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?