men vs. women: the housework debate chapter one – multitaskminitiming

What ordinary people thought the argument was: Men are better than Women at housework.

What the real argument was: Men are better at approaching housework in a logical and scientific manner than women are.

The difference between the two is simply that when Men approach housework using logic and science, they do a much better job than women.

My study sample: Men and Women in the same environment.

My study aids: a) observation of my maids and the shamba boy and the tea girl and the messenger b) Memory c) general common sense.

Now, to begin with, Multitaskminitiming:

FACT: Men are capable of multitaskminitiming far better than women are. Multitaskminitiming is the ability to carry out a number of or a series of tasks within the shortest time possible.*

PROOF: This explains the casual manner in which we conduct simple tasks like driving off. We walk to the car with our keys in our hands, unlock the door in a manner designed to allow us to slide into the drivers seat while inserting the ignition key into its slot and turning it in the correct direction all the while shutting the door while pulling the seat belt into its slot and engaging gear on the dot of the engine coming alive. We then reverse (Americans say, “Back out” into a road using a method we worked out when we parked the car. Average Time: 20 seconds.

Your average woman, on the other hand, approaches the car with her handbag over her shoulder zipped up tight, and arrives at the car door with both feet firmly on the ground in order to stop and swivel her bag  over from behind her to a position somewhere under her armpit. There, she will proceed to unzip the bag and begin rummaging through it to find the car keys.

Some women, we must acknowledge, will walk up to the car with their car keys in hand, and will therefore unlock the car door on arrival. Thereafter, she will insert herself into the driver’s seat with her feet still on the ground of the parking lot while she exchanges her ‘walking’ shoes for her ‘driving’ shoes (normally a pair of bathroom slippers).

The dressing-up process complete, she will swing herself into the vehicle with her feet on the floor, not touching the pedals, and then place her handbag on the floor of the co-driver’s side, or insert it into the space near the gear box. Only after her handbag and anything else she walked to the car with is in its place, will she reach out and shut her door.

Once the door is shut, she will then insert the ignition key into its slot (a process that sometimes involves having to open the door again in order to retrieve the key from the door lock, but thankfully does not require a change of footwear). Once the door is shut, most men will claim that the average woman will immediately turn down the overhead sun visor in order to adjust her make-up.

This does not happen.

The average woman will actually start the car using the ignition key, look down at the pedals in order to place her feet appropriately, and only then will she flip down the overhead sun visor in order to adjust her make-up. That done, she will look around and behind her a number of times in order to work out how to get out of the parking slot. Average Time: Five minutes.

*Whereas it is true that the average woman above conducted more tasks than the average man above over a longer period of time, the highlight factor in this case study is the relevance of the tasks carried out and the efficiency with which they were so conducted.

Thank you, for the generous applause, but I request that you save it for the final lesson.

Class Assignment: Men, ask a female friend to buy three items from the fridge in your local petrol station shop and time her. Women, do likewise to a male friend.

changing the story

With or without a degree in Mass Communications and more than fifteen years of experience doing journalism generally, one of the street skills one should pick up along the way is the ability to change the story.

Not the ability to tell a lie, because that is simply WRONG.

Changing the story is a harmless activity designed to exercise the imagination. No trouble-causing, permanent damage, malice or prejudice. Just putting something differently. That’s all.

Take this photograph here that appeared within Ugandan circles a number of months back:

What was this guy doing?
What was this guy doing?

So, what do you think:

The first thought:

“A mentally disturbed man/ crazed drug addict today caused worry and excitement in the middle of Kampala City when he climbed aboard a fifteen-foot high electricity pole and threatened to jump. Worried traders in downtown Kampala attempted to persuade the man to abandon his threatened suicide, during which time he pretended to hold a cellphone discussion with fictitious contacts using the palm of his hand.”

The one that was emailed around to some of us:

“A Kampala resident, desperate to take advantage of the MTN Zone discounts, today scaled a fifteen-foot electricity pole in the centre of Kampala in the mistaken belief that the height advantage would increase the discount offered by the mobile phone company…”

Changing the story a little:

“A suspected thief escaped lynching by an irate mob yesterday morning in downtown Kampala by climbing up a fifteen-foot electricity pole. The thief, later identified as Something Someone, managed to pickpocket one of his pursuers just before scampering up the pole for dear life, and made a phonecall (pictured above) to the police, claiming to be an onlooker reporting a case of mob justice. The police arrived within thirty minutes and dispersed the crowd before rescuing the suspected thief, who was then taken to Central Police Station for questioning.”

