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HUMOUR MORALITY POLITICS

There is a name for pissing in public

It is dumb, as are many things Nairobians do

You have seen them. At the corners of perimeter walls along the roads. Inside alleyways in town. Around clumps of bushes in the more leafy suburbs. Between electric posts with precariously dangling transformers. Heck, everywhere.

And if you have not seen them, you have at least smelled them out. They perpetually project their olfactory offensive without your ever seeking them out. I am speaking of Nairobi’s public urinals. No, not the ones run by Kanjo.

Nairobi is a city of walking men. Forget all that hype about more people buying cars and traffic jams constantly hamstringing our growth. By and large, Nairobi walks to and from work every day.

If you do not believe me, ask the guy from Kibera who works at Industrial Area. Or the dude from Mukuru who mints his daily bread at a mjengo in Donholm. Or maybe the fellow from Okongo who makes his living selling wares in Gikosh.

Perhaps the young accountant from Allsops who walks from town to the office in Ngara and back every day will be more convincing. Maybe even the computer programmer with a gig at the iHub. OK, OK, you get it. Away with your car. You are a minority.

I do not mean to look down at these honest folk. Their labours are actually the source of Nairobi’s famed wealth. But man do they piss on walls as they walk to and from work. Literally.

I mean, you will be walking behind a guy along one of Kidero’s unfinished (or never-really-started) sidewalks and all of a sudden, without even looking around out of feigned modesty, the fellow dashes into the crook of the wall on the left.

The designer of the crook probably meant it for some aesthetic purpose. Maybe they even initially had some exotic grass growing there. But when you get to it, your heretofore fellow walker is busy adding to the handiwork (bladder-work would be more appropriate) of hordes of predecessors.

The task is the unenviable one of turning the crook into a barren brown patch and veritable stink-corner, toxic even to the toughest grass ever bred on earth. What is more, merely seeing him there makes your bladder tickle, turning you into a potential companion.

Some property owners, perhaps exasperated with this jungle madness or just out of convention, have taken the trouble and marked their walls as out of bounds for this hideous business.

Predictably though, in true Nairobi fashion, the very spots under the labels bearing this message immediately become the best haunts for the worst offenders. They instantly gain the familiarly offensive visual and olfactory signature. So much for the trouble.

If you are there comforting yourself on not being a walker, and therefore out of this felonious group, here is news for you: I have seen people park their jalopies and dash into bushes or against walls. You see, this here is not just about people who walk. It is a phenomenon that has come to define this city.

It would be quite a sport to accost these people after they are done with their business and ask them why they did it. I was deadly pressed, one will say. I always use the spot, another will say. Yet another will chime in with a perfectly worded insult. He might even threaten to beat you, or maybe even do it.

The last one will say nothing, realising he is wrong, and walk away. If you follow them for the next few days, you will find them doing the same thing elsewhere. But the one place you will never find them doing it will be their doorsteps.

This is what happens when people do not value community spaces for what they are and rather look to see what they can get out of it. The relief of some pesky hand garbage, the let-out of a swollen bladder and even, in extreme cases, the emptying out of a full rectum. The choice is yours. This is gross stuff. Believe me when I say I do not like talking about it. But I have to.

Nairobians are some of the vilest, dirtiest, noisiest and most meddlesome of city dwellers one will ever find on this little blue planet. The worst part is that they are the worst finger-pointers as well. Nevertheless, if it is any consolation, there is a name for all this. Dumb.

And you do not know how much it pains me to say that. Because I am a Nairobian too. And I have just pointed — outwards — all my ten crooked fingers. Do not look at me like that. I did not say I was a good example.

This is the first part of a new weekly series commenting — in a half serious, half tongue-in-cheek manner — on Nairobi’s more peculiar habits. The idea is that we get to change what we can, not to get entertained, though I hope this will also happen.

Feature Image: The Standard.

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