Matatu Phone Snatching
There are two voices to avoid like a plague. One, the one that convinces you to sleep just a little while even after your alarm goes off. And two, the one that tells you to use your phone in a matatu while your window is open.
The latter is the real demon.
It was one of those evenings in Nairobi when the fare hikes to unreasonable figures and people still scramble to get in the matatus. The quite civilised ones, like those boarding embassava matatus, queue for about an hour. If patience was a person… But us, Waiyaki Way gang, we just have to either scramble or scramble – no other way buana! Survival for the fittest.
The scramble at times don’t go well. One or two lose a leg or an arm, majority lose what’s in their pockets or purses. As it turns out, some of the scramblers are actually there to steal from others in the pretence of scrambling to get in.
This one evening was no different; busy streets, noise, dust and hawkers all over.
We scrambled at the entrance to win a seat. And once in, I breathed out a sigh of relief, wiped some sweat off my temple and sank into the nearest seat.
This is pre-covid by the way – when masks were only common in hospitals and quarantine was still a vocabulary.
You hadn’t struggled enough to get in if you never dropped a sweat. Everyone that managed to get in either had a patch of sweat showing under the armpits or a stream on the face. And the atmosphere never got better with such sweat swinging afloat. More reasons why the windows had to be opened; not just to cool, but to also to save our nostrils.
And that’s when everything goes wrong.
The gentleman seated next to me, adjacent the window was so happy to have gotten in. He didn’t say it, but his visage exposed a whole colour of bliss and satisfaction. He looked mid 30’s just by peeking at him but his dress code would have you mistakening him for a 21 year old. He had a white tshirt written BOSS, a black trouser and some expensive-looking white sneakers that one could hardly miss to spot. He also had a few chains weighing his neck down. On his head dangled a baseball cap which he removed intermittently to wipe off sweat.
The matatu was full. The conductor got in, gave a peruse over our heads to make sure no seat was empty then slammed his palm on the door, “todhie!”
There is always an unexplainable traffic before getting out of town. Matatus have to dodge and at times use the pavements to escape the snail pace.
The gentleman next to me fished out his iphone and power bank to keep himself busy. He placed the power bank on his left lap, then dived into chatting. He was so swallowed in the chatting that the traffic never bothered him, unlike the rest of the passengers.
It was not long before a swift hand appeared through the window, grabbed the iphone and disappeared into the crowds. The only sound we heard was “mwizi!”followed by numerous shutting of windows.
“Aki pole, hio imeenda tu hivyo.” One of the woman seated behind us sympathised.
A lump of laughter stuck on my neck, but I couldn’t let it out. The lump grew so strong that it inflated my cheeks and produced what came out like a loud fart. The gentleman gave me the you-think-is-funny look then shook his head in disbelief.
He kept on looking out the window, trying to trace the thief. No one seemed bothered either. Everyone continued with their activities as if nothing had happened. The only voices heard were those of fellow passengers sharing their ordeals with their seatmates.
On seeing that no one really cared that his iphone had been snatched, he took the power bank that was on his lap and squeezed it in his pocket.
The traffic was now opening up, and vehicles were moving smoothly. Everything under the eventide sky of Nairobi City went on as usual – hawkers yelling out prices, people scrambling to get in matatus, some rushing to get in their night shifts and some, someone mourning the loss of an iphone.