Before the late John Michuki stepped in and brought order, the matatu industry was unregulated and renowned for reckless drivers and rude touts who hardly took a shower for days.
The adage that things change on the outside but remain the same on the inside holds true for this sector.
Despite the stenciled passenger numbers on the vehicle’s body, which read anything like, ‘mtu 14’ ‘vichwa 14’, ’14 skulls’ and so on in a creative fashion, the truth is, a fourteen seater carries eighteen passengers at most.
Though professionalism is witnessed across several matatu saccos, some are known to break laws with impunity. Touts’ rudeness is so ingrained that it is part of qualifications to this sector.
It is discomforting for a plus size woman to be made to pay double fare if her derriere spills over to the other seat.
“Wewe mama kaa square hapo kuna nafasi ya wawili,” a foul-mouthed, red-eyed conductor chewing Miraa would tell a lady while pushing a lean passenger to insert himself in a non-existent space.
Worse is when one is squeezed between two plus-sized mamas and has air literally driven out of lungs when clumped in a vice-like human grip.
Some of the passengers, it appears are a queer lot. It doesn’t help when the one you are sharing a seat with turns into an expert of sorts offering you all manners of unsolicited advice.
Be it weather, politics, sports or inane stuff, the ‘expert’ is likely to keep you preoccupied during the entire trip.
When the conductor roars asking for fare, you will find a passenger or two who will rarely touch the money with bare hands.
These are from some religious sects or cults, spotting a turban or a headscarf. The way they hold the money, say with a handkerchief or a piece of paper, and extend it to the conductor, would have one think the currency is a piece of plague.