Let’s be honest, we are deceitful people

The only reason many of us don’t cheat our way through life is because of the attached consequences.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • I once heard of someone who visited a colleague only to be served with cutlery embossed with an airline’s logo, from the coffee cup to the spoon, having wiped his hands with a hand towel embroidered with the name of a popular hotel.
  • A friend who works in the hospitality industry tells me that guests steal from hotels all the time.

During my college days, we would make a beeline for a certain food shack daily at around 11am to have a cup of piping hot tea and an accompaniment, usually a chapati or what we referred to as mandazi-mayai, which, as the name suggests, was a mandazi covered up with a beaten-up egg and then fried – you ate this when you were feeling rich.

With Sh20 or Sh30, you left “kwa Kamau” with a full belly. Being paupers like most students in public institutions are, this often served as lunch.

The mabati shack had been built around a huge tree that must have been decades old, while the floor was a mixture of soil and charcoal soot that had been firmly cemented by the feet that strolled in and out of Kwa Kamau daily. Please stay with me, I’m headed somewhere with this.

In the middle of each wooden table would be a plastic plate piled high with boiled eggs. I know that it sounds unbelievable, but Kamau trusted his customers to pay without prompting whenever they partook of an egg.

And no, nobody kept an eye on the eggs, not Kamau nor his two waiters, and as you can imagine, that rudimentary structure had no CCTV camera.

Also, we never once saw Kamau counting his boiled eggs before a customer sat at the table or before the customer left. I know, it sounds like fiction, and hadn’t I been one of his repeat customers, I would have dismissed this story as far-fetched fiction.

Honesty

This memory got me thinking about the place of honesty in today’s world, and my conclusion is that there is no business owner today that would dare run his business like Kamau.

There is so much dishonesty today, there are establishments, especially bars, where you are expected to pay upfront before being served, thanks to untrustworthy patrons who have a habit of taking off without paying their bill. And I won’t mention those that walk away with the glasses they are served in, the ashtrays or even the cutlery and tissue paper in the washroom…

I once heard of someone who visited a colleague only to be served with cutlery embossed with an airline’s logo, from the coffee cup to the spoon, having wiped his hands with a hand towel embroidered with the name of a popular hotel. It’s not a farfetched story. A friend who works in the hospitality industry tells me that guests steal from hotels all the time.

Entertainment places

But I digress. Those entertainment places that don’t ask you to settle your bill in advance have installed CCTV cameras all over the place to keep a wary eye on you, and employed guards to ensure that you don’t sneak off without paying.

Voluntary honesty, I dare say, went out the window with the Kamaus of those days, what we have now is enforced honesty. The only reason many of us don’t cheat our way through life is because of the attached consequences, we only honour the rule of law because we fear the punishment attached to the crime, and it is this low threshold when it comes to integrity that explains the deep-rooted corruption that has been gradually dragging this country under water.

Many have perfected the habit of reaping where they did not sow, so much so, it is becoming an accepted way of life. I wonder what I will write concerning this topic a decade from now.

cnjunge@ke.nationmedia.com