the Bruno saga continues at Total Nakawa


20150908_101722Starting the day out normally for a seasoned Land Rover driver, I made up my mind to walk to the stage and get a taxi after my car failed to start. I had an urgent series of meetings to attend, and was not going to risk being late.

Confounding the askari at my gate, I threw my laptop bag over my shoulder and stalked out while making a phone call in Bruno’s direction. The plan was simple – take a taxi headed in the direction he was going to depart from, and meet somewhere midway.

Rather than call him up though, I called up his real boss a.k.a. my wife. She often undergoes tribulations with the chap but not on the scale that I suffer, which makes me believe that she has better communication skills when it comes to deploying Bruno.

“Please ask him to pick me up at Total Nakawa,” were my exact words, followed by: “The Total at the Nakawa lights.”

She voiced a clear understanding of the situation and didn’t even offer an endearment as she dialled off to dispatch the fellow.

I made it all the way to the taxi stage, into the taxi and through the process of arguing with the conductor a little bit so he wouldn’t cheat me out of Ushs200, until I was standing on the forecourt of the Total Station in Nakawa.

At that point, I realised that I should have seen Bruno’s car by then. There were not many vehicles there and a limited number of options open to a driver for parking a motor vehicle in a manner designed to aid the collection of a waiting principal.

I looked round again and confirmed that he was not there.

I then recalled a similar incident earlier on and a sense of dread began to weigh down on my forehead.

Supposing he was at the Shell in Nakawa? That small one up there, just after the traffic lights? Or the one further on? I knew it was in Naguru along Stretcher Road, and not Nakawa, but this was Bruno…?

I realised that I was going to be late for my meeting, and whipped out the phone to call up with apologies, wondering whether to mention Bruno’s very existence in my life as a cause, when I noticed that he had tried to call me about five minutes earlier under the sound of taxi chatter.

The next few minutes were going to be painful or full of mirth, I figured, so I sent meeting apologies just in case I didn’t get hold of the chap, then called Bruno up.

“Bruno?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Where are you?”

“Sir, I am here.”

I no longer laugh at this. Also, I gave up trying to make it stop. I just allow it to happen, so the time it takes to get past it is built into my expectations of these interactions with Bruno. So I leave him “there” and probe further.

“Are you at Total Nakawa?”

“Sir, I am at the new buildings.”

I stopped a little bit and allowed the brain to churn. I had noticed some construction work going on near the garage bays at the top of the fuel station, but that couldn’t possibly be called “new buildings”. The works actually depicted mounds of soil extracted from the bay itself, rather than any new construction.

As I squinted to establish whether or not Bruno’s car was underneath one of those mounds of soil, I realised that in front of me, above Total Nakawa, was the UAP Business Park.

Without leaning on the investigative power of the likes of Sherlock Holmes or Grace Akullo, I solved the case.

Two weeks ago, I had had Bruno pick me up from those very same “new buildings” that make up the UAP Business Park. He must, therefore, have gone there on hearing the ‘Nakawa’ part of “Total Nakawa”.

“Bruno?” I said, in even tones delivered not to make him skittish and go off to, say, Mukono, “are you at those Nakawa buildings?”

“The new buildings, sir!”

“Bruno, where did Madame tell you to find me?”

Silence.

“Bruno?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Aren’t you supposed to find me at Total Nakawa?”

Silence.

“Come to Total Nakawa.”

Five minutes later, he drove into the fuel station – not from the Old Port Bell Road as you would expect if you are in any way familiar with this part of town, but from the main Jinja Road.

And on driving in, he stopped his car right there at the entrance and turned to face the UAP Business Park as if he either expected to see me emerge from that direction, or would be driving there shortly himself (see that black car in the photograph up there? Exactly like that!)

I walked over to his car and made myself available to him as a calm passenger before asking him WTH.

“Did Madame tell you to find me at Total Nakawa?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then why did you go to those UAP New Buildings?”

Pause.

“Bruno?!”

“Sir, I had gone to look for parking…”

bruno and the Ushs100,000


CERTIFICATE - Bruno
The scene – my two-car parking lot at the house.
The time – late one evening last week.
Protagonists – myself and, of course, Bruno, and certainly not in that order.

