As a mature adult who gladly files nil returns every June, I take seriously my legal responsibility of peeking into people’s phones in matatus. It gives me a chance to make insightful remarks about strangers we happen to be traveling together, just in case we are asked to form groups on an impromptu trip to heaven.
For a long time, the arduous responsibility had been a dreary one, where the only things I managed to see were people chatting on WhatsApp, or playing some really stupid game such as candy crush. That was nothing to report about, not until the other day.
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It was a Friday, at noon, when I calmly locked the door to my house, walked a few meters and went back to check if I had really locked it. Satisfied that I had actually locked, proceeded (still calmly) to the stage. An excessively pimped up manyanga stopped and the conductor spread all his fingers to indicate the fare to town. Using the capture and recapture method, I concluded that it was the right amount.
I boarded it and scanned studiously, with passenger’s eyes encouraging this arduous intellectual endeavor, whereupon I selected a seat at the back for one great aesthetic purpose – it was the only seat. As if it was fitted with thousands of tiny invisible thorns, I carefully laid my Kalenjin ass on the green seat.
The seat could afford me a 360-degree view of the passengers, and my attention was drawn to a fine lass seated in front of me. She had these bright red acrylic nails. I watched her dive these nails into what I considered a dangerous territory and fished out her phone. The phone had a cover with bunny ears at the corners.
The lady with red acrylic nails pressed the power button and then proceeded to draw a pattern as complex as nuclear physics. From my experience, her phone was more secure than our IFMIS systems. She couldn’t draw the correct pattern on the first try. Neither the second.
On the third try, she managed to bypass the security feature, then entered a pin as long as River Nile so that she could open her WhatsApp. At that point, I was wondering the kind of job this lady did. One way or another it involved her phone. There’s no way in hell you can put such stringent security measures on your phone if you just used to receive calls, send texts, and occasionally updated your IG account.
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A while later she switched to the gallery, browsed through a couple of photos. She stopped at some, studied them in the same way you would study a mathematical problem that involved numbers and letters either on top or below each other, went to another or deleted them.
Then bingo, the photo that I had all along been waiting to see on someone’s phone. It was the photo one of the greatest news quality as taught in schools; unusualness. There, standing at attention, was a cartoon drawing of someone’s mjulubeng, and a lady on her knees eyeing the promulgation weapon with the keenness of a surgeon. The lady looked at it and a wry smile registered on her heavily made-up face. I can’t guess what was on her mind, but it must have had something to do with Chinese debt.
Happy about this unusual sighting, I concentrated on the music playing on decibels that suggested that all passengers were partially deaf. It was great music that awakened nostalgic feelings. Some really nice old school music that introduced our teenageness to the idea of love – pure and undefiled. I personally was yearning to go back to those days when I could just sleep without ingesting some mind-altering substances into my body.
The effects of the music were quite profound as nobody wanted to alight from the matatu when it got stuck in that jam at Ngara. Everyone was quietly seated, engaged in their own teenage thoughts and perhaps wondering where the rain started beating them. As far as I was concerned, life can’t get any cruel.
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