We all like to believe that we are invincible. That we are somehow untouchable from the cruelty of fate. That there is a shield between us and all the bad things in the world. The kind of mentality that believes shit happens to other people. To be told in poignant or amusing anecdotes at the next party we will attend. I used to be of this camp. Until, I wasn’t.
It started like every other Sunday. The sun streamed in through my curtains to rudely awaken me from my much needed sleep. I remained in bed for as long as I could until my bladder protested the extended horizontal-ness. After settling down for a heavy breakfast, I got two phone calls. One was asking me to collect a parcel. The other one was instructing me to collect it immediately.
See, the service used wasn’t like the ones you find with above average reviews on Trip Advisor. Oh no, with this one, you go to the terminus and wait for the specific bus to arrive. To say I was annoyed, was understating it. The parcel was being delivered such that I needed to be there when it arrived. Otherwise it would go back to whence it came. The bus “company” doesn’t have an office. Or a shed. In this day and age in the 21st century, what kind of courier is that criminally inefficient?
I was in a dour disposition. When I arrived in town, I alighted at Agip and was planning to cut through to Harambee Avenue to get to the bus terminus. When I got to Harambee Avenue I was intercepted by a strict looking woman with camouflage uniform, an AK47 and a battle helmet. She smiled sadly at me and told me that there was no through way. I looked around for space to throw a tantrum but the presence of other unyielding camou wearing; helmet donning and AK47 carrying military people deterred me. I scoffed and turned around to take the long route round to the bus’ station.
The walk there was like every other walk in the city. I kept bumping into slow moving human traffic that seemed delighted to stop and gawk at every shop display window. Angered even further, I decided to walk along the roads where the insane drivers seemed to be in some unspoken agreement to test their spatial awareness. I lost count of the number of cars that almost knocked me with their wing mirrors and extended bumpers.
When I arrived at the bus stop, I was about ten minutes late. I had just missed the bus. But before the tantrum could explode, a kindly man with a faded green factory jacket explained that he had kept the parcel in their store. I bared my teeth in the semblance of a smile and stormed off with my parcel.
I bulldozed my way to my bus stage, pushing people out of my way and swinging my parcel to clear my path. Like a rhino charging, I was unwavering in my mission to go board a bus home. But when I got there, no buses were available. After looking around, I spotted one that looked like it was about to dock. I asked if it was the one about to head home and lucky for me- it was. The conductor asked me to stand aside and wait for the bus to get parked and start boarding. So I stood aside. But suddenly, I wasn’t standing anymore.
The world began to spin. I closed my eyes but when I opened them again, all I could see was black dots. I couldn’t go forward because a bus was reversing on to the road. For a minute- or an eternity- I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. I was barely standing. Somehow, I had enough awareness to find a post and lean on it. I kept shaking my head, hoping that the world would right itself. It didn’t. I spotted a set of steps into a shop and lowered my mass on it. I put my head between my knees and waited for the world to correct itself. Eventually it did. And when I regained cognizance, the shop owner, with a pinched face sour enough to turn a grape into a raisin, was telling me to go find a place to sit in the restaurant next door. His compatriot- or whatever- asked him to give me a few minutes to compose myself. That is what qualifies for help these days, requests to go find help elsewhere.
I inhaled heavily, repeatedly, until I could stand and board the bus. And while sitting there, waiting for the bus to fill up, the depressing thought occurred to me. Shit had just happened. To me. I stopped breathing but the city kept on moving. It was a strange experience, one that still makes me shudder. It could have been a lot worse. I could have fallen and had my stuff stolen by thieving Samaritans. And while I now have some kind of war story to share, I also have an important lesson. Don’t faint along Tom Mboya Street. You’ll be asked to go faint elsewhere.