BY FLORENCE BETT-KINYATTI
It’s Friday, 9.30a.m. GB and I are seated in Jambo Jet’s lounge waiting to board our flight to Coasto. Our pal has his ruracio in Mtwapa tomorrow.
Our flight is at 12p.m.
We bought our tickets over the counter, at Jambo Jet’s sales office at the airport. We could have taken the 9.40a.m flight but it cost almost double what the noon flight did, and almost triple what the 5.40p.m flight did.
That’s how Jambo Jet operates. I imagine they have this complex and intelligent algorithm that feeds on small and big data of time, day, date, weather patterns, menstrual cycles, Google searches, dollar rates, Twitter trends, fitness regimens, radio ads, Billboard’s #1 charts, box office hits…. name it. The algorithm uses this data to generate ticket rates by the minute. Fluctuating and unpredictable rates. You could buy a ticket for, say 4K, and a chap who comes 10 minutes after you gets a higher – or lower – rate than what you paid.
That’s what you get for low-budget domestic flights. Their only standard rates are the rates for checking in your luggage and the refreshments they sell on board. The in-flight attendants are essentially hawkers. Polished and poised hawkers. “This sandwich is 200 shillings, sir, the water is 300 and these, the cashew nuts, yes, we don’t have peanuts today, sorry, cashew nuts are 350 for the pack. Your total comes to 550, please. There you go, thank you. Yes, I’ll get you the wet wipes. No, no, ha ha, we don’t charge for wet wipes.”
The only reason GB and I are catching a flight to Coasto is because we missed our 8a.m train with the Madaraka Express. Although I doubt anyone in this town refers to it as Madaraka Express, everyone says it’s the SGR. So I’ll run with SGR. We missed the SGR.
There are two types of idiots in this town that’ll miss the SGR: The first is the ones that have a perpetual habit of not keeping time for most of their engagements, no matter that they committed to these engagements prior. The second are the ones who believe that Nairobi traffic won’t be as chock-a-block as it usually is. Such folk always underestimate travel time on Nairobi roads. It’s like they never learn. “Give me five I’ll be there.” Five, my ass. Unless you’ve budgeted atleast an hour and a half to travel time, then that “five” you speak of is in reality five hours.
The third, a special class of people, people not even worth typifying, are those who consider the possibility that a train wouldn’t keep time. These ones need Jesus. And therapy. And to move to shagz to live there, live a simple life of urban illusion.
GB and I are the first two types of idiots.
We had left the digs at 7 believing the train was to depart at 8.30. I know. Our Uber driver put the pedal to the metal, we got to South C flyover on Mombasa Road in record time. He reassured us the train departs at 8.15. He even over egged the pudding when he told us that only last week, he’d riden it and they’d left the station at 8.16. “Kuna jamaa aliingia 8.17 na alimake. Msiwe na wasi wasi, tutaipata.”
GB and I were muscling traffic at the turning into Enterprise Road when his brother texted him, “The train has left.”
It was 7.59a.m.
There was a damning finality to those words. A helplessness that deflated us with its inevitability and choicelessness. It’s like the gavel had been struck. Like a door had shut behind us and we were now tittering on the edge of the outer limits. Or like some hallucination that flung into a supernatural space where we spun forward and backward at the same time.
I bet you’ve had the same feeling when a truth you can do little about hits you hard:
‘You have insufficient funds in your account.’
‘You didn’t reach the pass mark.’
‘I’m not into you.’
‘You can’t dance for shit.’
‘The court finds you guilty.’
‘The gates of heaven have closed.’
‘Alcoblow imesema 0.8, madam. Simama kando.’
We got to the station at about 8.05. It was deserted save for the other idiots like us that had also missed the train: A beefy dude in a small t-shirt who’d just arrived on a boda. A mathee with her sister and two toddlers on sippy cups, outside in the parking. Some Muslim woman in a black hijab with a baby sleeping in her arms, and her sister (I suppose. Everyone with kids has to travel with their little sister, no?); they were sitted on the steps outside the main ticketing lobby.
