I was the poet at some wedding last month, and because I find weddings a little dull (at least the church bit of it, with things being better at the afternoon reception save for the hard chapatti that bites like ‘ngumu’ and that boring aunty who drones on for long), I planned on just popping in surreptitiously in time to read the poem. Then hang on for the evening party (now, those are fun, when everyone’s is in/to high spirits).
Imagine my amazement when I found the wedding – everything was at the same venue in Karen – just beginning, two hours later than the time indicated on the invitation card.
But, really, no Kenyan ought to be amazed at our lack of punctuality; because, honestly, who keeps time? The watches that are strapped on our wrist are about as useful in telling time as those Maasai market bangles with the word ‘Kenya’ on them.
It is as if it is a crime, punishable by imprisonment, to be EARLY for anything in this country, yes.
If by some miracle we wake up early and even suspect that we are going to get to work earlier than the punch in time, then Amadioha forbid! We will find ways to dilly-dally the ‘early’ time away, switch on that radio to listen to Jalas and Mwakadeu on ‘Maisha’ and just fritter the early minutes away – until it is time to run to catch the matatu in great panic. Or be stuck in traffic in the car, cursing Evans Kidero for not putting drums around roundabouts to ease the congestion of traffic (by the way, what the hell was all that about, hombre)?
Official meetings will have that one guy who shows up when you are all at the AOB end of things.
I have heard literary readings where some bugger walks in as you say ‘The End,’ but he still joins in, asking provocative maswahili ya ujinga na uchokozi (until you want to cry like Ali Machozi).
And how about that woman in the short red dress with lipstick the colour of a fire who walks in on Sunday as the pastor is making the closing prayer, her high heels drumming a sharp tattoo on the church floor as she slowly sways between the aisle of people (now peeping between their fingers), the sound of those stilettos like punctuation marks in the pastor’s plaintive prayer?
Confession – in upper primary school, Catholic Parochial being next to a basilica, I used to hide behind in class on mass days and read a novel (James Hadley Chase was always more interesting than bible tales), but then ‘time’ myself with those ‘Casio’ plastic wrist watches and sneak into mass just before Communion, making sure to be the first in line to receive Jesus on my tongue.
And don’t be that early wanna-be who gets to a house party on time, my sister. You will find the hostess still in last night’s night dress, and before you can say ‘Ngai’, you’ll be put to hard labour – cleaning, cooking, cake baking, doing the interior design, placing those plastic chairs. Party slavery, my friend! By the time you’ve tidied up, and the other tardy for the party people are showing up, you will be too exhausted to enjoy yourself, senora.
Kenyans aren’t even respecters of funerals. Everything is over, the hole is dug, casket on standby – but here comes a chopper whirling whorls of red dust over the mourners because the local millionaire who wants to vie for senator next year wished to make a grand entry. The only consolation is that the corpse is also late for the burial; and there it comes, making a flying leap into the coffin.
It is just as well we don’t have ‘early elections’ in Kenya the way they do in places like Florida in the USA. Nobody would bother to go vote, until the actual last minute.