Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunday At Choma

In his circles, they call him Vero Paulo – not that that, is his real name. It’s Paulo Lukwago. However, whenever Vero Paulo is amongst friends, the best part of his conversation has to do with plugging mineral water. But then again, after office hours and in the madness of a drinking joint, who wants to talk about mineral water yet, there are other more interesting drinks to talk about and to quaff like, a black Johnnie Walker, Club or TML for example. But he persists and often gets his way.

Vero Paulo is also the ‘Chairman’ of his local kimeeza, a post he has held for five years. While there have been calls for him to step down, in his deluded self, it’s something he is not willing to consider. What were once whispers have now grown into open discontent that if does not go before Christmas, he’s bound to end up as sad and as pathetic as Muhammer Gadaffi was at the end of his life. Vero Paulo, if you are reading this, the writing is on the wall. GENDA!

It’s a Sunday and I am at Choma in Centenary Park. I normally don’t do the town thing but being a Sunday, I figure it will be empty which will allow me the freedom to read and do some writing without being disturbed. There is also the most appealing waft coming from the kitchen that I figure John Kulubya, who owns a large chunk of Kampala City has a chef who knows what he is doing.

Through the corner of my eye I see some activity at one of the tables. There are a couple of ladies all dressed in black. I can’t quite read what is emblazoned on their t-shirts so I will have to squint. I do just that. Ah, it says ‘Guinness’ so my reckoning is there is a promotion of sorts about to happen and I hope they don’t bother me.

Then he sees me. He comes striding over with a sense of purpose and once he is done with the pleasantries, he pulls up a chair. It’s Oscar Mulira, who is the Country Manager of Swivel, a marketing support services company, who launches into a thirty minute lecture about how marketing has changed in Uganda in the past twenty years and how over the next couple of years the competition amongst events, PR, marketing and advertising companies is going to be tight.

For listening to his lecture, he asks Marketing Girl to swing me four bottles of Guinness. “Christ!” so I think to myself. Perhaps I should not have been hasty in giving him that bored look. If I had looked chirpy enough, perhaps he would have told Marketing Girl to swing me round after round until I thought I had ‘done enough responsible drinking’ and took myself home.

With Oscar gone and a blank laptop screen staring at me and four cold Guinness beers chilling in the cooler, I give Oscar’s lecture some thought and that is when I see him.

No it’s not Oscar again. I know him as Alex and that is it. He’s not even a friend. On the flip side, he so thinks we are the best of friends just because we had been introduced. As he takes his seat, he looks up in my direction and then away. Phew, he hasn’t recognised me! Quickly I grab my stuff and head for a table behind some shrubbery.

From my new vantage point, I can see him but he can’t see me though, I do see him looking around wondering what happened to the person who only a few seconds ago was sitting across from him. And the fool just won’t let it rest. He even stands up and scratches head. Trust him to be nosey that he takes a walk round the small gardens in an attempt to smoke me out and he does smoke me out.

Content that he has tracked me down and seeing that he is idle, rather than drool at Oscar’s vivacious Marketing Girls, he is content on looking in my direction.
And the more he looks in my direction, the more it dawns on him that he knows me. His glee can hardly be contained. When he pulls up a chair, the kaboozi goes along these lines.

Alex: “Eh Timo, I thought I saw you and then all of a sudden you were gone. Were you trying to hide from me?
TB: (To myself): “What do you think?? Yes, I was so trying to hide from you! I came here to have time to myself and now that you are here, my day is ruined.”
Alex: “Timo, what’s happening over there? I see many girls wearing Guinness t-shirts.”
TB (Again to myself): “You fool, it is so obvious what they are doing! But seeing you asked a daft question, I will give you a daft answer. (This part I said out loud): They are preparing for Gadaffi’s vigil.”
Alex: “It seems I am in the right place.”

Alex is one of those people you want to avoid at all costs. He is unable to read the situation. Even when I got deeply involved in reading the foreign newspapers on-line, he pulled his chair round to have a better view of the screen. Frustrated, I simply closed down the laptop. But Alex was not done for he said: “Timo, now that you have finished reading your papers, let me check my mail and Facebook” and just like that, MY laptop was prized open and I could hear the motor purring as it powered into life.

I left Choma hurriedly, quickly gulping Oscar’s four beers for Aristoc. There I was sure the only people I would rub shoulders with would be the likes of Oscar Wilde, Jeffery Archer, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemmingway. Three of them are dead and Archer is somewhere in England and no, he does not have my cell number to bother me.
But Rita was also there – very much alive and she is an annoying version of Alex – like Alex was not annoying enough in his own right. And the moment she spotted me, she raced her short stubby legs that are so hairy, even the people at Gillette, the razor blade company, would balk at selling her their razors. This was the kaboozi.

TB: “You are lost. I have not seen you for a long time. Where have you been?”
TB: “Nowhere.”
Rita: “Whenever I call, you don’t pick up my calls. What’s up?”
TB: “Ah, I lost my phone.”
Rita: “Let me give you my number again.”

I give her a number that I made up but am not thinking because when I give her the number, I didn’t bank on her ringing the number to confirm. “TB” she says, “It was answered and was told I have the wrong number. Give me your phone yet you have your phone.”

I now have a sheepish ‘I want to crawl under a rock’ look on my face. And with that, my kabiriti is snatched out of my hand and she proceeds to save her number. She also calls it just to make sure it is saved and that her name shows up.

Since then, I get text messages along the line of “TB, how is there?” If not, “TB, what are you going to write about on Sunday?” I normally ignore her messages but seeing she’s asked what I am going to write about, I couldn’t resist telling her. “I have written about people who annoy and who we try to avoid. You see Rita, when we see them we do a u-turn, hide our faces or hide behind shopping aisles, cars and shrubbery.

And Rita, the funny thing about annoying people is that even when you don’t respond to their txts or calls, they still don’t get the message. Rather, it gives them the gas to send more txts and to call.” Her response was: “I am sure it is going to be an interesting read. Let me send House-ee to buy the papers.”

I may have goofed for normally I change people’s names to save them embarrassment but this time I have purposely used her real name (Rita), the day (Sunday) where we were (Aristoc) in a hope that she gets the message.

Next Sunday, I will let you know what went down. Did Rita get my sublime message? Is she vexed to an extent she will want to throw acid into my face? Or perhaps she will storm the Sunday Vision office and vent her anger on my editor, Esther Namugoji? What about Alex? What was his reaction? To be continued...