The day had been long and tiring, and I was surprised to be getting home roundabout the same time as Bruno, that earnestly comedic driver currently employed to convey my wife and children around town.

“Sir!” he said, to catch my attention after walking in my direction and stopping a respectful distance away.

I stopped offloading my car and turned towards him.

“Yes?”

He took one careful step forward, put one hand onto his wrist, and then brought the second hand forward to hand me two crisp Ushs50,000 notes.

Bruno often surprises me by the way his mind works, so I never attempt to work out the meaning of his gestures, mumbled words or even those he delivers with the right elocution.

So I took nothing for granted and, before bringing my hand out to accept the cash offering, I had to ask: “What’s this?”

Bruno did not disappoint.

He responded with such finality and purpose that for a couple of seconds I suspected he had set it all up for this one priceless moment when he would have me in front of him, about to receive two Ushs50,000 notes and asking, “What’s this?”

Because he replied with a very straight, blank, clear face: “Money.”

I almost died, and to this day thank God that this had not happened while I was drinking a glass of water or chewing on some hard bits of food, because I would have choked and died.

Again, the man was absolutely CORRECT! “This” WAS money! He was 100% correct on that count; he was handing me money.

My question had not covered the full length of the information I wanted from him – such as what the money was for, where it was from, what they excepted in return, and so on and so forth.

I had only asked, “ What is this?”

My suspicion that he had done this on purpose in order to respond, “Money” however, was short-lived. Surely, I thought, he would have first started with, “My hands, sir!” then after I had pressed on a bit, moved to “Money!”

But again, this was Bruno, and his blank face sometimes suggested that there were vacancies available behind it.

This was one of those times.

the daily dose, as served up by my man Bruno


Today’s helping came from my regular supplier, Bruno.

He has a humble soul to match the sharpness of his intelligence, and his comedic value far outweighs the irritation that accompanies it.

I don’t use him every day, but sometimes find myself ceding on-road vehicle management to him.

Part of his usefulness is in ensuring that vehicle parts are not popped off the vehicle while it is parked, and that valuables and other not-so-valuables do not disappear from the vehicle when my wife and I are absent.

As he dropped me at the Jubilee Insurance Centre on Parliamentary Avenue, I gave him the usual life-or-death reminder regarding my laptop: “Do not let it out of your sight. Do not leave it in the car. Do not let it get stolen.” twice in English, and twice in Luganda.

I pointed at the bag. I made him turn back to look at the bag. Then I made him look at me to see how serious I was, as usual, about this issue.

“Now go to the Parking Lot and please wait for me there. I will tell you when I am done with the meeting,” I said, and left after he had confirmed comprehension – which never really means much.

Two hours later, my meeting over and done with, I switched my phone on as I was walking out and saw an SMS indicating that Bruno had tried to call me not fifteen minutes earlier.

I felt a sense of dread come over me. The only reason he would be calling would be to tell me he had changed his location or to report an issue.

You would only understand the depth of my fear if you knew the full story of Bruno and his absolute inability to give or follow directions (which you might hear about later on). This shortfall makes it almost impossible to do anything with him if you are not physically in the same place.

But the next three minutes confirmed that he is improving.

I called him back praying that he had not been sent anywhere else or gotten lost between the front of the building and the Parking Lot.

“Bruno!”

“Yes, sir?”

“You tried to call me?”

“Yes, sir.”

Silence as I waited for him to tell me why he had tried to call me.

Silence as he waited for me to tell him (again) why I had called him.

“Yeah, Bruno. What is it? Why had you called?”

“Sir,” he said, “I had called to tell you madame sent me to fix the tyre.”

“Okay,” I replied, afraid that he was now probably in Entebbe or Mityana, trying to fix the tyre, “So where are you?”

*Here it is*

And he said: “Shell.”

Pause, at this point, and appreciate that where I was standing, on Parliamentary Avenue, smack in the centre of Kampala, being told that he was at ‘Shell’ was as descriptive as any other word in the english language at that point. Among words he could have said and been equally informative were: ‘Chicken’, ‘Biscuits’, ‘Bricks’, ‘Cement’…and even places such as, ’Take-away’, ‘Restaurant’, ‘Hotel’, and so on and so forth.

