Funeral passengers

The other day , i was travelling from my place of work to some offices in our sub-county headquarters.. Do not be mistaken, i work in a rural area, a small community in a tea growing zone where everybody knows everybody.I was supposed to taje some documents into our sub-county education office and rush back to work. I boarded one of those 7-seater vehicles that are supposed to be for private use but somehow are now functioning as PSV’s. In this part of Kenya, those 7 seater minibuses carry 13 passengers including the driver and the conductor. At some point on the journey, there is an unofficial  road block mounted by the policemen from the subcounty police post. Most of the time the drivers part with 50 shillings (half a dollar) which is actually a negligible amount of money compared to the massive looting that is going on in the country! As Kenyans we have learnt to look  the other way when the driver hands his driver’s licence with a 50- shillings note folded inside it. We have learnt to pretend not to see not to care what will happen in case the driver is overloading after the exchange of the money. We have learnt not to ask questions, after all we know that those policemen and women on the road are just minions sent by someone higher up in the police ranks  who will end up with unexplained 8 million shillings in his personal bank account. He will claim he works hard during police vetting,  but we all know that 8 million is that 50 shillings drivers have to pay everytime they encounter a police road block. Back to my story…On this particular day, i was seated infront, two other people were  squeezed between the driver and I. As we approached the usual roadblock, i saw the conductor stretch and pick two red ribbons from the glove compartment. I assume that’s what its called. To my horror, the driver stopped the vehicle and the conductor gave him one ribbon, then walked out of the vehicle and tied the ribbons on the side mirror. The driver did the same on his side mirror. I looked backwardsto see the reaction of my fellow passengers and they where all quiet. I thought someone will comment but nobody did!  The roadblock came into view, the police man manning it raised his hand fro the druver to stop,the driver slowed down but not with an intention to stop and as we neared the policeman, he waved his hand for our vehicle to pass to my utter consternation! We travelled out of view of the police and the driver stopped the car, he untied his ribbon and the conductor walked to my side and removed the other ribbon. I looked at him to see whether he was laughing or some expression that might tell me that he was amused  because i thought this was a joke..a sort of a sick joke. Neither he nor the driver was laughing. I laughed loudly and the other passengers laughed but nobody spoke about what had happened. I thought the pastor at the back would say something about tempting death but he did not speak. Then I thought, will they do this during their next trip because they will have to ferry back passengers since it was still early around 11 in the morning? The policemen will eventually realize that one matatu in  particular is ferrying funeral passengers to and from the sub-county headquarters, an even if they do not then someone surely has to wonder how many funerals can there be in a day and why one particular matatu. But my biggest worry was in us- the passengers! How could we condone that! Death is a serious business especially if you are on our Kenyan roads. I thought of Wole Soyinka’s The road, I couldn’t help feeling a sinking despair, what if death came because we had tempted it, canjoled? Eventually i arrived at my destination and made a terrible conclusion, Kenyans- I included have became so used to corruption such that when we see our fellows invent new ways of beating the system at its  own game we only look aside never questioning the consequences of these inventions!


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