Catch me dead hitching a ride

If you’re lucky, you might be given a lift by a talker, meaning that all you have to do is nod, say ‘yes’ or feign shock…

I have a confession to make. I don’t like lifts. I dislike them so much, I am capable of diving into a bush just to avoid being offered one by someone I know, especially if our relationship is limited to “Hi, how are you?” or “Maisha inakupeleka aje?”

I would rather have my aging bones rattled to breaking point in one of our many un-roadworthy matatus than get a lift. You see, whenever I have gotten one, I always feel obligated to initiate and keep the small talk going as a way to show that I am grateful for the kind gesture, yet there is nothing as labour intensive as keeping small talk going. I mean, imagine being given a lift and then remaining silent throughout the journey...

And woe unto you if you encounter a traffic jam, which you are most likely to anyway, meaning that you have to keep the blather going much longer.

The giver of the lift might not admit it, but they also feel the strain, especially if he or she has no rapport with the liftee. It is awkward, strenuous and uncomfortable, and gets worse if those that offered you a lift are a couple. I imagine that were I not in the car, they would be freely thrashing out their domestics and discussing their children’s education and other things that married people talk about when alone. As it is, your presence in their car forces them to discuss the weather - “Hii jua itatumaliza…” or “Yaani hii mvua ilisema haitawahi nyesha?”

Once you are done flogging the weather, you move onto the harsh economy, which has all Kenyans, apart from politicians, panting from morning to evening. Once you are done thrashing the economy having especially lingered on the rising cost of sugar, cooking oil and fuel, you quickly realise, horror of horrors, that there is nothing else to talk about yet you are only in Kinoo and are going all the way to the city centre.

It is because of such scenarios that not more than once, I have pretended to be on phone when I spot a neighbour’s car approaching just to avoid being offered a lift. There are also times when I have blatantly lied and said, “Nafika hapa tu…” or lied and said that I was exercising, yet just from the clothes and shoes I was wearing, it was obvious that I was lying through my teeth.

If you are lucky, you might be given a lift by a talker, meaning that all you have to do is nod in an exaggerated manner, say ‘yes’ or feign shock and amazement from time to time. Less strenuous, but tiring all the same.

Being the recipient of a lift also means that you have to put up with the car owner’s bad habits, whatever they may be, after all, a beggar cannot be a chooser. Neither can you be welcomed into someone’s home and then take the liberty to tell them how to live.

A while back, I was offered a lift by a smoker, and as fate would have it, he decided to smoke his way through all the potholes on our way, potholes that lengthened the journey to my destination four times what it would have taken had the road been smooth. By the time I alighted, I was smoking and smelling like a chimney, an odour that stuck to my hair until the end of that month when I got money to visit a salon.

And now, no one will ever give me a lift again…


The writer is Chief Production Editor at NMG. Email: [email protected] ke.nationmedia.com

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