Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Value For Money

How do we know that we are getting value for money? Is the car that we buy from the bond value for money or do we down the road regret we had bought the car?
The first car I bought in Uganda was a Honda, a Honda Vigor and from the bond. Suffice to say that is was a car not just off the ship from Dubai or Japan, but one that had been driven around in Kampala for a while until Owner had decided to sell it off.

I am a person who, when it comes to cars, I am driven by design rather than things like fuel consumption or say spare parts. With money in the bank, it was time to get a new ride and with hindsight, I should have done some research, but didn’t. I walked into the first bond that I came across, saw the Honda in the corner and decided that, that was what I wanted. I think Salesman read me like a book and I played right into his hands. When he saw me looking at the Honda, he was quick to point out that it was not for sale.

Not for sale? Did he know who he was talking to? Did he not know that it was me – me THE Timothy Bukumunhe? I should have unleashed a tumbavu on him except then, I didn’t know what the word tumbavu stood for let alone that it existed. So I assured him that I would not settle for anything less and it was the Honda or nothing. He tried showing me a Toyota Kabina but I wasn’t interested.

All of a sudden, he broke down and caved in. “Okay take it” he said and in a flash I was off to the bank and two hours later, I had the Honda plus log book. Honda was my pride and joy and even better, whenever I went into town, I didn’t see anybody with a Honda save for New Vision CEO, Robert Kabushenga who then, had a silver Honda Inspire and it looked very much like mine.

Then some fool deiced to knock off my wing mirror. Not a problem really for all I had to do was to head down to Kisseka Market to get a replacement. Except that Kisseka Market, was not flush with Honda spare parts. However, the man tending to my needs assured me he could find one. He did find one except that it was not a Honda wing mirror but that of some Toyota car.

Next to ‘disturb me’ as we Ugandans are so fond of saying was the clutch plate. The clutch plate became an issue and my mechanic at the time, scoured Kampala looking for one but bleak. As I pondered wondering what to do, I looked back and asked myself if I had gotten value for money when I bought the Honda. I hadn’t and it was then that I realized that Salesman had played me. Then and unknown to me, there were no Honda parts in Uganda – unless you ordered for them from abroad. It got to a point when the car packed up and died in the garage for a lack of spare parts.

With frustration building up in me, I told Mechanic to put it on the market. Weeks went by and when the call came through. Some lady had seen it and wanted it. When I met Lady, it was obvious she didn’t know much about cars and like me, she liked its design. Picking a leaf from Salesman who had sold it to me, I tossed her about until we agreed on a price that was very attractive. And with that, I told Mechanic to do emergency repairs that when she went for a test drive, all would be okay.

The following day she did and had brought her brother in tow. He gave it the all clear, I got my dime from her and she got the Honda and log book. Three days later, her brother calls to complain. My retort?

TB: “But Chief, you took the car for a spin and you had no issues with it. Now you want your money back?!!

Brother: “But my mechanic tells me it is not worth the money we paid. It has so many issues.”

TB: “I am sorry, but I can’t help you. I sold you the car on an ‘as is basis’”.

When I bought the car, I didn’t get value for money. The people who bought the car from me didn’t get value for their money and I suspect that whomever they sold it to, didn’t get their money’s worth either.

The people in the airline business will tell you that the most expensive airline route in the world is the forty-five minute hop between Entebbe and Jomo Kenyatta airports. The next most expensive route which, is equally a shot hop is between Spain and Gibraltar. That said, Kenya Airways will do – or rather has done everything it can possibly to do to make sure it is the premier carrier between Entebbe and Jomo Kenyatta. And with a fee of almost $400 (sh900) for a forty-five minute plane ride, they are laughing all the way to the bank

And so I find myself on the 5:00am flight to Nairobi. The 5:00am flight is Businessman’s flight except that I am not going on business but to Seychelles on holiday. And seeing that I am going on holiday, when the drinks cart came round, I told Cabin Crew that it would be beer that I would be drinking and not coffee.
That statement startled it her that she sought higher authority from Chief Purser – read Head Cabin Crew. Chief Purser was against the idea of booze but when I assured him that I paid my dime, he reluctantly relented.

Do you know that the sound a can of beer makes when it is being popped opens is very distinctive? It was so distinctive that Businessmen were all looking round to see who was catching at such an early hour.

Four minutes after the first can was popped, I was popping another open (I know because Cabin Crew said: “Oh my God, it’s only been four minutes since I gave you the first can!”). And I told her: “Cabin Crew, I have to get value for my money so stop fluffing about and get me a four pack!”

