My father coasted through a bustling upper middle-class slum, deep in the heart of Next to Suburbia. Occasionally hooting every time he had to drive past a pedestrian or cyclist. In such a town, where the novelty of the car wore off with the invention of sliced bread, I wondered why he had to toot toot his beep beep so religiously.
I hissed every time I heard the damn horn blare. Was it really necessary?
Eventually dad carefully parked the car off the road. He got out, walked around the hood and opened my door.
My father defines succinctness. He was also being uncharacteristic. The man would never even hand me money. I once asked him for 1000/- to buy some food, and he accompanied me so that he could pay for it himself. We Kikuyus like value for our money. To a fault. But I wasn’t about to question my father’s sudden generosity.
I gingerly clambered over the centre console and got to driving as soon as he was buckled in.
I indicated I was going to join the road, swerved in like I was queen of the town and put my foot down.
‘Stop that this isn’t a manual car,’ Father spoke.
‘Hold the steering wheel properly.’
‘Can you use the brake pedal! This isn’t a manual car.’
‘Watch out for that cyclist.’
‘Watch out for that pedestrian.’
‘Watch the road.’
I’d had enough. As a 19-year-old new driver who had just received her licence, I was not about to be instructed like I was a fool.
‘The pedestrians and cyclists can see me, what do you want me to do?’
‘You need to beep the horn a bit so that they can be aware.’
‘Si I’ll just swerve a bit?’
‘What if there is another vehicle oncoming? What if they aren’t paying attention and decide to cross over to the other side?’
‘How is it my problem if they are the ones not paying attention?’
The car went deathly quiet.
‘Stop the car.’
I parked the car beside the road. Father unbuckled his seat belt and turned to face me.
‘You need to understand something Wangui. It’s not about being right. It’s about being considerate. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if you just considered them before contributing to a crisis that could have been prevented by you being aware of any eventualities?’
Damn, he was even dropping the thesaurus words. And when Father dropped words like evenshuaretes, you listened intently. But still…
‘It’s not my fault if they are the ones not paying attention. Who told them to walk on the road?’
Father sighed. I was playing with fire.
‘What is easier? Hooting and letting them know there’s a car coming or wiping a young woman’s brain off the asphalt because you were on the right?’
I bit my lips to suppress the urge to argue.
‘You see Wangui, you need to mind your Kenyan. Anywhere you go, just be mindful. When driving in a residential area, you just drive slowly in case of children playing by the road. When you are dropping someone off, you make sure you park somewhere it would be safe for them to walk away. When you are driving on a wet road, drive carefully so that you don’t splash pedestrians.’
‘Aiii and the way me I’m splashed all the time.’
‘So that gives you the right to make other people miserable?’
I bit my lips again.
We remained quiet. I looked up at him. We awkwardly watched each other, breathing in the fragrant urban air of overrun sewage and stale diesel smoke. He stared at me some more then clicked his tongue.
I joined the road making sure there were no oncoming vehicles or pedestrians. We continued on in silence. I was tempted to start a conversation but Father wore a forbidding but hilarious look on his face. An unending frown, narrowed eyes, pursed lips. He looked like he was withholding a sneeze that was sure to release a noxious fart. Nobody was laughing.
As we drove on, a cyclist joined the road. I put my foot gently on the brake and hooted. He held out a thumbs-up as we drove past him. I looked at my father. He was smiling.
‘Watch the road.’
I would like to thank all my readers for being with me through this journey. We have reached 10,000+ hits due to your loyalty, your willingness to come laugh at some of my misery, rejoice in some of my good news or reading because I forced you too.
Thank you all once again.
This will be the final post of The Nairobi Pedestrian.
No, I haven’t gotten a car yet. But I am getting my own site- posts to come soon. Thank you once again.
The Nairobi Pedestrian.