From self- contained rooms to our homes; social distancing has been part of our lives
By XN Iraki | July 29th 2020
Self-contained room is a popular term in the rural towns. Interpreted literary, it means the room has everything and anything you need from food to bathrooms, more like an egg or womb.
The term self-contained has been there since my childhood. Curiously, 5-star hotels do not show off their self-contained rooms, yet you can be served food in your room. I however doubt if you can get a decent meal in most “self contained rooms”.
The phrase ‘self-contained’ is an echo from a bygone era, part of “hustlers” lexicon. Others include “management reserves the right of admission,” “do not stand on the seat” - in matatus! And the more curious “usiingie jikoni” (do not enter the kitchen) in restaurants. I wonder about the last one, now that open kitchens are the ‘in thing’ in our homes, hotels and restaurants.
My interest in “self contained room” is driven by the facts that it’s the precursor of social distancing. Never mind that in some self-contained rooms, there is always a chance of zero social distance between two people. Interpret the previous sentence in your own way.
We have always wanted to keep off from the mob, those not familiar to us. Check how a matatu fills up, “from the corners” till passengers find they must now sit next to strangers. You only sit next to another person in a nearly empty matatu if you know him or her.
Even in churches, classrooms, and other public places, we love keeping our distance. Traditionally, men social distanced in “thingira” and “simba.”
Today, we prefer maisonettes and bungalows instead of apartments, to keep off masses to social distance. VIPs sit diagonally from the driver (back left) to social distance even before Covid-19 showed up. We have VIP lifts for the same reason. Social distance today is because of Covid-19. What was the virus in the past?
It is therefore surprising that we are finding it hard to keep social distance when it has always been part of our lives and a much sought after status symbol. Why do we struggle to social distance for our own good, to keep off Covid-19? It should be the easiest thing to do, to save a life and mitigate the ravages of a virus that is defying our ingenuity, and miracles of medicine, at least for now.
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