She dithered but when she saw the sneer that I gave her, four cans duly appeared. Let’s do some math’s here. A can of beer costs about sh8,000 on average. I popped open eight cans so that would be sh32,000 while I paid over $400 for my ticket. Then there is Chief Purser telling me that I can’t have any more beer because it is a morning flight.

Hello, hello! I paid my dime and if I want to drink eight cups of coffee between Nairobi and Jomo Kenyatta I would have done just that! If I wanted eight cans plus of beer, it is my prerogative because I paid for them! Not so?
Our dime is our dime and when we spend it we want to get value for our money and I really don’t like being ripped off by airlines or car bond dealers.

As I close, I was ripped off last week. You remember the sandals issue where I had to walk home barefooted? The sandals were brand new, but only lasted a couple of hours. And yes the itch I had between my toes did turn out to be jiggers. According to House Help who performed the vital keyhole surgery with the aid of a torn plucked from an orange tree, he extracted two jiggers from my toes. And judging by the way he smiled when I slapped 10k into this hands, he did get value for the 10min ‘surgery’ that he performed!

The Malfunction

Any drycleaners will tell that that if you wear the trousers of your suit more often than the jacket, when it is time to have the pants cleaned, take both the pants and the jacket even if the jacket is clean. The reason behind this rationale is so that both the jacket and trousers fade at the same pace. Okay, so this intro does not make sense but as you read on, it will.

I am not a man for sandals. I feel sandals don’t make sense especially in this dusty city of ours. But recently, I was given a pair and seeing that it was a Sunday, I thought I would give them a chance. So I took a stroll round the neighbourhood and I felt kind of good especially with the breeze blowing between my toes but irritated at some of the small stones that find their way into the sandals.

As I continued to walk my left sandal started to behave sluggish – like it was sick and tired of being dragged through the dusty streets of the neighbourhood. It was falling back and was not moving in line with the scandal on my other foot. Looking down, I saw the problem. The stem (the bit that goes between your big toe and the next toe) had snapped. But how could it have snapped. They were new sandals, straight out of a kaveera. But then again, does anything that comes out of a kaveera mean that it is brand new and something worthy? In this case it didn’t because the sandals were manufactured by those small men from the Far East and who have ‘slits’ for eyes. The Chinese that is.

So here comes the problem. I am more than an hour’s walk away from home and one of my sandals has snapped. Do I walk back home wearing one sandal while holding the other in my arm or do I follow the dry cleaning rule and remove both sandals and walk back home barefooted?

I opted for the first but it only brought me more problems with one foot being higher that the other. Secondly, everybody who drove or walked past me looked at me like I was some kind of mulalu (lunatic). So I went in for Plan B and walked barefooted. Again, more problems. Everybody who drove or walked past me thought I was more than a mulalu and that I had been given new scandals for Christmas but didn’t want them to get dirty so I took them off and opted to walk barefooted!
Worse still, I got a phone call from my mother and the conversation went along these lines.

TB's MUM: Son, are you okay?”

TB: “Yes I am.”

TB’s MUM: “Are you sure?”

TB: “Yes I am. Why?”

TBs MUM: “A friend just told me that they saw you walking in town with no shoes on.”

I explained to her the best I could as to what had happened and while she listened, she nevertheless sent me some dime to buy new ones. Meanwhile I have an itch between one of my toes and I am terrified that I might have jiggers and that if I go to IHK and tell them my problem, it will spread round town like wildfire. Anyway as I type I am not certain if it is indeed jiggers or something else. And I wouldn’t even know if they are jiggers seeing that I have never had jiggers before. I will let you know the outcome next week.

Broken sandals and jiggers aside, Uganda still has a very poor service industry. Over the Christmas period I was lucky to be invited to Sesse Islands for a couple of days. We were booked into Pearl Gardens Beach and from the moment we checked in, there were issues.

In the bar as I placed an order for a Tusker Malt Larger – yes I am back on Tusker, when the beer was served, it came with no glass. When I asked for one, the conversation went along these lines.

WAITRESS: “But sir, the glasses are over.”

TB: “What do you mean they are over? I want a glass!”

WAITRESS: “But sir, if you had come early, I could have given you a glass!”

At this point there was a need to do a time check. The clock on the wall read 8:10 as did the one on my cell phone. I should also point out that it was 8:10 AM and not 8:10 PM! When Waitress was talking about me coming early to secure a glass, what time did she want me to start catching? At 5:00AM?! It turns out that all the glasses were in the dining room and that I would have to wait until breakfast was over before she could get me one. I let it slide.