But I picked out the silver lining in my situation as I stood in the hot sun working out which ’Shell’ he was probably at and worked up the courage to pursue a line of questioning for more details:

You see, just a month ago, Bruno always answered the question, “Where are you?” with the precise and prompt response: “Here!”

I always planned that when I found myself down in the dumps I would call him up with this question so he lightens the mood.

He had improved from “Here” to, at least, saying the name of the place.

So, calculating that the nearest Shell to where we were was probably the one above Grand Imperial Hotel, I hurriedly started my climb uphill and continued my line of questioning, but first by ascertaining that my bag was still safe.

“Do you have my bag, Bruno? Are you watching it?”

He had been waiting for this question, I could tell from the glee with which he answered: “Yes, sir! I am having your bag with me!”

Great! I slowed my pace down a little bit at that news, which was a little lucky because then I asked him which Shell petrol station he was at exactly and he answered:

“This one.”

True, in fact, but very, very, very useless information
True, in fact, but very, very, very useless information

*I am not making this story up. You may wish to meet Bruno and spend a little time with him if you want to verify his general embeera (the way he be’s). 

“Bruno! Which Shell?!”

I stopped in my tracks.

“Total,” he said, “Opposite Uganda House.”

the daily dose of a certain type of chap


There is a lot to report under this category, but I will stick with the unusual yet common one; the one that stood out more than the rest, and who is very unlikely to ever interact with me, personally, again.

He was in Bunamwaya, perched atop his boda-boda and either a: doing absolutely nothing or; b) mentally solving calculus equations or; c) using his brain for anything in between a) and b).

I was a little lost, trying to get to one Dr. Mutesasira’s residence, and had been given the instruction: “Ask any boda-boda man – they all know the way.”

This fellow was, to all intents and purposes, a boda-boda man. He was sitting on a boda-boda. The boda-boda was at a ‘siteegi‘ (aka stage). I slowed down as I approached, wore that face of uncertainty coupled with politeness that we have to wear when seeking this type of help.

Boda?” I asked, having slowed to a complete halt right in front of him.

“Eeeeh!”

Oli wa wano? Are you from here?”

“Yye!”

Phew! Problem solved. I’d be at my destination shortly and out in time for my next meeting.

In Luganda, I continued:

‘Can you direct me? Do you know where Dr. Mutesasira’s place is?’

‘Hah!’

That one word, and the tone of voice he used, was confirmation enough that he did not.

But he went on anyway, “Perhaps…(Oba…)”

And he didn’t do that thing that we sometimes do of pretending to think about it, or trying to recall the directions. He just didn’t know – but that was not going to stop him trying to ‘help’.

And this is where I gave him his label.

“I think I have heard his name,” the fellow began.

“But do you know him? Do you know where he lives?”

“Hah. Maybe I know him by another name. If I see him I might find that I know him.”

We looked at each other for a moment as I hoped that what I was thinking at that time would be sinking into his mind.

Did he: a) think I was driving around trying to establish whether people on boda-bodas generally knew a Dr. Mutesasira? b) expect me to begin suggesting other names by which he might know Dr. Mutesasira, and if b) then c) how would I know which name he would know Dr. Mutesasira by? How long did he think we had to spend playing that particular guessing game? And; d) did he expect me to whip out photos of this Dr. Mutesasira so he identifies him, or to arrange a mini-identification parade?

I took my dose in full measure, thanked him and drove on.

the daily idiot chronicles


I GOT served my daily dose of idiot at Jinja’s Igar petrol station on Saturday afternoon.

This wasn’t the day’s first offering of idiot, of course, because I had left home at 0835hrs and driven all the way from Kampala to Jinja; this was just my first personal serving. Custom-made to suit the theme of life dealing with people such as the designated idiot of that hour.

The earlier ones were too random and numerous to warrant much focus – most of them were driving the five thousand cars that failed to observe a basic traffic courtesy of lining up to wait for the cars ahead (mine inclusive) to go through a random road block caused by road construction works on two points along Jinja road.

