How fuel tax exposed our soft underbelly

Despite trying to outdo myself to stay afloat last week, when the fuel crunch came calling, I wore myself to a shadow in the process.

You see, folks like I operate on a tight budget, which is to say that if some unexpected guests come calling, I immediately punch more holes in my belt. I tighten my belt, quite literally.

That has the ominous implication of consigning me to the lot that does window-shopping when better endowed guys are wiping their plates clean in some fancy restaurant where background music would be classicals, rendered by such exotic names as Ludwig Van Beethoven or Mozart.

Of course you know by now that the closest I get to such places is when I am passing by the entrance and the music wafts out of the hotel, along with the aroma of marinated pieces of meat that go by the name of steak.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I was telling you how the events of last week served to expose my soft underbelly, along with fellow hustlers. And I mean real ones, not like those of Deputy President who don designer labels but still call themselves hustlers. As I hurried between one fuel station and the next looking for gas for my contraption, it occurred to me that the fuel shortage was going to be ugly for some people, not least yours truly.

You see, the likes of me could not drive all over in search of gas. That would be suicidal, if you know what I mean. It made sense to cut on the cost of spewing smoke all over the city. I parked my car and let my toes do the walking.

Of course, no Kanju guy in his right mind would dare clamp my car for that would be an exercise in futility, but that is a story for another day. Some gas attendants gave me funny looks, as if they were unsure I own a car at all, and I was sure they thought I was going to set my house ablaze.

I did not blame them. You recall my suits are threadbare, which is to say not only are they “previously enjoyed” but they have seen better days as well.

I am trying to say that my demeanour betrayed me. I know you get the drift.

In the process of getting gas and hurrying to my car, waiting in a dusty street in Ngara, I espied other folk, driving machines that would turn you green with envy.

They were unaffected by the fuel drama playing out in the highways and fuel stations, where long queues formed in no time.You have guessed right: folks driving behemoths made in Europe, such as Vogue or specifically German toys (as the owners fondly refer to them) cruised to their destinations with tinted windows closed. 

If I tried that in my jalopy, I would most definitely suffocate to death, for the air conditioning stopped functioning two decades ago, perhaps as the car was driven by its fifth owner. I am the 13th owner.

The folks cruising by in European automobiles (that’s what they drive, as the rest of us drive mere cars!) hardly glanced in my direction.

When you see those vehicles, please respect them. The music system therein could easily buy me another, slightly less jaded car and leave some pocket change, enough to buy sizzling mutura at my local butchery, which the owner calls Busheli.

And just to bring you up to speed, these toys are not started using ordinary keys like mine does.

They speak of key-less entry. I have little idea what that is, but I can hazard a guess. Don’t fry me if you discover I have no clue.

Of course, most of my contemporaries left their jalopies at home, not wanting the risk of running out of the little fuel in the rusty tanks. I reckon it is this rust that makes some of our cars run in fits and starts but don’t take me too seriously.

So, one lot of Kenyans arrived home a lot later than normal, the result of pretending to own a car, which can sneeze and splutter to a stop anywhere any time, plumes of smoke billowing to the skies.

The writer is Special Projects editor, People Daily


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