The other day, I had the misfortune of being stuck in traffic for about 3.5 hours while headed home from work. A journey that usually takes me no more than half an hour this time took 3.5 hours.
I was at Uhuru Highway, and for the better part of the 3.5 hours, I was between that Intercontinental junction and that junction that leads to parliament. A stretch of about 100 meters. I don’t know why we were stuck in traffic for that long. So anyway as I was sitting there in traffic, my chest was full as I have a certain schedule as to when I should express or breastfeed. It was way past my scheduled expressing time, so I kept worrying that by the time I got home, my breastmilk would have converted to yoghurt.
But the yoghurt issue was not my major worry. What was causing me untold agony was the fact that I was forced to do something that I never like doing while in traffic. Something that causes me total mental anguish. And that is turning off my engine. Oh, how I dread doing so!
Now, common fuel-saving sense dictates that one turns off the engine when the car is not in motion, such as when traffic is at a standstill. And I know that. I don’t dispute it at all.
But one of the worst fears I have is that of the engine refusing to turn on again when the traffic starts moving. Oh my, the nightmarish feeling that it gives me? Wacha tu! I’m a woman, and the possibility of such an incident usually scares the living chickens out of me.
Usually how it happens is that I refuse to turn off the engine even when I’ve not moved an inch for 10 minutes, all the while cursing why we’re not moving because it might just force me to turn off the engine because my fuel will run out. And the mere thought of me running out of fuel is even more scarier, so when that thought crosses my mind, I instantly turn off the engine -only for me to realize that all the while my car was the only one whose engine was still running.
And now with the engine off and bored with my own company, the radio becomes my savior. And I enjoy the music until the time I spot, from a far distance some motion ahead of me, meaning the traffic has began moving. And so I sit up and start interceding and praying for God’s mercies upon my life, asking him to please make my engine start.
I remember one time I was happily enjoying the Sundowner show on KBC hosted by John Obongo Jnr when traffic started moving. So when I turned on the ignition, all I heard was a clicking sound. A weak click. The engine was dead. As dead as a dodo, whatever a dodo is.
Please Jesus, this just cannot be, I thought, as my heart went into full panic mode. The time was around 6.45pm and I was over there near University way roundabout. With my palms now all sweaty and my hands shivering, I tried to turn on the engine again, but it was the same clicking sound. I even tried to dance around in my seat, hoping that my shaking movements would reawaken the engine. But nothing.
Meanwhile, the drivers behind me were hooting endlessly. Which was not good because they were making me more confused and distracting me from trying to focus on my prayers and my engine trouble. I exerted all my mental energies into the engine, and began chanting:
“engine please start, engine please start, engine please start….but nothing doing.
I was scared stiff, confused, sad, heartbroken and just basically devastated. My eyes were almost tearing from my state of helplessness. And other motorists passing by and saying; “madam ondoa jam” were not helping ne much. Others were saying: “madam just push the car aside” as they passed me before speeding away. Aki si people can be insensitive sometimes? Now how do I push the car aside –alone? Surely!
Since I was near the roundabout, I saw a cop hastily coming towards me with his hands animated in the air bellowing “ni nani analeta jam hapa?” God, I almost cried because I thought Mr. Policeman was going to yell at me or beat me.
But one look at my teary eyes and the completely helpless state of this damsel in distress made his toughness instantly melt away -just like ice on fire.
Mr. Policeman hurriedly mobilized a few passers by to help push the car as I jump started it. Thank God the car was a manual. Problem was I didn’t know how to jump start it because I understand you have to be at a certain gear to do so. But not to worry because Mr. Policeman quickly told me to get out of the car, he jumped inside it and ordered the passers by to push the car while he jump started it (I don’t even know if cops are allowed to do so). And as he did so, he told me: “sasa wewe control traffic.”
Hahaha, he was a cop with a funny bone that one. Imagine me controlling traffic at the University way roundabout!
Within seconds, my engine was up and running, and off to go I was ready. The happiness I felt could only be compared to what I felt when I completed my last paper in Form 4. I was so pleased with Mr. Policeman, I wanted to plant a kiss on his cheek. But public decorum prevailed so I restrained myself.
And then in this new Kenya of ours, nowadays we don’t offer bribes, but because I really wanted to show my appreciation to the cop by not buying him chai (because chai is a bribe), I told him that I wanted to buy him airtime (because airtime is a sign of appreciation).
But he declined my offer, telling me that he was helping me because he goes by the ‘utumishi kwa wote’ moto of the police force. Aaaawwww, aint that just so sweet?
Oh my! Like an intriguing novel that i’m reading or this heartbreaking soap operas that are so captivating kwa all da channels …..lakini pole sana dada…the good part is that da “novel” ended wid a lighter note…
@Davi yes thank God it had a happy ending -Just like it happens in those telenovelas:-)
Funny i see men switch of their engines all the time but am always scared of doing it….dont mind that i drive a vitz which just but sniffs the fuel thank God….nice read and kudos to Mr. Mtumishi kwa wote :)I once had a roundabout encounter, when i first started driving and had the L…i couldnt balance the clutch, the car went off and my legs were shaking so hard i couldn’t start the car 🙂
Lol @Mama Ajani you have made me laugh (at you and at myself). When I had my L sign I had a manual and as I was climbing that Bunyala rd hill on my way to Kenyatta Hosp, I wasn’t able to balance the clutch and the engine went off. I tell you I almost died. Just like you I was shaking all over and I was so scared and confused, I swore never to drive again. But honestly why do motorists behind keep hooting when they can obviously see you’re in a dilemma? Waah!
Well, two stories come to mind…I took my dad’s car, and my sis, her gals and I ventured into town. Now, you’ve got to understand that there are manual cars, then there’s my dad’s 505 Peugot. Long story short, got stuck – hill balancing, so switched off the car and just sat there building up traffic. Guard came to check what was wrong and I was so flustered I couldn’t speak..my sis explained the scenario. Guard went and brought stones and placed them behind the wheels. Needless to say I took off like a bullet 🙂 From then Ed and I carried stones in the boot whenever we went gallivanting….thank God for automatics!!!
Second story..got a call from my mum last year to rush to hospital as my cousin was in a bad state and asking for me. So off I dash, praying and promising God all sorts of things. Then on Mombasa road in traffic, car went off…and stayed off. Thinking back, I laugh at how much I pleaded then shouted at the car and generally paced up and down fiddling with the battery….eventually my threats to burn it must’ve worked 🙂
@Emma LOL! You used to drive around with stones in your boot? That is just too funny. And taking off like a bullet -waaah! But true, car stalling in the middle of the road is such a nightmare for we women.
LOL . You all are hilarious but not alone! I’ve been stuck a couple of times but the worst was during one of the worst winters that we’ve ever had. The engine, lights, radio everything just went dead in the middle of the road at 7:45 am which is rush hour here. Since that day, I learnt how to jump start a car and even bought one of those jump starting things that don’t need another car to jump start another car.
One lesson that I learnt the hard way is that your not supposed to listen to the radio when your engine is off – that drains the battery and could be why your car didn’t start.