We were stuck in traffic this morning at around 0720 hrs right next to car & general in industrial area. I was reading Heck: where the bad kids go and didn't notice the traffic cop approaching the mat. No other passenger seemed to notice him either. And if they did, they must have assumed he was on a routine check of the driver's documents. The cop talked briefly to the driver then walked round, opened the door and took the kange's seat. That's when it hit me that it had been a long while since I had last seen the kange.
The second time, one of the female officers walked in to take the names of all those who had not worn seat belts. Most of the matatu crews seemed to know her for they crowded around her, some tried to sweet talk her into going easy on them. She handled them with the exasperated patience of a mother with unruly kids.
The third time, was to summon Em. Apparently he knew the OCS, the lucky bugger. He flashed us a smile and left. For the first time in my life, I truly understood the power of having friends in high places. I was so envious of the extra spring to his step; my insides churned green as I wished we could trade places if only for that one day. K scooted over, "You were going to school?" he asked.
There was C: We had been arrested together. She was a pint-sized young lady. Cute with doe-like eyes that made me want to hug her and tell her it was not so bad. She was scared, but not losing it.
Mama Kanjo: Not her name but she told me she worked for city council as she sat down next to me. She was matronly and chatty. Talked with her hands, constantly touching my arm as if to emphasize a point. She had been arrested in Pangani also for not wearing a seat belt. Next to mama Kanjo was a slender, gorgeous lady in a trouser suit. The only time she spoke was to tell us -after mama Kanjo asked her- that she had been arrested because some money went missing at her workplace. What amazed me was that she didn't look worried at all...
A lady in a short denim skirt stood by the door constantly talking on phone in a manner that would have grated on our nerves had it carried over the din. I christened her Petunia. She was loud and a touch neurotic. On the bench across from me, was a serious looking woman I called Umbridge. She looked peeved and stiff the entire time we were there. Not even once did she relax or smile. Next to her was a lady with braids who had been arrested together with mama Kanjo; happy lady with a loud hearty laugh and finally, at the corner was a pregnant lady who had been arrested in Kilimani for abusing a cop.
I sent a text to R. "I'm in a holding cell @ high court. Didn't wear a seatbelt...cool cell mates."
R immediately called back. "You're such an ass for letting me know now. You ok?"
I grinned. He'd said ass in Kyuk. And no, he hadn't been referring to the donkey. "I'm good."
"They'll fine you 1k max. You have that on you?"
"Cool. I'm on my way." He clicked off.
Mama Kanjo was hilarious and kept us entertained. We didn't even notice time go by till a cop opened the door some minutes to 11a.m and told us to step out. The guys were already out in the hallway lined up. We lined up infront of them and paired up. After being briefed on how to behave when court was in session, we were ordered to hold hands then trekked up the stairs towards traffic court n.o 7. People stopped to stare and I didn't blame them. We were an odd mix of a hundred or so people, in pairs and holding hands. Once inside the court room, we waited quietly (with cell phones swtiched off) for an hour before the magistrate finally arrived...
*Court room lessons*
With no distractions, the waiting drove me nuts. It gave me too much time to brood. Made me restless as I thought of all the things I could be doing till a voice in my head pointed out that I'd be seated at my office desk drinking mud like coffee as I mumbled at the computer screen. Once in session, I got insight into the downside of matatu business. And it's not for the faint-hearted. I witnessed the extent at which a mat owner can get burned. Case in point; there was a Nissan mat owner who had five of his mats impounded. Reason? they were operating with defective parts (how a cop can pull over a vehicle & be able to tell it has defective parts puzzled me). The fine? 7k to the driver for driving a defective vehicle and 7k to the owner for allowing a defective car to operate, PER vehicle. If it's a bus, the driver and the owner are fined 15 k each per vehicle. Citi hoppa had a total of 12 buses impounded for having defective parts. And oh, for using the wrong route, there was a Nissan driver fined a whooping 20k. The figures made me wince. Personal car drivers were not spared either and their offenses varied; from driving with a mutilated driving license, jumping traffic lights to obstruction.
Important fact to note: The prosecutor is nothing like the one on Be the judge. The guy mumbled like he wasn't sure of what he was reading. I couldn't understand half of the stuff he was saying (the magistrate & court clerk seemed to have no trouble though). Worse, he kept picking his nose every time he spoke. And constantly dozed off as the court clerk droned on!
By 2 pm, the session was over. I caught a peek of R waving at me and grinning like crazy from the open doorway. He enjoyed this way more than was legal. Now we had to wait for the cashiers to come in and wait some more for our names to be called up to pay the fine. I kept thinking I needed an iced coffee badly. That and a cold shower. It would have been a long wait too had R not talked to the court clerk. I don't know what he told her (he knows her; long story), 'coz she called my name and asked for the fine before disappearing into an office outside. A few minutes later, she was back with the receipt. And just like that, I was finally free to go. I said by goodbyes to K, S and C and quickly left the court room.
"Outlaw," R teased with a smile.
"And sooo not Sons of Anarchy."
"Tell me about it."
And I did.
NB: The above is a 10th February entry retrieved from the cutting room floor after much internal deliberation