Just where is the line drawn between maturity and keeping up with trends? Or is it being savvy? Or should I call it keeping up with the changes? It’s a cold Wednesday morning; I am standing by the roadside waiting for a ‘matatu. I can hardly feel my fingers, they are numb. The young man standing beside me looks beaten by the weather…he is mumbling a song I cannot recognize, but from the tone of his voice it sounds like a sad song, a song that is meant to implore the heavens to have a little mercy on his skin, a song that is supposed to clear the mist in the air and warm the atmosphere, a song that is meant to speak to the heart of his Mhindi boss to give him the day off so that he can spend some more time under his blankets and warm the thin legs of his newly married Tanzanian wife. I have waited for almost forty-five minutes and there is no sign of a matatu. A rosy Toyota Prado is approaching, it slows down and the driver enthusiastically hoots. He proceeds to pull over at about a hundred meters from my standing position. I briskly walk to the car,with my heart in my mouth and secretly thanking the heavens for answering the young man’s supplication. The driver hastily inquires of my desired destination.
“Town,” I answer while anticipating the most obvious statement that a man of his status subscribe to whenever there is a stranded lady involved.
“I’m driving there; do you mind if I drop you?” I did not mind at all. No, I did not have a choice because I was running late for a meeting. So, I hopped in without second thoughts. I know what you must be thinking! You are imagining how weird it is, but not after waiting for amatatu for more than thirty minutes. Meanwhile, the pleasantries continued.
“My name is Gilbert, “he said as I was reaching for the seatbelt. “And you are?”
“I am Lynn,” I responded, though feeling somewhat embarrassed for not taking the first step to initiate the introduction. Seriously, I was in his car, and the least I could have done was be chivalrous and get the conservation going, or so I think. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone introduce themselves like that; we are getting lazier by the day. You’ll probably hear someone say “Lynn”, or “I’m Lynn” just like I did. The young man who was standing beside me stayed put, he did not move an inch. His legs must have been too numb to move, or he must have decided to finish his prayer first. Gilbert’s car looked spotlessly clean and neat. His cologne made the air conditioner useless and his well-trimmed beard could make a pass for a Gillette commercial. He was clad in a white t shirt and a pair of jungle green shorts. He looked calm and one would be forgiven for imagining that he was driving away from his troubles, running away from his woes to a place where he was assured of eternal peace.
Gilbert appeared to me like a bossy person, and at some point he called one of his subordinates to ask why the sales were going down. I kept asking myself if this call was ever necessary at all. I mean, after getting to wherever he was driving to, he would have all the time to make calls; I did not sense any urgency in what he said. Or he desperately needed to prove a point. Anyway, Kwa raha zake! The most important thing for me was to get to town in time. We talked about the weather, the financial markets, Nairobi traffic, parenthood, and somewhere in there I remember him asking me about where I grew up! I have never divulged so much information to a stranger within such a short period in my entire life. He was asking the questions like a boss and I didn’t chicken out; I just wanted a peaceful morning. So, I answered in truth and deceit. I was hoping that he doesn’t ask me about what I had had forbreakfast.
At some point, we went back to conversing about our home town, turns out Gilbert lives just a few kilometers from where I do. He was complaining about a certain hospital, which up to this point I had noidea existed, so he went through the trouble of explaining to me its exact location. If he had more time, then I am sure he would have given me the coordinates of the place.“Is it next to such and such a restaurant?” I asked and before I could complete my sentence he interrupted “Oh yes, next to Club X. That club belongs to my friend, yes, my friend owns that club” he repeated with utmost pride. At this point, he probably felt that I should get out of the car, look for a gift shop and buy him a trophy to reward him for having a friend who owns a club. When he said it the first time, it was okay, it was no big deal, but he kept repeating it, in a way to make me see just how prestigious and lavish it was.