THIS week I am going to be walking quite a lot, so I’m grateful for the safety shoes I bought earlier this year on a semi-whim.
See, one of my clients runs a strict protective wear policy that has us switching out shoes and clothes when we go visiting (to work) sometimes, and at the start of the year I was caught in the embarrassing position of shouting out my shoe size to the incredulity of the person in charge of safety shoes.
My feet are not as big as my belly, but they cannot be made light of. The person in charge of providing security shoes that day had supposedly taken them into account by supplying what she thought was the largest shoe size in stock, and stated so quite sternly when it was noticed that I was struggling to squeeze into the brand new shoes.
She watched me for a couple of minutes, then started frowning. I could feel her stare down my back as my damn foot started to disfigure the top part of the shoe, and I wasn’t surprised when she said, “Wait! Leave it!”, and held out her hand.
Long story short, she recalled a ‘freak’ pair of shoes that had presumably been bought years ago, and brought me a dusty box with shoes that actually went round my feet.
A month after that, I found myself in a shoe shop many miles away from Kampala and noticed a very low-priced pair of light safety shoes tucked away in a corner somewhere. The shoes cost less than my lunch that day had, so I swiped them up and walked a couple of kilometres then began to regret not having bought an extra pair.
I walk quite a lot – even when I’m operating within a small room, my phone pedometer tells me. Many times, though, I walk long distances within this town of ours.
Last Thursday, owing to my mechanic being off sick and his colleagues therefore taking the opportunity to tinker with my Land Rover, I found my last lift of the day ending at Lugogo By-Pass (real name: Rotary Avenue).
Hitching my laptop bag onto my back, I commenced my walk to the nearest place with internet access in order to send a document that (as usual) the meeting I had just been at insisted was “needed urgently tonight”.
I could have emailed it in the room but that would have meant spending a few minutes cleaning it up, then tethering my mobile data and …my lift would have left me behind.
The Bay Lounge Car Wash joint looked attractive but I had heard stories about that place and didn’t want to be calling around for taxis late in the night so far from home. Same with the Oryx verandah.
Either I got home and sent the email, or found a place close by with stress relieving drinks (including spiced tea).
Because my feet were encased in the comfortable safety shoes abovementioned, I walked on towards the Game yard and was just about to make it when I spotted a chap walking EXACTLY like Jimmy Kiberu does; but Jimmy is the type of mafresho you can’t find walking the streets like this – and he can’t possibly wear shoes like mine – so I wondered what he was up to these days as I prepared to side step him then:
Kaboozi erupted and ensued for twenty roadside minutes as we caught up on everything – he now owes me a pair of geese. As we were chatting I spotted the last special hire taxi easing out of the rank – which I confirmed when I eventually got there and stood in place for ten minutes.
Walking on to the taxi stage on Jinja Road I figured that it would be wiser for me to walk to the Nakawa stage and get a taxi to Bugolobi, so I turned upwards and found it quite easy not to fall into an open manhole.
As I approached Nakawa I recalled the numerous taxi incidents in recent months that had conductors, drivers and even fellow passengers cracking jokes about my size. None of them were rude, and we always laughed rigorously, but this time I was sweating as well and in the evenings people are rarely in a good mood, after a long day.
I certainly wasn’t.
So I vumiliyad, and took the time to make a few phone calls so by the time I was at the Kiswa turn-off my options for sending the email while having a relaxing drink were further limited.
The untrustworthy Pinkie-Pinkie-Ponkie method had me turn to the Village Mall, and I called up a pal to find out whether he would join me.
“Let me call you back,” he answered the phone, which tactic I normally reject. See, once you’ve answered just talk – I don’t like being on the phone anyway.
“Just find me at Village Mall; we’ll have a drink. Don’t call me.”
“Kawa! Let me finish my meeting then I come.”
And just as I turned the corner past Bougainvillea Hotel, he drove out of the Village Mall and sped off.
I missed that sign, and a couple of hours later was finished with work and drinks, and I was now back at the gate contemplating a late night walk the rest of the way home.
My shoes were still comfortable but my soul was not, so I asked the askaris for a taxi and one of them quickly sped off to find me one. He circled the Mall and returned to declare failure.
It seemed I was going to put another five kilometres into the shoes, but just as I began the trudge another askari, at the Shell exit, exclaimed – he had spotted a taxi returning to the stage outside of the Mall!
Five minutes later, I was in the back of a special hire taxi driving towards the Luthuli Avenue exit of the Mall. One minute after that, I was listening, puzzled, to the askari there telling the special hire driver that he couldn’t drive out if he didn’t have the parking card, and the driver explaining that he had been let in without one.
Two things: 1) the Village Mall has just introduced the Card-operated gate system; 2) the askaris, in their excitement, actually didn’t stop the driver to make him press the button to get a parking card.
“Then you go back to those ones who let you in,” said this askari.
Unbelievably, back at the Shell gate, the askaris were nonplussed.
“Ha! There is nothing we can do now…this thing here needs a card,” they said.
I turned to my phone for a little distraction. More than five minutes later I looked up to realise the engine was off and we were waiting for…
“What are we waiting for?” I asked the special hire driver.
“I don’t know.”
“Askari,” I called out, to the very same chaps I had first approached twenty minutes ago, “What are we waiting for?”
“Boss! This thing won’t open if he doesn’t have a card…”
I actually thought about launching a discussion and then, again, considered walking. But I was tired, and I had gone through a long day of such inexplicable yet apparently necessary comedy.
I had had it.
“Mwe, you guys! Open and let us go!”
I didn’t even bother to grumble about it, but told the special hire taxi fellow in no uncertain terms how he needed to always think faster on his feet and what not, be serious, be focussed on customer and client service and then mid-way my little, irritated speech…
…he ran out of fuel mid-way up the hill.
So I also ran out of the notes coming out of my wallet, mid-way to him.
And I walked the rest of the way home.
In my comfortable, but cheap, safety shoes.