Last Saturday I was in Kampala for a Rotary training seminar. My mum was in town and we’d made plans to have lunch, siblings and all. I was in a totally upbeat mood. When the seminar was done, they picked me up from Silver Springs in Bugolobi and we headed into town to run a couple of errands.
At one of the stops, I got handed the car keys, probably because I was the only male of driving age, the other occupants being my sisters and 8 year old nephew. The last stop was the Sheraton because I wanted to get my wedding ring resized, those of you who have seen me lately know why, but as we prepared to drive out, one of my sister’s clients called to say she was sending a boda guy to pick up some stuff. I didn’t think the boda guy would be allowed into the Sheraton so I suggested he meet us at the Grand Imperial parking lot.
Errands done, we drive out and I turn right towards the roundabout. And that’s where the story really takes off because as I came out of the roundabout heading up towards the Sheraton, out of the corner of my eye I see a blue car, driven by a guy, speeding down from Nakasero Road towards me and I thought, he’s going to stop, surely he knows he has to stop, so I didn’t brake or anything. And in the very next instant he shot into the road, missing my front end by what felt like a whisker, helped by the fact that I was violently swerving right into the road median that pedestrians use as a crossing mid-point from the Sheraton side to the Rwenzori House side. By the time I corrected the car’s trajectory to avoid crashing into the median, chap was speeding up towards the Sheraton.
Mind you, my sister’s car is a big 4×4 and it’s a bit difficult to miss, visually.
You know how in novels the author describes a red mist of anger descending upon a person? Let me assure you, that stuff is real. I don’t know how it happened but I remember the sequence of my actions quite well. I exclaimed “Bloody hell!” got the car stabilised, turned off the AC, rolled down my window and then stepped on the gas to catch up with him. By now, we were passing the Sheraton gate and my mum was still shaking her head in wonder. Maybe I was exhaling hot air through my ears or had sprouted horns but everyone in the car had gone curiously quiet.
At Kampala Club he turned left onto Ssezibwa Road and I followed, still not sure what I was doing but knowing I was going to do something. As we passed the turnoff to Nakasero Primary School, as if of it’s own accord, my right hand reached into my pocket, pulled out my phone and balancing it over the steering wheel I proceeded to take photos of his rear licence plate.
At which point, conversation resumed, sister no. 1 offered to take the photos for me and then my mum (in the quiet, churchy way of Ugandan mothers) told us how in the US you never look at another driver, even if they are stark naked, lest they are packing heat and looking for an excuse to use you for target practice. Then she asked what I was planning to do because I was obviously planning something. She’s my mum, what can I say, she knew.
I replied, “I don’t know yet but I’m not turning the other cheek today”. By which point we’re entering the roundabout below Fairway Hotel, him cutting right in front of a car heading towards Garden City. Then left onto Acacia Avenue and all this time not a single indicator light has he used, weaving right and left like he sees potholes the rest of us don’t. I was still livid but the mist was clearing and I started to think, “What if he has a gun?” “What if he’s got a woman in labour in there?” “Can sister no. 2 defend me in court yet, when I get arrested for causing this man grievous bodily harm, seeing as she graduates LDC on Friday?” “What if he doesn’t stop soon, how long will I follow him for?” Then suddenly he turns left into the City Oil fuel station at the top of Acacia Avenue.
So I put on my indicator and followed him. He stopped at the fuel pump and I pulled up about 10 feet behind him, turned off my engine, turned on the hazard lights, got out, strode up to his window and tapped on it, twice. When he turned towards me, I motioned for him to roll it down, which he then did, with a blank questioning look.
So I spoke to him.
The attendant fuelling his car had started motioning me to drive over to the next pump but after about half a minute he went very still. I wasn’t yelling, I wasn’t swearing or flailing my hands about but something must have transmitted to all the chaps around because, again out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Somali chap in the City Oil uniform approach me from where I’d parked but he just stood there, a few feet away and didn’t say a thing.
You know what the funny thing is, the more I assured this chap the angrier I got, to the point that my hands started trembling, my voice got all choked up and I swear I was about to start crying. Mouth slightly agape, dude sat there staring at me and in the back of my mind, a very small, very still voice was whispering, “Please, pretty please say something idiotic right now so I can reach in through your half open car window, pull you out by your ears and proceed to slap you all over the City Oil forecourt until the pump attendants or boda guys pull me off your battered, bruised, bleeding body. Please say something stupid!”
You know what he said?
In a ka plaintive tone
Still livid, I turned, walked past the Somali chap, got into the car and drove off. As I turned right at the Mawanda Road intersection to head to Kamwokya, Mum goes like, “Aha, tell me, do you feel better now?” and then proceeded to lecture me all the way to Ntinda about loving not just the people who are easy to love but even more so those who are difficult to love.