Speaking of those road construction works, someone20140531_102141 needs to explain why the most chicken-brained people in the land get assigned the task of supervising those works. Where are all the intelligent engineers and construction technicians? Where are the ones who can guide traffic in a manner that doesn’t cause thirty-minute build-ups and the creation of five-lane traffic channels on a two-lane road?

So my interaction with idiots had began in the morning, as usual.

The fellow’s name was Isma, I discovered when I parked, because the lady serving fuel called him up quite deliberately when I said I needed to put coolant into the radiator.

The manner in which she called him made me believe that he was the expert at these things, and most likely a mechanic with many years’ experience. I didn’t pay him too much attention as I sought permission to run into the shop to buy a snack for the drive back to Kampala. Both Isma and the lady waved me on and after seven minutes (five of them unnecessarily spent standing at the counter) I was back to find he had emptied the bottle of coolant fluid into the container, and was now pouring in a bottle of water after it.

I absent-mindedly watched the chap pour two more bottles of water before it hit me that we were being quite inefficient. To refill the bottle of water, he kept having to go inside the building all the way to the sink near the toilets.

If you’ve ever had a dry radiator you will know how many trips he was probably going to have to make. At the third bottle, I suggested to him that a small jerrycan would do the job better, to which he remarked with a high pitched laugh: “I didn’t know it would take so much water!”

And off he went to get another bottle-full.

Long story short, I took up my seat to start the engine as is part of the process when one’s putting a coolant mix into the radiator, and began on my little snack.

Shortly thereafter, I saw the bonnet beginning to go down and was a little (very little, to be honest, but a little all the same) surprised that he had ferried enough bottles of water to complete the process.

He placed the bonnet down and then shot me a look of quick, uncontrolled panic.

Our eyes locked for a few seconds during which I read his thoughts clearly.

He was thinking just two words, most probably in Lusoga: “Awwww, shit!”

The bonnet wasn’t shut properly, and, recovering from his panic quickly, he tried to press down on it to force it shut.

Now it was my turn to panic because it was clear he had done something wrong and was going to try and force it correct. As I unstrapped my seat belt and opened the car door, he slapped the bonnet and said something like, “Genda; kati enywedde.” (Go; it’s properly shut.”)

It clearly wasn’t.

I had to nudge him off the car to stop him pressing down on the bonnet, and within seconds had figured the problem out.

You know the rod that holds up the bonnet of a car to keep it up as you work on the engine? And you know how there is normally a clip  that holds it back when you are closing the bonnet?

Isma, my designated idiot, did not know this.

Working at a petrol station or garage does not automatically equip one with such knowledge.

Peeping under the bonnet, I noticed the cover of the Coolant bottle perched on part of the engine, and I looked around me to see that Isma had tossed the coolant bottle onto the ground. Worse, the bonnet rod which he had tossed generally into the engine area without clipping it to the bonnet, was now caught in something and so the bonnet would neither open nor close.

Actually, what was worse was that he was now trying to get his little hands under the bonnet to tug at something in order to pry it open.

“That’s all we need to do,” he kept muttering in Lusoga and Luganda.

To avoid the consequences of assaulting him, I sent him off on his way and physically had to push him off before he finally left it alone. He sulked off and declared to the rest of his colleagues that I was being obstinate and refusing to take his advice.

The impertinence was the last straw, and I charged over to explain that I wouldn’t need his bloody advice in the first place if he had shut the bonnet properly, and that the advice was as wrong as it was un-needed!

Eventually I got the bonnet open and cooled down enough to invite him back to pick up the empty coolant bottle, take the bottle cap out of the engine, and study how the bonnet rod mechanism works, before driving off. I felt like a good Christian, having forgiven him, and forgot all about him for a while.

Five minutes.

Ten kilometres later, my dashboard lights exploded to indicate that the car was overheating, and the engine failed.

Parking off the road in a safe bush, I opened the bonnet and realised that my run-in with the idiot had proved ME to be an even BIGGER IDIOT for not double checking everything before driving off.

He had placed the radiator cap on and twisted it slightly into place, but certainly hadn’t closed it tightly as the instructions written on it clearly stated. All the water he had poured into it during the trips with the coolant bottle had evaporated into the Jinja air. Much like any intelligence he might have had at birth, since his head had clearly never been screwed on right.

The scene of the idiocy
The scene of the idiocy