was off to the commercial city to attend to some matters of ghetto nature. The call for my having to leave—and an impossible one to ignore—came unexpectedly late. By 7pm, I was still putting sticks together to make a bundle enough for my journey.
As I entered the bus depot two hours later, under my hefty bag, I was greeted by unkempt callboys whose salad of voices threw me to the edge of a nervous breakdown.
Each of them wanted me in their bus. Like a pride of lions taking a bite at a cornered gazelle, they scrambled for my old bag and nearly tore its tired fabric to pieces. I whisked them away with a firm statement of discontent at their barbaric approach.
Two metres away, an old man was not as lucky. Another pride of callboys had him surrounded. As his bag swung side to side like a pendulum, it succumbed to the savagery of the touts. The zip went berserk and off fell some belongings.
One tout in a political party T-shirt, smelling of a dense whiff of high-powered cigarettes and seriously mind-altering cheap distil, managed to prise the bag from the other touts and clenched it under his unkempt armpit, in the secure hold of his muscular arm.
The other callboys retreated to ‘safety’ and mourned their loss from a safe distance.
I astonishingly watched him pick up the belongings scattered on the dusty bus depot floor. As he quickly clawed a toothbrush from a puddle of pungent water, he cursed the other boys for acting like brutes.
He picked up the toothbrush and shook it hard in the air, some of the pungent water dripping from its bristles landing on my face, something for which he quickly apologised and I went on to ‘assure’ the old man everything would be fine.
As the old man called for his bag and told the callboys to forget about the toothbrush, one callboy cut him amid his sentence.
“Musadandaule biggie. Anawa tiyankhula nawo,” he said, drying the toothbrush against his T-shirt, so close to the mouth of the bespectacled figure emblazoned on the garment.
“Tiyeni kuno biggie,” he signalled the old man to a passage between two carelessly parked buses, leading to a horde of buses whose raving engines threw exhausts into a world cup of pollution.
From inside my T-shirt, on top of which was a sweater, ran rivulets of sweat, snaking down into my corduroy trousers. I welled with anger.
The place was a thick hue of darkness so solid I could feel it with my palm. I wondered how this callboy was in dark glasses at this hour of night.
He was a pure bandit and was now ‘searching’ the old man’s bag in the name of slotting back the toothbrush.
I called for the old man’s bag. The callboy, amazed, went into a verbal onslaught.
I calmly explained to him I am an enlightened, ghetto-schooled adult able to pick a bus without the disservice of nitwits or bandits masquerading as ‘help.’
He spat a mouthful of obscenities into my face and let go of the bag, giving it a good kick on its way to the dirty floor.
Whoever is responsible for transport or public works must one day take his briefcase and work from there, and see the shame that is our public transport system.