People that you ought to be wary of are not only county government askaris, pickpockets or miscreants who work in the government, or scoundrels who lurk in dark corners in the streets waiting to mug you off the loan you just took.
For instance, we all know that some makangas (touts) can be such dangerous individuals. They, at times, are like human minefields dangling carefree on the doors of matatus.
They may be sweet and very flattering when giving you a compliment, and can convincingly woo you into boarding their empty vehicle, but they could also rain insults on you like it’s their mother tongue, and some of their rude retorts are also some of the wittiest and funniest responses you’d be secretly glad to have heard.
Some of them lack courtesy and are in the habit of putting people in awkward situations. One may impatiently wait as you pat and check every pocket for the fare. Their heavy presence as they follow your every move making you feel anxious. And, in the moment, you are driven to look for the money in strange places, as the makanga looks at you like they’ve seen that scam you’re trying to pull countless times before.
Designers and tailors
Next are people who make or fix our clothes. While the more refined folks have designers, the rest of us have tailors. Unlike the honest ones who will let you know that they cannot sew up your garment on time, some tailors will tell you that the work will be easy, and will even begin cutting the material right after taking your measurements.
They will also give you an exact date and time for collecting your dress, but when you go for it, you will not find it ready. The tailor will be seated behind their sewing machine with a tape measure around their neck, and almost buried in a heap of different pieces of cloths.
They will then lie that they are almost done with your attire, but your untouched material is (still) underneath a large heap of other unfinished clothes, just the way you had left it when you were last there. And when they finally stitch it up, the work will probably be done in such haste that the dress will turn out a hideous version of the design you wanted.
Then we have don’t-care porters. You will mostly find them in the marketplaces carrying heavy loads on their backs. This human trailer, transporting a large sack of potatoes or cabbages weighing 20 tonnes, will not think twice about crushing anything that is standing obstructively on his way.
He never walks. He moves fast, his body bent over with the magnanimous weight balancing on his spine. If you’re walking or standing in his path, he will not stop to consider your safety. He doesn’t have time for your nonsense.
He will unapologetically ram into you and knock you senseless, sending you reeling into a nearby stockpile of tomatoes, or into a stinking, black puddle of rotting vegetables and mud. Of course, that accident will always be your fault.
After all, didn’t he make his usual warning calls just before smashing you into a coma with his cargo? By the time you have recovered from that hit, that anthropoid lorry will have already disappeared into the sea of humanity in the market.
Last but not least, we also have another person you, especially women, must be wary of. He is a smooth-talking charmer who has mastered the art of finding, meeting, attracting and seducing beautiful women into the bedroom. He may be broke and jobless, skinny and scrawny, spending most of his days idling on a wooden bench at a friend’s barber shop, talking about football and politics while recharging his phone with a ‘bamba 20’ he taken on credit from a nearby shop.
He shares a small room with (another) friend, where his two shirts and a trouser hang on a rope, or lie in a messy pile at a corner, with a thinning mattress on the floor. When you look at his feet, you will see a pair of worn out sandals, dust, and cracked soles.
He may not appear to amount to much, but this man will sweet talk you like it’s his career.
He will flatter you with honeyed words as if he was tutored by Shakespeare himself. He may not look like the ideal Lothario, but this destitute man will not fail to confuse you with his smooth talk and make you quiver with his charm.
He may be weak, but, girls, he will dislocate your entire pelvis. He may not have the energy to improve his life, but make no mistake; he has the energy to plough you like a large-scale maize farm, even if he hasn’t eaten all day.
He may not have the tools to start a business of his own, but he has all the tools to start you like a dead engine on a cold, cold day. He may not know what to do with his life, but he knows exactly what to do with you, and how to do it.