Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Idle In Namuwongo

I really don’t know if I should be proud of myself but, there is one thing that I have always wanted to do and that is to ‘pass time’. It has taken me sometime to understand the logic behind it and when some years ago I was invited to a friend’s house to pass time, while I turned down the invitation, I itched to know what was involved.

At a loss, I scratched around and eventually asked cousin Robert K, who is a communications manager and he told me that it had something to do with ‘not having anything to do’ – as in being idle.

Enter Dr. Ian Clark. Don’t get me wrong but I don’t think Dr. Clark is idle – not now anyway and seeing that he heads Makyinde Division there is plenty to keep him busy like trying to figure out how to deal with the daily melees from De Posh Bar In Kabalagala which spill out into the streets and the booming music that keeps the Muyenga neighbourhood awake for the best part of the night.

Dr. Clarke wrote a few Sundays ago about his run in with an idle traffic cop at the Nsambya lights. That said, anybody who lives in Muyenga will surely have noticed the two traffic policewomen who stand opposite The Ethiopian Village restaurant. If not, they stand somewhere between Zzimwe Construction and Shell petrol station on Kibuli Road. Traffic Policewomen have made it a mission of stopping me on a daily. It went from them ‘doing their job’ to what I thought was harassment and to what I would now class as being idle – or to use a different terminology, passing time. They really like to pass time with me especially Fat Traffic Policewoman. Skinny Traffic Police Woman on the other hand, is seemingly still learning the passing time ropes.

Getting back, when teenagers want to pass time, they head into town. I don’t know where in town it is that they go, but it is to town that they head. For the adult, passing time hotspots include Ndeeba, Bwaise and Arua Park for example.

But why go all the way to into town yet there is Namuwongo that is closer to home? In Namuwongo, if you want to be idle, one of the best places to perch yourself is by the Stanbic Bank ATM. Why the Stanbic bank ATM, that I don’t know and with hindsight, I should have called up the bank and asked them if they knew why, but with not airtime, I let it be. So I guess for the time being we will never know.

The opportune passing time moment came weeks after Dr. Clarke’s victory when an antique grader rumbled through in an attempt to restore some sanity to the Namuwongo roads that have gone to the dogs. And let’s face it; a grader rumbling through the streets of Kampala is nothing new. We have all seen them but to the men in Namuwongo – as a sad and pathetic bunch that they are, watching a grader at work brings more than a sparkle to their eyes – almost as if they are watching rocket science at work.

Standing outside the Stanbic ATM, (I can feel Stanbic management cringe at the thought of their ATM being a passing time hotspot) I watched the grader make its first sweep. When it came back for the second, two grown men were running alongside it and I guess when they saw me in character, as in passing time character, they joined me and the conversation that ensued in a mixture of bad Luganda (from me) and English (from Two Grown Men) went along these lines.

Two Grown Men: “Eh, this grader is not the one that they tend to use on this road. It must have come from a different division.”

TB: “Oba?”

Two Grown Men: “Naye that driver is too hard! Look at the way he reverses without looking back.”

TB: “I think that is really stupid of him. Do you know he could cause an accident?”
Two Grown Men (looking at me in disbelief): “Gwe, can you even drive a grader let alone a car?”

TB: “Shiya!”

There is a lull in the conversation and for obvious reasons. Whatever I have told them has irked them that they have shut me out of their conversation. We are soon joined by a hawker selling basins. Putting down his wares, he stares at the grader. Apart from that, he has his mouth ajar and I can see a ball of spit with the remains of whatever he had for breakfast beginning to form in the corner of his mouth.

The spittle is getting bigger that anytime it will have enough momentum to start rolling down his lower lip. I was right. It does. And like a slimy lizard that has just hatched, the ball of spit slimed its way over his lip but didn’t break off and fall to the ground for it was still being held by a thin thread of an umbilical cord of spit and like a yoyo, the ball of spit bobbed up and down while gathering the required momentum until it broke free. Splat! It’s hit the ground.

I don’t think Basin Hawker realised what had just happened because he didn’t even budge or wipe his lip. In its agape state, I could see the next ball of spit beginning to build up.

A sizeable crowd had by now built up and everybody has some to offer. Some people claim to know the driver, others have seen the grader in action during the construction of the Northern By-Pass, while others argue that is Erias Lukwago and not Dr. Clarke who ordered that the road be graded.

While all this is going on, I feel I am not doing it right – the passing time bit that is. Everybody else seems to have got it down to a T. If they are not dribbling malusu, they are showing how they can flip, swirl or roll a tooth pick in their mouths and then use it as an ear pick while others have their arms draped round each other almost like they are cajoled twins. If I want to be taken seriously as somebody passing time, I really have to get my act together.

Taking my cue from a young boy across the road, I squat and also take it a step further. And for the lack of a better way to say it, I firmly clasp my hand on my scrotum. Yes, I know it’s a yuck thing to do in public but in Namuwongo, it is the norm.

I have almost forgotten that my hand is firmly clasping my scrotum when my name rings out. “Bukumunhe, Bukumunhe, are things that bad that you have resorted to squatting by the roadside?” Looking up, it’s an elderly man in a Prado. The person in the passenger seat whom I take to be his wife, is leaning over with a sneer of a disgusted look on her face. She shakes her head as they drive off. Though I don’t know them, I am embarrassed but let it slide. The grader is now back and has a mechanical problem for the engine keeps on switching off.

I too have a mechanical problem in the scrotal area like a bad itch, so I do the need full and tug at them and at the wrong time. Graders mechanical problem has caused a traffic jam and right in front of me is a Nadia car with four young ladies in it and who are shrieking.

“It’s disgusting” I can hear one of them say. Another voice breaks out, “Look, look, that is TB! I swear it is TB!” I know I have seen one of them before but can’t exactly remember where until a few days ago when I walk into Game.

“Excuse me TB” she says. “I am a fan and sometime back I read an article you wrote where you said you abhor men who walk about town and are tugging at their crotches. It is a pity that you don’t practise what you write. I mean a whole TB squatting by the roadside and playing with his crotch while being idle? So not cool!”

Before I could retort, she was on her heels and walking off. Under my breath I say “I was not being idle! I was merely passing time and I had an untimely itch when you saw me. And seeing that I was in Namuwongo, I guess it was ok to do it because all men who live in Namuwongo do it.” Now that’s got me thinking. I wonder if Mr. Ras, the cartoonist still lives in Namuwongo? Hmm, food for thought!