Later, in the airport security check, as we were taking off our shoes and watches, I’d overhear two chaps saying they’d also missed the train and were boarding our flight. I chuckled. Airport check-in lines are dotted with idiots.
GB had said we take the afternoon train. I mumbled sawa, already pissed off. The ticket attendant behind the glass partition told us the 2.30 train is fully booked, the only available seats were for the 8a.m train the next morning. That wasn’t a smart option; our ruracio would be happening as we were en route.
The other option would be to take the next bus out with Modern Coast or Mash Poa or whatever, but c’mon; we’re not young campus students anymore, we’re ageing and our libidos lower and our bones wearing out, the value of our time is much higher now – taking an eight-hour trip on road by bus isn’t smart.
Our smartest option is to fly down. It would cost more but we’d be in Coasto in 45 minutes flat. (We’d rented a villa in Mtwapa for the weekend, through Doris of Afro Haven Vacations.) We’d get there before our pals in the SGR did, and still have plenty of time to unpack and settle in, take a dip in the pool, nap and maybe even fool around.
Flight it is.
Our Uber driver was still in the parking as we’d left him. He offered to drop us at the airport at no charge. That warmed my heart. That for every idiot in this town there’s a kind-hearted soul that makes the idiot feel less like an idiot. Neither of us said anything about that 8.17 departure time cock and bull he’d banged about earlier.
So we get to the airport, buy our tickets, check in and go wait in the lounge. GB had suggested we go grab a bite at Java or Paul Caffe, but I was in no mood to eat. I was pissed off. Pissed off people aren’t hungry people. I also didn’t want to take chances with our poor timekeeping again.
Now here we are, with our luggage, at the lounge of Terminal 1D, waiting for our noon flight.
I’m hella pissed off. And everything GB is doing is just getting me more and more pissed off. He’s on phone making calls to jobo and I ask myself, Why does he have to talk so loudly? Why is he pacing around the room, why can’t he just sit here and speak on the phone like regular people do? Why is he referring to his pals like that, ati “Mister Jimmy?” Or “Peeeter, my boy!” And “Meshack, the contract, tell me how we’re doing?” Why can’t he just say “Hello” or “Hey”? It’s 2018 for chrissakes, we’re parents, and married, why would he speak into the phone without decorum?
I look over at him chortling into the phone and the intensity of my anger goes up two notches higher. Make that three. No, five.
I sweep my eyes over his outfit and shake my head thinking, Why does he still have his hoodie on and the way it’s hot outside? And aki those jeans, ngai. Si last week I told him we go to Sunbeam and get a funkier skinnier pair and he lengad me? And now he’s also lengaing me, he doesn’t want to talk to me.
I’m hella pissed.
I’m going to use the analogy of a fish/sea creature to illustrate just how pissed off I am. How my anger has me well up as the minutes tick by.
At first, I’m the size of omena – puny, harmless, contained.
When he gets up to speak loudly into the phone, I’m the size of a goldfish.
He returns to his seat. He innocently zips up his hoodie and ignores me as he speaks to Peter or whoever bastard was on the line. I well up to the size of a dolphin.
I say nothing. I’m angry. My anger is brewing with my irritation, impatience, old arguments, hormones, thirst, discomfort, fatigue. Fatigue was mostly the one bringing the brew to a boil.
I’d only slept for three hours the night before: from 10.30 and woke at 1a.m. I slept in the living room, on the couch, dressed lightly under a blankie and with the lights on because I knew I needed to get up extra early. I had stuff to get done. I had my packing list ready but I hadn’t packed. I also hadn’t finished rewriting the blog post scheduled to go up this Friday morning at 11. I also had a story to draft.
