If you’ve seen me on an ordinary morning you will notice one of many coffee thermos mugs I leave home with. One day last week I realised late in the morning that the thermos mug had leaked a little bit and stained my shirt.
The shirt in question is a neat number I bought at far less than it would appear to cost, and therefore gets special attention when I open the wardrobe door. I had an important meeting to attend that day and that shirt had therefore left its hanger.
On noticing the coffee stain my spirits fell momentarily, but the meeting was nigh so I soldiered on, adopting an awkward posture with my elbow on the table for the duration. For the rest of that day I ensured all interaction with serious but impressionable people ranged from strictly unavoidable to none at all.
See, if the coffee stain had appeared on one of my ordinary shirts then I would probably not have noticed it at all, let alone adjusted posture or schedule to hide the fact. I only felt squarely uncomfortable because the shirt in question was the type even a moderate Sapeur would more than glance at, immediately thinking of ways to add colourful accessories.
To a serious person that day, spotting a coffee stain on that shirt would have made them think me to be quite careless, shabby and even immature. What kind of adult fails to control a coffee mug for the short distance between the table and his lips?
The stain came to mind this week when, for about the fourth week running, I walked to the Luthuli Avenue entrance of the Village Mall in Bugolobi and found that it was STILL not fully operational because of a small flood of unnatural water from a burst pipe or clogged sewer nearby.
When I first saw this mini-flood there was a line of cars trying to get into the Mall and being re-routed to other entrances. A few days later some authorities had dug up the neat paving blocks at that point, to check what was happening.
Weeks later, the dug-up paving stones were still piled up to one side, and there was a gaping hole in the ground filled up with water and revealing the innards of the road. Confounded drivers were still rolling up to gain access, and puzzled security guards were still routing them to other entrances with that “What can’t you see?” attitude.
I stopped and asked the askaris how it was possible for this to be happening here, at an upmarket Mall in the capital city, in an otherwise wealthy neighbourhood. Undeveloped land in Bugolobi goes for about US$1million an acre. You pay Ushs10,000 for 300mls of coffee at that Mall, and meals are an average of Ushs25,000 a plate and their french fries travel on aeroplanes to get here. They even have shoes that cost Ushs2million a pair (two shoes only) and their pizzas were endorsed by a Cabinet Minister, no less!
And yet for more than a month this Mall can suffer a gaping hole in the ground filling up with extremely unhygienic water and other substances. The thought that a housefly taking an afternoon dip in the dark pool of water swilling about in that hole could thereafter alight onto the edge of my coffee mug at the nearby cafes, or onto the fork conveying food into my mouth was discouraging.
Of course the people leaving the Mall after buying Ushs2million pairs of shoes would be doing so in while driving sleek cars but even splashing through the muddy seepage should certainly make them feel awkward.
But the askaris reported that there had been no angry gatherings of proponents of tourism, health, environmental management, urban management or even mere customers of the Mall, all protesting this ongoing state of affairs.
They couldn’t confirm which officials were responsible for fixing the problem but said “they” had visited and taken the pavers apart after the flooding had started, but had not been back since. I established from elsewhere that the people at the KCCA had taken responsibility and had promised to fix it.
The problem, it would appear, is mostly to do with storm waters and a clogged drainage system. But instead of fixing the problem urgently, for some reason we are all waiting for the heavy rains to come to an end first.
This is what is causing the stain on the neat shirt of Bugolobi’s most prime commercial location, making you think: “What kind of careless, shabby, immature adult fails to control a coffee mug for the short distance between the table and his lips?”