Former Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph once referred to Kenyans as “a peculiar lot”. These sentiments were seen as an insult and they drew immediate harsh rejoinders, including attacks on his personality.
But that notwithstanding, can we claim that we are not peculiar?
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines peculiar as follows: strange, unfamiliar, a little surprising. It also says that peculiar may also mean behaving in a slightly crazy way.
This post aims to prove that we are indeed peculiar. It focuses on only one of our daily activities, namely, how we use our Kenyan roads, either as a driver, pedestrian or rider. Future posts may feature our craziness when performing other activities.
The inconsiderate driver
You are driving comfortably ready to turn when suddenly a car, or motorbike speeds up and cuts you off, and then slows down when they get in front of you! Isn’t this just crazy? Or may be the act could be justified: his wife may have just gone into labor. You never know. It could also be a secret agent rushing to diffuse a bomb before it destroys all life on planet earth!
The fast drivers
Then there are the fast drivers who, as soon as the light turns green, there’s impatient honking. You decide you are not going to be intimidated and therefore you continue driving the speed limit. Very soon, however, the impatient driver overtakes at high speed, shows you middle finger and then cuts in dangerously in front of you. But it is consoling when, a few kilometers down the road, you meet the same driver at a police road block pleading his innocence hard and swearing that he never drives beyond 80 kilometers an hour even on highways. What is annoying is that, if this driver doesn’t get caught by cops for over-speeding, you might find his car packed a couple of kilometers down the road with the driver outside the car either pissing, smoking, chatting with a friend, or making his order for roast meat at a food kiosk. Then you drive for another five kilometers and the same car overtakes you again at high speed. Isn’t this a fine example of strange.
The reckless phone talkers
What about the reckless phone talkers and the very slow drivers? The car in front was being driven within limits. All of a sudden, it slows down to speeds less than five kilometers an hour. This slows you down so much that irritation sets in but you give him/her the benefit of the doubt. The driver could be suffering from a medical condition. But soon enough you discover that he is on the phone, talking or reading SMS. Why can’t the guy pull his car to the side of the road and talk, or SMS. Being patient with these people is extremely hard.
The sadist driver
There is also that driver who I prefer to call ‘a sadist’. He is driving very slowly, you have driven behind him for a few kilometers and now you are tired. It is time to overtake him but the minute it is clear to him that you want to overtake him he increases speed and thwarts all your attempts at overtaking him.
The hazardous driver
Then there are the khat (miraa)-carrying Probox® cars and police escorts for VIP motorcades (or even cash) being driven at extremely high speeds with headlights and sirens flashing and driving on the wrong side of the road. Has it ever occurred to these guys that some of the drivers on the road have weak hearts and may succumb to the scare they cause? Why should they put the lives of other road users at risk just because they want to get there earlier. Why didn’t they start the journey yesterday?
The nocturnal thug
Try driving at night and before long you meet that car driving towards you with full headlights on even after you flash to request him/her to dim them. Some of these drivers have installed headlights that are very bright and ultra-intense, probably because they derive pleasure when they terrorize other road users to submission.
The drunk driver
The adage “don’t drink and drive” is posted and broadcast everywhere all the time. And still you will meet a driver ahead or behind you steering aimlessly in zigzags or speeding and then braking instantly. The danger that lurks around because of that behavior immediately becomes imminent. Humor, however creeps in when this driver is pulled over by cops a few kilometers down the road and the acrobatics he gets into to convince the cops that he/she has not touched alcohol in the near past. When he is told to stand on one foot. When he is told to point at his nose with the index finger of his left hand. What about when he feigns ignorance when he is told to breathe into the handheld breath alcohol tester – Alcoblow®. It all becomes very amusing to the sober observers.
Drivers with village mentality
What about the drivers with village or slam mentality who will come across a traffic jam and decide they are too special to follow the cue. They overlap at very high speed and when they see on-coming traffic they signal their intention to re-enter the cue, which they aggressively do by forcing their way in. No wonder a great thinker of the past said that “you can take the man out of the village but you cannot take the village out of the man”.
The storm-water-loving driver
The rains are fast approaching and this comes with it the forum for uncouth Kenyan drivers to exhibit their peculiarity once more. The roads have potholes which fill in a hurry when it starts raining. These drivers cease every opportunity to aim for the flood waters and especially where the number of pedestrians walking by the road is highest. They derive great pleasure when they succeed in soaking the pedestrians wet.
The peculiarity of Kenyan pedestrians becomes evident during the rainy season. They fear the rain more than they fear vehicles, making them easy targets to be splashed with water by the storm-water-loving drivers.
The clueless motorcycle riders
Then we have motorcycle riders who increase speed when they see a pedestrian on the road, who will make sure that they ride on the wrong side of the road and who will even ride on side walks and shop corridors. They have no regard for all traffic rules which begs the question: is it because they do not know the traffic rules or is it pure impunity? Wait until you get involved in an accident with them. Other riders come to the rescue of their ilk and will hurl all sorts of unprintable insults, even when it is clear that it is the rider who caused the accident.
In conclusion, the list of our peculiarity on Kenyan roads is inexhaustive but I hope that the few examples given above have highlighted the peculiar nature of ourselves.