Today I fought a makanga. I’ve never done that before. Well actually, I have, but that time doesn’t count, because the makanga was fighting my date and he tried to drag my baby into it. Nobody drags my baby into anything!

Today was different. I was trying to get to Ngong, so I decided to use the Karen route. I had budgetted my transport, because it was a one hour errand, so I just carried enough to get to Ngong and back. I didn’t even carry my wallet or ID.

So when the matatu got to Bomas and the makanga suggested that all Karen bound passengers get off, I wasn’t amused. He asked me to pay the full fare, but my hackles went up, so he let me pay half.

The makangas at Bomas then swarmed around me yelling fares and trying to drag me to their cars. They were all charging more than I had, so I stood there fuming while I considered screwing the errand and simply heading back home.

Then this strange creature walked up to me – a polite makanga! It’s like a green headed unicorn or something. He saw the look on my face and asked what was up, so I explained that I didn’t have enough fare because of the first matatu. He offered to get me where I was going on what I had, so I smiled and went to his car.

That’s when the other makanga showed up yelling that I enter his matatu instead, because he had more passengers. The one I was heading towards was empty. I ignored him.

He then got upset and said something that implied I was arrogant and dumb. His exact words were something like, ‘Get in that empty car if you think you’re so smart. You’ll take years to get where you’re going.’ In sheng, of course. ‘Ingia hiyo gari kama unajiona mjanja.’ His tone said a lot more.

Anyone that knows me knows there are three ways to piss me off: lie to me, mess with my child, or insult my intelligence.

I’m not sure what got into me, but I got out of the car, walked back to the makanga, and asked him why he was picking on me. I’d have liked to use a calm Darius Stone approach, but I was pretty pissed, so I ended up in 250-words-a-minute-trembling-arms-and raising-fists-mode instead. I should have kept my mouth shut and knocked his teeth out.

I didn’t notice what a scene I’d caused until I got back into the car and noticed people staring at me. As I sat calming my pulse and waiting for the matatu to fill up, I started thinking. This is why I hate losing my temper. When the anger fades, I’m left with this still sadness, this vacuum of regret. I stared out of the window counting, breathing, and I noticed the furious makanga sneering at me and calling me a … name … as his matatu drove away.

I started to wonder why I had confronted him. I was clearly projecting, it wasn’t really about him. It was about the first makanga who’d dropped me miles from my destination. I never fight with makangas because I don’t think it makes a difference. You yell at them, they call you a name, they go harass someone else. It’s futile. Truth is … I’m afraid of causing a scene, or of what the makanga might do.

But then I realised something. When you yell at them they lash back. And that means you struck a nerve. Logic suggests that if you confront a makanga and he goes quiet or apologises, then you’ve succeeded. But sometimes, if he hits back, and tries to draw other people into the argument, you may have scored more than if he had just stayed quiet.

A bully picks on people because he feels inferior. A makanga imagines that you have deep contempt for him, so he battles his feelings by being a pest, just like a watchman does. Sometimes, this contempt is all in their minds, but many times it’s not.

So when a makanga attacks you, and you hit back, and he retorts, it means you’ve burnt him deep. He has to rally support to prove himself right, so he mouths off to everyone around him, and sneers as he drives away. It’s a parting shot.

Later in the day, I got swarmed by makangas, and tried to defend myself, but they were yelling too  loud for me to be heard, so I ignored them, walked to the far side, and got into one matatu whose makanga seemed reasonable. Until he dumped me at the wrong stage. Again.

I started to protest, this time in a calm, defeated voice. I just couldn’t see the point. I actually considered walking, but another makanga took me home at half price.

Thinking about it now, it seems like so much wasted energy. Twice I confronted bullies, and twice I got nowhere. At least I met two polite makangas who made my day and saved me from two really long walks. And when I got onto a matatu with two rough scary-looking female makangas,  instead of the bile I usually get from women, they were extremely respectful and even called me Madame. I couldn’t help thanking them when I got off.

As for the bully situation, I whined to my better half about it and he said, ‘The result doesn’t matter. You stood up for yourself,  and I’m proud of you.’

Three things.

  1. I have the awesomest better half in the world.
  2. I’m pretty proud of me too.
  3. I still wish I’d knocked that idiot’s teeth out. Oh well. Maybe next time.

105 thoughts on “Public transport and the bully mentality

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