It’s like the conductor had quenched a fire. There was an uneasy silence all of a sudden It made one realize how much noise the teachers had been making. And if memory serves me right, and the stories we hear are true, these very teachers would beat the daylights out of the kids they teach(well, at least Mildred would!!). Yes, Ugandan teachers still beat other people’s kids. One wonders if that is a way of channeling the frustration of little or no pay. I even know a child who was beaten to the point of paralysis… but that’s a tale for another day.
So Mildred broke the silence(and I’m thinking to myself, does she have to talk all the time!)
Mildred: Gwe ssebo, meka?
Conductor: Bitaano mama.
Mildred: Sili nyoko. Tompita mama yo!
Aloysious: The boy is just trying to be polite, you don’t have to be aggressive like that.
Master John Mary: You know!! Wama Conductor kwata ssente zo. (He passes a worn five hundred shilling coin).
Mildred: Shya, don’t tell me your things. Us we used to board for 300/=.
She fumbles in her bag and her hand emerges clutching three coins. She passes them to the conductor. This is the part where it becomes interesting.
Conductor: Mama, zibulako nusu bibiri.
Mildred: Twala eli. Ffe wano tulinyililawo bisatu.
Conductor: Mama, babmbi weleza sente.
Mildred: Sili mama yo!
Nantaba: Mildred, be calm. It’s five hundred. Just give it to him.
Mildred: I know. I just don’t want to give it to him.
Aloysious: You just don’t want? What are you talking about? This is his work and that is the fare. Have we all not been talking about how ‘eadmaster is not paying people. Why should we take it out on other people?
Master John Mary: Point!
Mildred: Waah, shya. Don’t preach to me. You are not my husband. I know what I am doing.
Suddenly, the taxi screeched to a jolting halt. Then a voice spoke with authority. Hitherto, the driver had been silent, minding his own business. but this issue had now become his business, and in English more articulate than yours, he spoke out.
Driver: (Addressing Mildred) Woman. do you have a small hole on that big head of yours? Because I am not going to listen to you insult my boy.
Mildred: It can talk.
Do you know when, in the movies, somebody says something dumb to a big burly fella, and the said fella turns slowly? Well, normally we know what will happen next. As per this scenario, we did not expect this. Driver man, got out of his place, walked to the conductor’s side, opened the door and dragged Mildred out by her hair. Yes, I am telling you! Next he proceeded to yank her head back and forth. Mildred was screaming, bodaboda men had gathered, passers-by were aghast and we in the taxi were kinda satisfied with the scene. I mean, someone had to shut that thing up and put it in its place.
By now, Mildred was crying mercy. Somehow, the onlookers had learned of what had happened, each in a different version. Driver man was just about done with Mildred by now. He let go of her hair, which now looked like there was a wet black hen sitting on her head.
Driver: Now pay up!
It was like magic. She handed a five hundred shilling coin to the conductor.
It left me wondering, why treat other people how you do not want to be treated? You see her a bitaano coin cost her her weave? But let’s get back to the point. All ye that employ teachers, pay them well, because , like Mildred, they will take their frustration out on the wrong people and it won’t be nice!!