You are squeezed into a small matatu seat, stuck in traffic along Waiyaki Way. The reason you are hemmed in, a woman the size of a rhino with a face painted like proper circus clown, has a little mirror suspended jauntily in front of her face.
She is carefully arranging some loose strands of the ancient horsehair wig sitting atop her head. You tried to offer her the window seat when she came in, but she made as if to leave the matatu and, out of pity for the conductor’s hard work, you capitulated. Now you are regretting it. So much for a beautiful morning, you muse.
Now the matatu is moving in fits and starts along the heavily patched up and jammed “highway.” Everybody is quiet. Probably wondering what they are doing, marching to and fro to the rhythm of their bosses as they do every day, you think. The same as you. But the matatu is not silent. A couple of radio presenters are cackling through its elaborate sound system like excited chicken in a barn. They laugh periodically, like the coarsest courtesans in the Turkish sultan’s harem. You do not want to pay attention to them, but every now and then, snippets of their base conversation comes to your ears.
By the time you step out onto the smoky and crowded bus stop smack in the middle of town, you have learnt how to have sex with nine women without getting HIV, gonorrhea, or any of them pregnant; how to seduce the neighbour’s wife; and how to buy a plot of land in a place you did not even know existed when you left your packed bedsitter in the morning. That not being enough, you have heard a whole hoard of women, accompanied by the odd man, calling the presenters to complain about everything from their guard’s advances on their spouses to their pastor’s wayward ways. And somehow, everybody seems to have enjoyed it. Everybody but you.
This does not happen once. It happens five mornings a week.
I feel you my guy. I am with you when you ask: if this is what is happening in Kenya, is it any surprise that American presidential hopeful Donald Trump should have been recorded saying the things he did? And are we justified in pretending to be appalled at his lecherous utterances? Our radio presenters say the same things every day, without batting an eyelid (needless to say, I cannot confirm this, since their faces are hidden behind their voices). We do not have to record them. They are recording themselves.
And as for those who call these shameless sex-obsessed radio stations, if you exist, do you expect pockets of stressed out people, bundled in creaking jalopies and trying to make it to work without dying, to really care about what your husband did with the house help three days ago? We understand, you have problems. But so do the rest of us. And, just like you, we have these people called relatives and friends to whom we go when we need help. Airing out intimate details of your private life in front of an indifferent audience that is only interested in the sensational bits does nothing to address your plea for help.
Look, I understand that we, as liberated 21st century Nairobians, absolutely have to listen to something on our morning commute. If the matatu were silent, the silence in our heads would drive us crazy. And the person we are seated with is a monster. We cannot start a conversation with them about anything. But a bunch of callous parrots ranting away endlessly about sex is hardly something to listen to. Listening to them like riding a motorcycle without a helmet behind an un-roadworthy garbage truck and expecting to be nourished on the acrid smoke and sulphurous stench. Of course you will just suffer and get a million diseases.
This is the third part of Nairobi Rants, a bi-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: journafrica.com.
Sign up to receive new articles as soon as they drop.