The moment you make eye contact with a hawker it’s over for you. You immediately become a customer. A default customer, whether you like it or not.
I was coming back from work on this particular Friday. Fridays in Nairobi CBD can be so, what is the word, seductive? – you’ll rub shoulders with troupes of well dressed young girls rushing to clubs, another troupe waiting for others there at Archives then there are those that walk singular. Those walking singular, I presume, are those that are going for sleep overs. If you are lucky enough, you’ll bump onto them on Monday morning again, same black mini-dress, smelling Nivea for men.
I meet more of these young adults as I pace my way towards Odeon. Before I could spot a matatu, I – accidentally- made eye contact with a hawker who was selling sweatpants. He approached, smiling. He held two sweatpands on his left hand and used the right hand to block my way.
“Bradhe, angalia mali, ni mia mbili mia mbili tu.” He said, flipping open one of the sweatpants. I took a look at it, then remembered a street buying rule, “never allow a hawker to choose a product for you. Neffa!” I shook my head then bent to give a look at those lying on the floor.
“Hizi zote ni mali safi bro, ona hii.” He convinced, picking up another sweatpant, a grey one this time. No, that one looked baggy and a bit girlish – probably Vera Sidika could fit in it comfortably.
“Kuna place naeza pimia?” I asked, after picking five sweatpants that I found attractive.
“Hio ni ngumu bro, but hizo ni size yako kabisa. Kwanza hizo mbili za black.” He said, took one of the sweatpants and stretched the waiste. “Bro, mali clean. Leta nikufungie”
In as much as I found the sweatpants attractive and fitting, I still wanted to try them on before buying. I once bought a trouser without trying it on, only to get at home and realised it couldn’t even go past my zgwembes. And the worst part is that you can’t take it back and complain how small, tight or baggy it is. The hawker will not even give an ear. Once you buy it, it’s yours. Whatever the outcome, the blame is on you. You chose it yourself, and if you didn’t – you obviously didn’t follow the street buying rule.
Well, I give him to fold and put them in a carrier bag. I wished I could have tried them on but then ‘they are just sweatpants – I mean, they will expand if they are tiny and I’ll still look good in them if they are baggy,’ I thought.
“Ni how much?” I asked, foraging in my pockets.
“Hizi ni tano, kapa mbetse.” He said, handing to me the carrier bag. I took the bag, confirmed the sweatpants are in then got ready to bargain.
“Eeh?” The slang had missed me.
“Kapa mbetse, thao mbili.” He throws two fingers in the air to symbolize ‘two’ then continues, “si ni tano bro, na moja ni ksh 400.” His voice comes out bold. He is no longer the soft convincing seller, he is now bold and quite aggressive.
“Si ulisema mia mbili?” I get confused.
“Nilisema mia mbili mia mbili; ksh 400. Alafu umechukua tano, so inakuja ksh 2000.”
I gave a forged laugh. Deep down I didn’t feel comfortable giving the ksh 2000 for the 5 sweatpants. First of all, that was conning. He had said ksh 200 – but now he claims he said ksh 400, only that he said it while splited “mia mbili, mia mbili.” Why is this Nairobi so cruel lakini? I wonder.
Suddenly, from a distance we hear a tumult. I turn around to see what’s going on only to set eyes on a multitude of other hawkers running in one direction with their sack of commodities on their back. Not far from them, a white pick-up followed, cramming some of the hawkers onto the back cabin.
“Leta pesa bro.” The hawker who was selling the sweatpants shouted, signalling me to follow him as he got into one of the alleys.
I ran towards his direction whilst rummaging in my pocket for some cash. Other hawkers joined the alley and confusion suddenly struck – I couldn’t trace him.
After like 5-minutes of searching for him with no trace, I walked back to the stage and boarded a matatu. I intended to bring the cash to him the next day but I either forgot to do so, or I just had the fear that I would give the money to the wrong hawker. I still don’t know which is true.