Changing the story even better, and adding a twist in the tale:

“A suspected thief attempted to escape lynching by an irate mob yesterday morning in downtown Kampala by climbing up a fifteen-foot electricity pole. The thief, later identified as Something Someone, managed to pickpocket one of his pursuers just before scampering up the pole for dear life, and made a phonecall (pictured above) to the police, claiming to be an onlooker reporting a case of mob justice. The police arrived within thirty minutes but before they could disperse the crowd, a genuine onlooker informed them that the suspect was attempting to address an opposition rally, at which point he was shot in the head.”

uganda telecom, thank you very much!

This started in February, before I even left Germany. I called up ahead to confirm the possibility and costs of setting up a land line and fax of my own at home. Good news: it was cheap, and I got a major bonus by securing some easy number that had only ‘2’ in it, plus the occasional ‘1’.

Delay was unnecessary, and I quickly called for the bureaucracy to start, trusting that by the time I finished my last month in Germany and flew back to Kampala (via Dubai, blah blah blah), enough time would have gone by for the connection to have been made.

Bureaucracy did indeed kick off, in the form of one buxom, slowish-speaking Cynthia. A month after I had settled into Kampala, she readily turned up at my office to present invoices that she had already emailed me, but I took that to be “better safe than sorry”. Smilingly, I discussed with her guarantees that the phone and fax numbers she had promised me in her email (2222something111222etc) would be available for me till I had enough money in the bank to pay the relevant fees.

“Don’t worry,” she assured me, and conducted a weekly countdown for the next two weeks over the phone till indeed the money was in the bank and the cheque in my hand. D-day came and she showed up pronto with her receipt book.

I paid.

Then she disappeared. For a long time.

I actually forgot that I had paid for a landline and fax at home until my regular cellphone got cut of. Then, it occurred to me that her slowly-spoken assurance of, “They will come to install the lines tomorrow” was both too good to be true and not good enough.

“They”, I recalled, had visited the site (my home) in early March to ensure that a line could be installed, and that was all. I refused to believe that they had drawn a map and inserted it into a file kept centrally for all Uganda Telecom employees to access when I finally decided to pay up for services.

So I called her and told her so.

“They haven’t come yet?” she asked, sounding surprised. That was when I first considered that the slow speaking was a sign of her speed of thought. I wasn’t surprised because “they” never show up in Uganda. In fact, “they” just don’t do anything positive. “They” fail to fix roads, “they” cut off power and water, “they” generally do bad things. And I told this annoying Cynthia character exactly what I thought, plus words to the effect that since I had paid her she had definitely earned a commission and should feel guilty at eating my money without ensuring my phone and fax lines were fixed.

I called again a week later, followed by an angrier email than the two of three I had already sent her.

As luck would have it, “they” showed up on the day I was at a BBQ at the home of Cynthia’s boss. My maid beeped me to tell me “they” had arrived, and I was unreasonably angry but kept a lid on that. I knew I had told the irritatingly inefficient Cynthia person that it was important for me to know when “they” arrive, in order to: a) have my maid expect them, otherwise habits would be formed that would result in someone showing up and telling her I had sent them for the TV; and b) to guide them on where to install the lines, which for me was important because the phone and fax had to be in …ah, back to the tale.

“Don’t worry,” “they” assured me over the phone, a little impatiently, “We do this all the time.”

So they left this for me:

Notice the lack of a screw on the right hand side
Notice the lack of a screw on the right hand side

And “they” disappeared for a further month until I had emailed people three levels higher than the wretched Cynthia. So “they” returned, very irritated. And disappeared again.

“The wires are out of stock,” Cynthia emailed me.

“What wires?”

Nobody knew, but it was written somewhere that there were wires missing, and the unbearable Cynthia sent me an email to prove her point:Cynthia 1 Email on wrong numbers

My problem, as you can clearly see, was that the 2222something111222etc phone number I had been assured of was not on the technical team’s report.

This worried me in a big way. In spite of all the anger I seem to have been expressing towards the slow-witted maid called Cynthia, I kept a cool head through all her flipfloppery in the belief that at the end of it all I would have the most organised telephone number in the whole of Uganda. I was counting on having the type of phone number that I would whisper to a celebrity such as Obama and he would have no choice but to remember it.

Politely, as you can see in the email to the right there, I raised this matter with the Cynthia woman.

