I was late for an appointment yesterday and stopped a boda boda. We shall call the driver Deaf. I told him the same thing I tell every boda guy, no matter how late I am.
“I’m not in a hurry ssebo. Please don’t overtake and please go slooooowly“.
In Uganda, you see, it is safer to assume that everyone is trying to kill you. Now Deaf here was not on my program. He was in a rush, yes sir. He had somewhere to be, godamnit. Abour five minutes in, he knocked another boda in front of us. For no forseeable reason that I could tell.
Brief insults went back and forth between him and the guy he’d bumped. I cautioned him once more and asked him to please be more careful or I would get off. We continued.
Now. We reached a turn where he was supposed to go right, then round a roundabout, then down a road and another right to leave me at my destination. Deaf didn’t want to do all that. By turning, instead, left, he could battle scant oncoming traffic and in 100 meters we’d ‘save time’. All the easier because the red traffic lights leaving the road clear of oncoming traffic gave him the all clear. I could feel him turning when I spoke gently:
“Please don’t go the wrong way, Ssebo. You’ll risk oncoming traffic if the police release them. I’m not in a rush. Go the long way. The right way”.
He ignored me and turned left. To the road that was only empty because there was no oncoming traffic. With what force I could, I squeezed his shoulders hard and said: “Turn the right way right now!”
He refused. He instead parked his motorcycle, right there in the middle of the road and snapped, “What’s your problem? We shall save time”
I got off his boda boda and started to walk, sighing. I was going to be late. He parked by the side of the road and stood in front of me, stopping me in my tracks.
“Give me my money”, he growled threateningly. “Give it to me!”
I was furious but also frightened. Why was it okay for this guy to ignore my instructions, put me in danger and then threaten me with bodily harm? Because his entire stance was suggesting immediate bodily harm.
“Well, I can’t give you all of the money”, I said sensibly. “Because of you, I’m going to have to take another boda for the other half of the journey”.
“GIve me ALL my money!” he shouted.
I didn’t have change.
“Go and get it from another boda at this stage here!” he barked. I was being classically bullied.
A boda man at ‘this stage here’ had been observing us. We shall call him Cool. He got off his machine casually and approached us. He spoke to Deaf.
“Ssebo”, he said. “I have been watching you. Not only did you break a traffic law and put your passenger in danger, but you’re also trying to scare her. What is wrong with you?”
Faced with a man-someone who could fight back-he cooled down faster than an ice cream in heat. He begun to gently explain himself. My rescuer cut him off.
“No, me I’m asking you to answer me. Why are you trying to scare her?”
Deaf was silent.
Cool turned to me, “Here is your change, madam. Pay this stupid fool and just get another boda“.
Deaf looked like a dog with a tail between his legs as I paid him. Cool stayed by my side until he had disappeared.
I like to think that because of Cool, Deaf will listen to his passengers in the future. Or at least make sure he’s alone before he tries to extort them for money he has not earned.
Either way, next time I’m in the area, I’m using Cool.