Recently after a few beers with friend I got into the last Matatu of the evening to head home. At this point I should explain something about the matatus that ply my route, they are not the awesome juggernauts with TVs behind every seat and one on the wheel just in case street urchins can’t live off just the hubcaps they steal. They are not even the moderately comfortable ones where we were four is being played at just the right level so you can talk on the phone without needing permission from the driver. They are in fact old, despairing vehicles that are held together by the will of the driver, the prayers of the passengers and the amazing assembly job done by some folks at a factory. Thank you factory folk.
The point is they are old.
Being the last Matatu I had no choice of seating places and sat on the last available seat. In these 14 seater mats that last seat is not usually a seat so much as a Houdini school of levitation exercise. Sandwiched between the conductor and the last unlucky but legal customer, there is usually a space. This space is meant o be used as a corridor, a pathway. Sitting n that space can make the most anorexic person feel like dieting(and not just because anorexic people always feel like dieting but because that space is really too small for a human being to sit in.)
We drove out of town and headed to this place that sells really cheap petrol. Its called the Kuwait petrol station a name that proves once and for all that in order for a petrol station proprietor to have a truly great sense of humour he must be in touch with the geo-political structure of the middle east and the effect such structure as well as economic fluctuations have on the oil market. However it was closed on that day. This is a major foreshadow of what’s to come next by the way.
We wound down the road home and at a point that was equidistant to the nearest petrol station and home the Matatu began groaning. Like a stomach without food, you know that point where you are so hungry it actually pains and if there was water you would drink it in the hopes of drowning your stomach but from past experience you know how close you are to not feeling hunger anymore. You know that moment and the sound your stomach makes right then? Well it was nothing like that, being that this is a machine.
However the conductor seemed to recognize the sound and he sprung into action. I don’t know much about cars but I love the way their power is measured in horses. I still think 4 horsepower is pretty fast that’s what they used to use to execute people in the old days, tie up 4 horses to each of the limbs and drive them away. But cars have (I was going to put a number here but I don’t know much about cars) a very high horsepower maybe in the 80’s or hundreds maybe even thousands. A very high horsepower is the point. A fact that added to my bewilderment at the next scene.
From days gone by when a geisha springs from the front seat (realized I spelt that wrong but it think this story would have been so much better if an actual geisha like the Japanese escorts sprung from the front seat.) anyway from the times when a geyser of hot water sprung forth from the front seat and doused the surprised few with a taste of what it is to be an engine I knew that said engine can be accessed from inside the car. But this conductor he went to the seat and tore off the engine cover, put his hand in there and immediately started pumping. Moving his hand up and down in a swift but sure motion that he could have only learned doing one thing.
As he is pumping away the driver keeps trying at the engine. It switches on and makes that satisfying hum you come to love if you ever had to jumpstart a car. Every time this happens am like we’re out of here but the mat doesn’t move. What the fuck? We’re out of fuel. Completely out it seems and the dynamic duo over here want to simulate X-horsepower by the pumping motion of one man’s hand. To have the tensile strength to do that with your hand I think we would actually need a geisha, happy ending anyone?
Well, after 5 or so failed attempts they decide this isn’t working and appeal to all the men in the car to get out and push it some distance back so it can roll downhill to the petrol station. This is a few kilometers back and not exactly downhill all the way. I put both my hands on the car and single-handedly, ok double handedly, ok I had help from all the other men, and to tell the truth it was barely a minute after this foolhardy attempt to get back to the station that we got help and a ride home.
So you see there was a happy ending.