Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Mall


It’s been a while since I was last downtown – and by that I mean south of Kampala Road because, there is nowhere to park and the pavements have been taken up by Hawker. I also can’t deal with the human traffic – especially people walking in front of you who don’t walk in a straight line or suddenly stop dead in their tracks because there is something trivial that they want to gawp at.

During the lunch hour, there is the risk of having byenda or beans poured over you as the young girls – the food messengers, scurry between the traffic as they deliver food to Taxi Tout, Shop Keeper and anybody else that might have ordered lunch.

I am in one of the malls on William Street visiting a friend who had asked for an opinion on his clothes shop.

It’s a Sunday so there is no traffic and there is an abundance of parking space except, the street has Very Shady Man loitering about demanding I pay a parking fee yet, he doesn’t work for Multiplex and being a Sunday, parking fees are waived. 

So I drive the ride further up the road and park with the help of Askari guarding the chemist shop which brings up another problem. Askari also wants money because I have parked in a slot that is reserved for customers going to the chemist. But the shop is closed so why can’t I park? I drive off again and find a slot that does not have Very Shady Man and there is no askari in sight. 

The mall is a maze of alleyways with prison cell like shops because of the thick steel doors and thick steel burglar proofing. It takes a while to find the shop because I am hopelessly lost.

One thing about the mall is that most of the shop owners are in the hair trade. There is a brigade of women huddled round the heads of very tired women and weaving artificial hair into their natural hair. My host tells me the artificial hair is horse hair and I am inclined to believe him because when one woman walked past, she smelt like the horse stables at Speke Resort in Munyonyo.  

After a few beers, I go to the communal toilets three floors down and getting lost in the process. At the entrance there is a young 13-year-old boy with a huge ripe and ready-to-bust yellow pimple on the tip of his nose. It’s a nauseating sight but I take time out to talk to him as I pay the sh300 fee for having a pee.

So do you go to school I ask him. He swings me a blank look as he touches the huge ripe and ready-to-bust yellow pimple on the tip of his nose then asks: “Are you my father? Do you pay my fees?” With that response, the conversation had run its course.

As I wander back, I see the most incredible sight. Three women and two kids are squatting down and facing one of the shops. I should have known what was going on especially as they had their skirts hiked up. They were having a pee.

Okay so almost all shops were closed and it was close to 10pm but, grown women peeing in front of a shop yet the toilets are three floors below? Really!  Probably they had paid an earlier visit to the toilets and found 13-year-old boy with the huge ripe and ready-to-bust yellow pimple on the tip of his nose as nauseating as I did. Or perhaps they were just uncouth. I am not the greatest linguistic but from their kaboozi I am sure they were Bakiga – dare I say.