of the things that makes public transport unsafe for the vulnerable sections of the population such as women and children. They do this knowing that they will get away with ‘murder’ because people will just excuse their foul behaviour as ‘drunks being drunks’.
6. Zero phone etiquette
Maybe I have a problem for thinking that something is wrong with people who speak unnecessarily loudly on phone while on public transport. Especially those engaged in a conversation that necessarily shouldn’t be had in a public space. Others just want to show off and for what, I have no idea. People will not say it, but it gets on their nerves. It gets on mine.
7. Deafening music
Sometimes you just want a quiet ride, but that isn’t up to you in some mathrees. We know how the nganya culture is and when a matatu crew decides they are playing music, then it is on full blast, the volume that makes your eardrums scream and head spin. Those who dare to speak up against this decision are told to buy their own cars if they want a particular type of comfort. And the matatu crew will even have stickers all around their office reading, ‘If the music is too loud, then you are too old’.
It is uncomfortable to have strangers breathing all round into you and touching you. It really sucks. Most of the times, matatus overload out of pure greed; the unwarranted need to make fast cash by endangering passengers. And I fail to understand why people go through the trouble of getting into an already full bus to either stand or get squeezed between other commuters and still pay the full fare. I think we don’t respect ourselves enough. We should not accept such things that endanger our safety.
9. Poor customer service
It could be for one vacant seat, but the matatu will take an eternity in one bus stop until the conductor gets a passenger to take up that spot. Obviously it is time wasting and if you are in a hurry and didn’t leave a margin in your time then this eats into it. And when you complain, everybody else tends to be quiet as if they are okay with it, which they are obviously not. They won’t back you up. This attitude where Kenyans resign to such bad customer service and just take whatever is given to them without demanding for quality is really infuriating.
10. Your change just disappeared
Sometimes, getting your change from makangas feels like a tug-of-war and it is no fun. They will pretend to have forgotten about it (so that you forget) and sometimes get rude when you ask for it. Or they pretend they have no change. Puh! Nobody has the time or energy to play these games; but conductors do. And it really, really peeves!