Secondly, my room did not have a mirror and I duly informed reception about it. They promised to have one put there. Hours later and there was still no mirror so I reminded Receptionist who once again promised to solve the problem.

The following day there was still no mirror and once again Receptionist promised to fix it. By chance, I happened to pop round the room when Maintenance Man was trying to hang it up. But there was a problem. While it was a mirror, it was not a whole mirror. It was part of what used be a whole mirror. In fact, it was more of a strip. Obviously there was a need to have an exchange of words with Maintenance Man and the frosty kaboozi went as follows.

TB: “What is this?”
To my question, Maintenance Man retorted with a look on his face that read: What the f**k do you think it is?

TB: “I asked you, what is that you are putting up?”

TB: “Be serious! That is not a mirror. That is a broken mirror!”
MAINTAINANCE MAN: “The mirror was broken by a guest sometime back. Now I don’t know what you want me to do. Do I take it back?”

TB: “I asked for a mirror and not a strip of a mirror! You can take it back!”

And just like that he unscrewed the strip of a mirror from the wall and he is gone. But I can hear him in conversation outside the room and he is telling his colleague that: “That man in room 12 is funny. He has been complaining that he has no mirror in his room and when I give him one he says he wants a real mirror. Kati Charlie wange, maybe I am mistaken but is this not a real mirror? Look, I can even see my reflection in it so it must be a real mirror not so?”

He went on to add that he is sick and tired of the people who come down from Kampala. Be’yita ba lordi (they think highly of themselves) mbu because they came from Kampala. We have bazungu’s who come from America and they do not complain the way people from Kampala complain. Even if you told the muzungu that rooms were fully booked and that if he wished, he could sleep in the gardens, he wouldn’t complain. All he would ask you for is a blanket. Tumbavu!”

Tumbavu?! Anybody who is an avid reader of my cowardly tales will tell you that I have a monopoly on the word, tumbavu. It is me who is supposed to say tumbavu and with that, I was out of the door unleashing a torrent of tumbavu’s while Maintenance Man hurriedly picked up his tool kit, strip of a mirror and fled towards Kalangala town and to the police station – no doubt to tell Affande that there is a lunatic from Kampala running amok on the island.

There is more to the story, but the itch between my toes is getting worse that I have to stop and give it a good scratch. I wonder if it is indeed jiggers? By the way, how do they get rid of them? Will I have to fund raise for surgery to be carried out in South Africa? Later.

The Irritant

So it is Jan 1st, 2012. Big deal! If anything, today for many will be, the most depressing day of 2012. You see sometime during the evening, reality is going to set in that after weeks of having a blast and a party and all in the name of the Christmas holiday, tomorrow we have to get up early and go to work. Work, what is that? I had forgotten all about work. I probably don’t even know where my ID is let alone remembering how to get there or what it is exactly that I did there.

December apart from being The Silly Season was also a season when deals seemingly went down. One Sunday morning last November when 20,000 runners gave up their sleep all in the aim of taking part in the MTN Kampala Marathon, though the tycoon Charles Mbire was there, he wasn’t there to run. He had deals to attend to and spent the best part of the marathon in one of the hospitality tents in a huddle with a number of people at which it was all smiles when they got up to leave.

Then I bumped into Godfrey Kirumira at Kabira Country Club with Sudhir Ruparelia. What were they discussing? I did try walking by their table a number of times but got shooed away whenever they saw me approach. And what was Swivel’s Oscar Mulira discussing with a certain George Murimi, who according to my Kenyan sources is a financial mullah in Kenya and West Africa at Le Chateau early one evening? Casino mogul, Bob Kabonero was also in the thick of things at The Pyramids with people who looked like investors.

That got me thinking. Does this mean that the rest of us who were not huddled in meeting’s will end up getting the mawolu (left over’s) of the deals? Or will we simply end up reading about them in the business section of New Vision sometime this week?

What the heck I thought to myself and just got back to my ribs which, was to be the start of a depressing pre-Christmas. You see the previous night I had fantasized about eating spare ribs. In my ribs dream, a near naked Halle Berry had sauntered in along with a scantily clad Kelly Rowland but they were not doing it for me. It was the ribs that took centre stage. And the following morning as I drifted out of slumber while still trying to fight off the seductive attentions of Ms. Berry and Ms. Rowland I reached for the phone and placed a call to the pork joint except that it did not go through because I had no airtime.