Earlier in the day, on Thursday, Will and I had been in Loresho shooting an interview that had taken much longer than we’d anticipated. Her name is Njoki. She runs an outfit making grooming and beard care products for men. Guess what it’s called? C’mon, just take a guess? Be a sport. You’re gonna feel so lousy about missing this one. It’s called Mandevu. Man Ndevu. Like mandevu. Neat, huh?
Her story will run in the Saturday Nation Magazine soon, and a long reads feature and YouTube video right here on Craft It.
After the interview, I had some errands to run around Hurlingham. I needed cash but the StanChart ATM at the Total was out of service. It was about 3 in the afternoon, the service man was already there to fix it, he said he was waiting for the G4S security guys to unlock for him the ATM. I figured I’d wait around while I catch my breath.
I bought a bottle of water from Jus Chicken and had my packed lunch in the moti (some very nice chapos and white peas Nanny Viv had made for dinner the previous night). On impulse, I bought two boxes of whiskey tumblers from some jan’go sales woman called Mercy Achieng. That Mercy chick is a bewitching temptress – in the next hour I was waiting there, she sold six more boxes to other gullible homemakers like myself. I don’t know how I said no to the thermos she showed me. I also bumped into an old pal. I told her I still have her copy of Chimamanda’s ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’. She found that amusing.
The G4S chaps eventually didn’t show and at 4.45, I had to ask my sis to send me mpesa then I made a mad rush to complete my errands before those guys closed at 5.
It had been a long day and long night. I was knackered to my eyeballs.
Now here I am with this loud Kikuyu man of mine in baggy outdated jeans that’s pissing the hell out of me, oblivious to my anger.
(OK, they were not baggy or outdated jeans. I take that back. I was seeing baggy because I was angry. We see our own things when we’re angry, that’s how the emotions of human beings are wired into the senses.
If you’re angry at a hotel manager for messing up your reservation, you’ll only see how dirty the lobby is. If you’re angry with your fundi at Toi market, you’ll only catch his halitosis or sweaty underarms. If you’re angry with bad service at Urban Burger or The Mug, you’ll only taste the heavy hand of saltiness in your mushroom steak. If you’re angry at your siblings, you’ll only hear the weak argument in their logic. Anger is poisonous. Anger is blinding to the truth.)
By the time GB returns to his seat after pacing the room on phone, my brewing emotions have me well up to the size of a blue whale. An ugly blue whale. I can’t even contain myself in my seat. Hell, not even the room can contain me.
I’m certain the flight authorities would have gone on to make an announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for choosing to fly with us. We kindly request you vacate the lounge to give some room to the anger of the woman sitted there, the one in the black tights and terrible haircut. We are aware she’s about to explode. Kindly exit through the door to the left, as far from her as you can. We apologise for the inconvenience caused. Thank you yet again for choosing to fly with us. We will give you another update in an hour. Or as soon as she calms her tits. Whichever comes first.”
I’ve had enough, so I turn to GB and hiss from the corner of my mouth, “Yaani I’m here unhappy and you can’t even say anything!”
He exhales loudly and says evenly, “Why are you unhappy?”
A heated back and forth unnecessarily ensues.
I tell him it’s his fault we missed the train. He says I take too long to get ready. I tell him I’ve been up since 1a.m working, he was still asleep at 6.15, when we should have been readying to get out the door. He says I never take feedback well, especially when it’s negative. I tell him it’s my first time on the SGR, he knows better how check in goes. He says he’d communicated leaving time but it’s like I didn’t listen. I tell him he’s setting a bad precedence of lousy timekeeping for future family vacays. He tells me I should plan myself better. I tell him I hate his jeans.
There’s a woman in the row behind us with her son, a boy around six, fussing cause of his melting chocolate bar. His mum isn’t giving him space, “Funga mdomo! What are you crying for, eh? Don’t touch your eyes with your fingers. Funga mdomo!” To the right of GB, a very old man on his walking stick is still holding his printed ticket. I suppose he’s flying to Ukunda in the next few minutes yet he hasn’t checked in. Poor him.