Cynthia Email on wrong numbersI gave up.


directions to the worst fried chicken breakfast in Uganda…

The best way to save these directions is by going straight there and eating the damn chicken.

If you have to ask why anyone would want a fried chicken breakfast, you obviously have not been to a mid-week kasiki and had to experiment with methods of managing your internal systems.

So, go to Garden City, preferably alighting from the boda-boda or parking your car at the Uchumi parking level. Go up the stairs two flights, or take the lift one level, and head for the food court.

To be sure you’re headed for the food court, on your way there you will notice a child’s play area on your left that will look like it was opened about fifteen years ago and has not seen a drop of paint since. It will evoke memories of Didi’s World or children’s entertainment options in the Obote II regime.

Shortly after that sad interlude, you will get to the Food Court. Take your seat as I did on Friday morning, and appear hungry, bored and anxious. This has to be, remember, before mid-day, otherwise it will not be a breakfast excursion.

Within ten minutes, each and every waiter and waitress on the floor will have ignored you. Your motivation being system disorders from the abovementioned kasiki action, you will find yourself waving down various levels of staff from a wide range of fast food options on the Fast Food floor.

Among the service staff who will ignore you as you do this will be Chicken Something staff wearing red, The Wok staff wearing black waistcoats, An Indian Restaurant with unclear principles, a Cuban Restaurant that doesn’t serve cigars, a Lebanese Restaurant, an Ice Cream joint.

Digress Not: These are directions to the worst fried chicken breakfast in Uganda. You therefore will have to summon the staff of the Chicken Something outlet. It is the first window of them all, and behind the counter desk there will be about fifty people doing a variety of things that have no relation to customers or, it would appear, chicken.

Eventually, after about thirty minutes – oh, I forgot to mention! ENSURE YOU CARRY WITH YOU EITHER: a) A LAPTOP or b) LARGE AMOUNTS OF URGENT WORK TO DO or c) AN ENTHRALLING NOVEL WHOSE CLIMAX YOU HAVE JUST ARRIVED AT. This will help you count the minutes go by without damage to your mentality.

So, as I was saying, after thirty minutes, the staff of The Wok will get up and notice your predicament. They will notify about twenty-five of the people behind the Chicken Something counter, who will then hold a tepid debate over who should serve you. After about two minutes of debate, during which they keep looking (not glancing or peeping, but LOOKING) at you, they will get bored, all twenty-five of them, and go back to doing what they were doing before the chap from The Wok alerted them.

Ten minutes later, a lady in a dirty-white shirt, the uniform of six hundred take-aways spread across Uganda’s two hundred districts,  will show up from the direction of the Cuban restaurant and take your order for African Tea.

After a full hour and fifteen minutes, the chap from The Wok will get fed up of your evident suffering and volunteer to bring you a copy of the Chicken Something menu. Without trying too hard, the menu will meet your expectations by showing up covered in dust, grease, far-more-suspicious liquid matter, and bits of food that will make the word Chips read like Chaps. You easily identify the situation since the bit of food in the way is obviously that coating they put on fried chicken and, anyway, there’s no way even these stupid guys can be offering something called Chaps and Chaps.

Finally, six minutes after the short woman in a dirty-white shirt brings your African tea (the teapot of lukewarm milk with one teabag of tea called ‘Africana’) and has left again to bring you a cup, the guy from The Wok will show up with your fried chicken.

On a side plate.

Without a fork, salt, tomato sauce, chillis, or anything but the side plate.

And part of a napkin that was unfolded, cut into four pieces, then folded up again to make it look whole.

You will have to eat this:

Uganda's worst piece of fried chicken - Front View
Uganda's worst piece of fried chicken - Front View

The first bite will give you that feeling experienced by most people who board taxis at Kitintale heading for town, when they look into the eyes of a fellow who has been released from Luzira prison on murder charges because “a key witness went missing”.

The second bite will be taken mostly because of an aforementioned activity related to the impending wedding of a friend who does not have the good sense to hold a bachelor’s party on a Friday or Saturday.

Whereas you strongly consider that it would be fair to vomit up both bites at once, a general sense of decency and a good upbringing will force your weak constitution to hold down the fried chicken, and you will attempt to improve your opinion of things by turning the plate around a little bit.

You will then see this:

Uganda's worst fried chicken - A Side View
Uganda's worst fried chicken - A Side View

You have arrived.

Ps. To avoid vomiting or making impolite noises that may be mistaken as attempts at doing so, DO NOT SIP at the now cold ‘African Tea’. Walk away.