by Parker Vige
It had been a lengthy, breathtakingly hot day in the Jinja market, and it was long past time for us to make our way home. It’s worth mentioning at this point that I’d grown increasingly mindful regarding my spending habits, a decision directly responsible for the next situation described in this post.
“1,500 shillings! That’s it?” I confirmed with Winnie. I couldn’t understand how the price of this bus taxi was the equivalent of $0.42.
“Is that too much Paka?” Winnie replied. Of course it wasn’t too much. I was more than eager to part with less than half a dollar to get me out of this African heat. All I could say was, “lets go.”
I walked around the vehicle, to the side where one would enter, and noticed the front windshield had been smashed. Not the most comforting sight, but nothing to fret over when one pays such a nominal fee for transportation. I hopped in the vehicle, which smelled of the chickens carried by the passengers, and climbed to the back row. I held my bag in my lap, and I was ready to get going. The bus wasn’t moving. The driver was doing this odd, ritualistic dance in the street, yelling at passersby and frantically swinging his arms in an effort to tempt them into his transport services. A few minutes passed, and he was successful in his attempts–as several people made their way to the bus.
This is the point when I started counting. 1,2,3…. There were 11 seats total in the bus, so naturally 11 people could make the trip. Yet, outside, the people came in droves. One elderly woman with a very large handbag and bright, puffy dress climbed to the back to take her seat right along side me. This is the point where I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving; I was blessed to have the bus wall to the right of me instead of another passenger. A few more people stepped on, and the bus was full. Why was the door still open? I thought, surely these people will wait for the next bus. But in sheer spite, as if they had heard my very thoughts, they forced their bodies into the space unwilling to receive them. The woman to my left, in an effort to create more space, reached her arm across me, grabbed hold of the edge of the seat and pulled her entire body closer to me than anything ever had been in my life. She might as well have had a window seat, because by this point, I was basically nonexistent. By the time the flood ended, we had a grand total of 19 human bodies and 2 chickens in that taxi.
The driver started the vehicle, at least that’s what seemed to be happening, but it was only a series of a few engine putters and black smoke that was shot out from the tail pipe. We were off! It took several attempts of slamming the door before it finally remained shut while we continued down the road.
By the time we reached the next stop, my teeth had all but fallen out of my mouth from the massive craters in the road. Finally, I thought, we can let some people off at this bus stop. We opened the door, and then the unthinkable happened. THEY WERE BOARDING MORE PEOPLE. It seems to me that the Physics are different in Uganda because I, myself was a witness to the impossible being made possible.
We squeezed the door shut one final time and continued on to the village. The woman next to me, who at this point had made her way to sitting in my lap, proceeded to pull out a bag of some crunchy, stringy substance unbeknownst to me, and steadily munched it in my ear. The wind blowing in my face, the chicken smells wafting in my nose, and the angelic sounds of elderly teeth crunching in my ears; I couldn’t have imagined a more apt ending to my day. Finally, we arrived at the end of our road, and the doors were opened. A few people spilled out of the bus, and I climbed over the seat, soaking up the fresh air like a sponge.
The other travelers packaged themselves neatly back into the contraption they called a taxi and slammed the door. They were on their way once again, leaving a cloud of red dust, black exhauste, and one less source of discomfort behind them.