It is an unusually calm Saturday evening. The CBD is in a restful mood and the Matatu stage looks deserted. However, virtually every seat in the matatu is occupied.
I am lucky to find one next to a burly elderly man who is scarcely bothered by my discomfiture. The tiny space he has left me can only accommodate half of my behind. I realise he is too deep in thoughts to even notice my presence. Or so I think.
After a few minutes on the road, I receive a call from a source. Oh, before I forget, I am a journalist. Yes, I snitch on people for a living. And we call those people who feed us with juicy info as sources.
This particular source wants me to confirm attendance to a meeting I had scheduled with a foul-mouthed politician. Mentioning the name of the politician will leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
“I have already confirmed with Mheshimiwa,” I told her. End of the conversation.
Somehow, the telephone conversation gets the old man next to me started. “Nimesikia ukitaja Mheshimiwa, kwani unajuana na hawa watu?” I don’t know how to respond to this. Yes, I am a journalist but one who spends a good chunk of his time scouring for stories from the Central Bank of Kenya, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the National Treasury documents.
I also talk to economists, financial analysts and CEOs. I hardly talk to politicians. And they are not that many on my contact list anyway. But, I know, out there, every journalist talks to politicians. This man would not be convinced if I told him I am a business journalist.
I just nod, and he lights up. He asks me if I can talk to Mheshimiwa to find his daughter a job. Her daughter, he tells me, works in a salon. She is paid a measly Sh5,000 a month working from dawn to dusk. “Mia Tano,” he says furiously, waving his fist.
“Unajua hawa watu ndio wanaweza kutusaidia,” he says about politicians. Detecting the desperation in his voice, I tell him I will try. “Nipe number yako…Hapana, ni vizuri wewe ukichukua yangu,” he goes on.
We are already at my destination, but he still has some miles to cover. Nonetheless, he decides to get off with me so I can take his number as he finishes the conversation.
I notice that he is a little tipsy. Ah, I had almost forgotten it was Saturday.
“Msaidie afadhali apate kazi hata ya elfu kumi ama kumi na tano hapo.”Passenger in Matatu
I promise to let Mheshimiwa know. “Tafadhali, utaongea na yeye?” he asks again. Overwhelmed by his entreaties, I promise to do something despite my helplessness.
He reluctantly starts walking away, and then, as if remembering something very urgent, stops then turns. “Umeoa?” he asks.
This question catches me by surprise. Why does he care if I am married or not? I barely know him. If I tell him I am not married, he will probably not trust me to help him. So, I just nod.
And then he sinks into a long silence before saying: “Nilikuwa nafikiria hujaoa, hata ningekupatia yeye kabisa,” he says, before both of us burst with laughter.
He keeps walking in the direction of the matatu, while I take the alley to my house.
Later on, much later, a thought struck me.
What if the man was not joking? Perhaps he wanted to get rid of her daughter in a more humane way. Or so he believes.
I could not help thinking of some of the worst decisions we have made out of want. Poverty is the enemy, I say.