The rest of the waiting lounge hums on unperturbed with the ripe patience of travellers on the go. Disinfectant from the washrooms behind us drifts past.
A call comes through on GB’s phone and he stands up to answer it.
The blood in my blue-whale body only boils the more. A vein on the side of my head throbs, my nostrils flare.
When he returns, I remember an old to-do he hasn’t seen through. I ask viciously, “And why haven’t you registered my company Craft It?! Didn’t I ask you to do this in sijui Jan? So this is how it goes for us, eh? You you push me to get your things done but you don’t push yourself to get mine done?”
He scoffs and throws me a disgusted look. “Now isn’t the time to discuss this.”
He’s right. It’s neither the time. Nor the place.
The problem with being a scorned woman is that you let your tongue get the best of you. You become foolish and unreasonable, you don’t listen, you say things in the wrong way and hurt yourself and your man. You want to be babied. You destroy instead of building.
Get this. Last year, I was writing a feature about the modern woman and submission and I interviewed this coach called Patricia Murugami. Patricia runs Brides for Life, Wives for Life, “an initiative that teaches wives and wives-to-be how to, among other things, harness the feminine power, be self-aware and build intimacy with their husbands while creating a bright and cheerful home on earth.”
Submission is debatable, especially for the fiery feminist – let not go there right now, stay with me, you’ll understand more in a bit. Some of the stuff Patricia told me, “Submission is not a traditional concept but a timeless one. Submission is about detaching yourself from your own opinions, and using your strong feminine wisdom to access a situation in its entirety, asking yourself, ‘What truly matters here?’
“It’s wisely choosing your battles and choosing to be kind rather than right. Practically, it may mean not using the phrase ‘I told you so’ even when it’s warranted. It’s choosing when to speak and when to remain silent. Submission is the art of self-mastery. It’s about emotional intelligence, humility and moderating the tone and timing of your tongue.”
I loved that last part. Allow me to paraphrase it, “Emotional intelligence is about self-mastery. It’s about moderating the tone and timing of your tongue.”
I’ll focus on emotional intelligence because most urbanites are more receptive to it than submission. Even I am. When I hear the word ‘submission’, I twist my mouth and shake my head the way Chris Rock does when he’s doing stand up and has said something about the privilege of white America. Hahha. But when I hear ‘emotional intelligence’, I sit up straighter and my eyes light up. I’m like a meerkat that’s sensed interest.
(Side bar: Speaking truthfully though, submission and emotional intelligence are one and the same thing. Don’t argue with me – you’ll realize this when you’re married and in your 30s. For now, pack it in your tool kit of life skills.)
Anyway. All relationships thrive on emotional intelligence – relationships with your old pals and new pals, your bosses at jobo and your partners in your side-hustles, your nanny or cleaning lady, your inlaws or your partner’s pals and family. Even the relationship with my boots guy, Brayo, or my butcher Kamundia in City Market, thrives on emotional intelligence.
Has your boss ever pulled a major dick move on you and you right away open a new email to spell out for them exactly how you’re feeling? That’s not emotional intelligence, that’s being immature, emotional and ignorant to the rule that you never leave a paper trail. Do you know what an emotionally intelligence person would do in such a situation? They’d let that email sit in their inbox unread, then the next morning, simply write back, ‘OK.’ Or, ‘Noted.’ Better yet, ‘I understand.’ Folk frighten me when they tell me, ‘I understand.’
Here at the waiting lounge – with GB and the missed train, with my fatigue and whaling scorn – I haven’t been emotionally intelligent. I haven’t moderated the tone and timing of my tongue. I haven’t mastered myself or my emotions. I misjudged the situation for its singularity.
GB gets up to (loudly) answer his phone and I do what I should have hours ago: I nap. I tuck my legs beneath me, lay my whale-ish head on the travelling bag in the chair next, cover myself with my kikoy and I nap.
Napping is akin to walking away from a situation that’ll derail, it calms the nerves.
And for a scorned woman, it keeps her bloody mouth shut.43