Airtime is now loaded, the call is placed and the order made. Three hours later, I am in Soya. I think I have got a good seat for I can see the stage and the Ggaba highway. When the ribs are served, I didn’t bother to wash my hands seeing I had had a shower three hours earlier and as I was going to be eating alone surely the medical people would have no issue with it. Or would they?

The first bite I took, I simply spat straight back out onto the kalai (metal plate) because it was piping hot and much to the amusement of a couple sitting across from me. But I am not easily defeated and figure if I blow on it a couple of times, it will cool the rib down. I do just that, then take another bite and what the f**K, again I have to spit it out because it is still too hot. This time, Couple sitting across from me openly laugh. “Tumbavu” I say to them under my breath.

After a while of drooling at the ribs and still unleashing more expletives that have gone way beyond just tumbavu at the Couple, with some hesitation, pick up the rib and sink in my teeth and that was it. The rib had finally cooled down to mouth temperature. I wanted to ravage it, tear it to shreds but took my time. I savoured the first rib. In fact I did more than just that. I caressed it, we had mouth foreplay and just when it was too much to take any further, I swallowed it. Yalabi! It was something else. It was heaven.

So I sit back and content like a cat that is tossing a mouse that it has just caught when I see an irritant alighting from a taxi. I say ‘irritant’ because he is one of those people who turns up just at the wrong time, joins you and even before he has said a word, his fingers are in the kalai and picking up juiciest of the pork ribs.
Frantically I look round and there are no free tables. In fact there is nowhere to hide because everybody was huddled over a plate of ribs and seemingly into making deals. I pulled my cap down and looked the other way but alas, it was too late. The Irritant had clocked me.

Time for Plan B. As much as I would have loved to take my time with the remaining ribs, it was important to get them down my throat before The Irritant got to my table. I practically choked the second rib down my throat that Couple across from me thought I had bad table manners or what the Baganda would say, omululu. This time I sneered at them and let out an audible tumbavu which I shouldn’t have wasted my time on because it ate into vital seconds and by then, The Irritant was literally sitting down.

At this point there were four ribs left including two succulent ones which I was saving for last. Just as The Irritants fingers started to reach out, his cellphone went off. He looked at his phone, excused himself and walked away to take the call.
While he was away, I went for Plan C. I have a number of Asian friends like Akhilesh Malik, Prabhat and Ajit who all work for Speke Resort Munyonyo. And in my time hanging out with them, they have taught me to eat chillies and while I am not in their league, I can nevertheless hold my own.

The chilli was sent for and going way overboard, the ribs were more than doused in it. When The Irritant came back, the conversation went along these lines.

The irritant: “Eh, TB, can you imagine my fool of a brother calls me when you are all alone devouring a kalai of ribs?”

TB: “It’s a shame the conversation didn’t go on any longer.”

The Irritant: “Ha TB, you are a very funny man. Is that so you could eat the ribs alone?”

In the most depressed tone, I answer in the affirmative as I watch his teeth slice into the ribs. There is a look of satisfaction on his face then he starts to contort and with his eyes watering, he drops the rest of the rib back into the kalai while gasping at his throat.

The conversation is resumed once he regains himself.

The Irritant: “Eh TB, did you use the entire kamulali tree on the ribs? You man, I was dying!”

“Kyoka The Irritant, I put on just a little.”

The Irritant: “It’s too much. You will have to eat them alone.”
Those words were music to my ears. The dancing girls came out, in the background I could hear Michael Jackson’s Beat It and somewhere in the corner of my mind there was Kelly Rowland who was still scantily dressed and a near naked Halle Berry battling it out to see you I would go home with after I am done with the ribs.

Feeling smart I bite into the ribs. Somewhere into the fourth chew I am overcome. I break out into a sweat. Seconds later my mouth is on fire and all through my body is a burning sensation. But The Irritant is looking at me and I can’t give him that satisfaction so I force life. How I held back the tears I’ll never know but I did manage to finish the ribs.

That night as I lay in bed and waited for the near naked Halle Berry to come into my dreams, my stomach rumbled that I spent close to an hour on the toilet as my rear let out ‘fire’ - if you get my drift.

I have now thrown Soya out because of The Irritant and it won’t hurt me for I have discovered a new pork joint opposite Engen petrol station at Bunga trading centre and the beer too, is cheap – sh2,500. And please people, if you know The Irritant, please, please, don’t tell him I have moved to Bunga for my pork.