Hawkers are traffic terrorists

There is a stretch of road between Nairobi West and the Nyayo Stadium roundabout where Uhuru Highway and Mombasa Road intersect. Technically, it’s a section of Lang’ata Road. It’s about 500 metres long, give or take a couple of hundred. It’s not a long road to travel but it is inundated with hawkers selling all manner of paraphernalia from mobile phone chargers to bananas and every unrelated thing in between.

Driving along that stretch is like tumbling head first into an oncoming herd of wildebeest. These salesmen and women surround you on every side, shoving their wares in your face and refusing to take no for an answer. If you make eye contact, you are done for. Eye contact is the hawker symbol for “I’ll take it!”

Once your eyes meet, the negotiations begin. You might think you’re safe behind your window, but yeah, you’re not. They will badger you until you engage and in many instances, you will find yourself offering to buy something just so they will leave you alone.

As soon as you buy something, you become a ‘customer’, which means that every time you come across the same hawker, you are under some kind of weird obligation to ‘top up’. I’ve been buying audio CDs I don’t need for weeks now, all because I made eye contact. Now that we’ve been acquainted, I can no longer pretend that he doesn’t exist.

I grabbed his attention and have continued to hold it despite the fact that I don’t know his name and he doesn’t know mine. I’m a private citizen and it is a public road, which for some reason, makes it okay for him to use the undue influence of eye contact, to extort money from me. Money I usually have no intention of spending. But hey, what’s a stationary motorist to do? C’est la vie.

Most of these reluctant purchases are made on Sunday on my way to work. Working on a Sunday would be much more of a drag if I was a regular churchgoer but I’m not. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in God, it just means I don’t go to church. Not very often, at least.

And you know what they say; if you don’t take that well-travelled road to church Sunday in and Sunday out, then apparently, you are on the highway to hell. Well, that stretch between Nairobi West and Nyayo Stadium sure does feel like hell. Regardless, I’m sure there are quite a number of church-going folk who are well ahead of me in that particular queue.

Hey, I’m a bedside Baptist and I’m proud of it. Short of killing people with kindness and grabbing their attention, I really haven’t done anything that could be described as an affront to humanity. Other than being a demon on the road, cutting motorists off, and refusing to look hawkers in the eye, there’s nothing on my record that should condemn me to damnation.

There are many who have done much worse than you and I, who wouldn’t miss Sunday service if their lives depended on it. But for some reason they get a free pass because they only drink liquor for Holy Communion. They continue to vomit on our shoes and we continue to eat their sick. So just leave me and my assembly of bedside Baptists alone: It’s our time to sit.