A couple of days ago I had my first stint as a parent go wrong thanks to my carelessness or depending on the mood you’re in, forgetfulness.
I was heading for sister Dorothy’s parents day meeting that also had the mark of visitation day written all over it and like any make shift parent I was dressed to terrorize.
The plan was to appear older than I my appearance portrays, lest my sister’s classmates mistake me for their age mates, my bushy beard which on another day served the purpose of advertising my maturity and old age had been cropped just days ago in respect to my new internship placement and the last resort was to tuck in my white and white and silver stripped shirt and borrow a smartness I only reserved for days when I was having a bad day at Campus.
I was late by an hour already since the meeting had been scheduled to begin at ten but I wasn’t worried since I was armed with an array of well sieved explanations if anyone were to give me trouble.
Like every great excuse mine had to begin with a greeting which was going to be followed by an apology where I explained how our parents could make it prompting them to send me from Gulu which I would pinpoint out to be 482kms instead of the 382kms it was while borrowing another hundred kilometers to make it further enough to explain a one hour and a half delay in a arrival.
I left home in Mutungo at eleven thirty after buying the usual student grub (a box of biscuits, sugar) which I had added to the home baked half cakes and with that I was good to go so I grabbed a twenty thousand note threw it in my pocket and boarded the taxi with the smiling driver and sat by his side at the front in the middle seat.
He was obviously in a good mood and wasted no time engaging me with the usual greeting which I replied to with an eloquence of importance courtesy of my smartness.
“So you’re going to visit a child at school.” It wasn’t a question but a statement meant to affirm the truth so I just nodded as I continued to scroll through a couple of stories on my Facebook posts on my timeline.
We reached Makerere University Business School (MUBS) in fifteen minutes later where the conductor refilled passengers and I was joined at the front by a MUBS student who greeted me and the driver briefly and plugged a pair of fancy RXD headphones in his ears.
When we reached Lugogo I did what any good passenger would do; I dipped my hand into my pockets and freed the only note that had carried and with the confidence a gallant passed it behind and waited for my balance.
It took the conductor an excess of ten seconds to get back to me, he sounded angry and it took me a few moments to fathom the change in tone.
“Here’s your money” he growled and handed to me what was left of my twenty thousand, only this time it had mischievously turned into a thin sheet of white paper detailing the box of Riham honey biscuits and two kilograms of sugar I had bought at the supermarket next to home.
I took the receipt and smiled in apology and dipped my hand into my pockets again this time checking more carefully but all my pockets turned out to be empty and then it suddenly dawned on to me. I had picked a receipt instead of the twenty thousand currency note I was supposed to use for my transport fare.
I was suddenly scared, I had been browsing through my social media feed but at that point all hell broke loose, my hands were tremble.
The driver for his part laughed with a wide sarcastic grin that lit up his dirty hairy face.
“How does someone even manage to travel without money?” he sought to inquire but before I could offer an answer in my defense he offered a familiar theory that ripped the stoicism off the conductor’s face and forced him into uncontrollable laughter.
“These are the thieves Hassan was talking about” he said “Moreover they come when they are dressed smartly to conceal their true intentions, gone are the days when thieves dressed shabbily now days they dress up smartly” he added smiling his devilish smirk.
He was no longer the happy driver whose smile had forced my hand on the door to his co-driver’s seat, in his place this sadist of man had appeared and he obviously wanted blood to have an advantage over his buddy Hassan who had been fooled by a conman.
I had equipped myself with excuses and explanations for my sister’s school but this one caught me off guard, no amount of brainstorming was going to get me out of this.
I hadn’t carried my back pack which often acted as a dumping site for coins and at the same time hadn’t carried my wallet which deputized as a coin store in the absence of my bag.
I had some money on my mobile money account but the evil looking pairing of my driver and conductor didn’t look like the patient kind who were going to allow me to withdraw money while they waited, chances were high that I was going to be charged double for wasting their time- not that I cared but it wasn’t particularly comforting.
I envisioned the worst case scenario and images of victims of mob justice always flashed across my mind, I was going to get a good beating or if the men I had wronged were compassionate enough I would have a polythene bag melted on my bag as group of people watched.
How I had carried a white receipt instead of the twenty-thousand note that had shades of red baffled me. Yes I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time but still I had never failed to differentiate between money and a receipt without my artificial lenses.
We were approaching the city center at break neck speed and the prospect of arriving on time no longer excited me.
The conductor in his capacity as the collector of the transport fare signaled for his dues from the remaining batch of passengers who hadn’t paid and gradually I could see from the side of my eye a group of people fumbling into their pockets for their money.
My neighbor in the co-driver’s seat still had his earphones on and was yet to pay his fare, it was now or never so I tapped him on the shoulder and when I had his attention explained my situation and offered to buy him airtime for one thousand five hundred if he gave the conductor one thousand on my behalf.
In all my anxiety I hadn’t even considered whether my neighbor used Mtn network, in my head I knew he had to have an Mtn line, he just had to, if he didn’t then I was in for the worst.
I waited for a few seconds before he broke the deadlock.
“It’s okay, I understand” he said and handed the conductor a ten thousand denomination note instructing the fare collector that he was paying for two.
The conductor grudgingly took the money while I made an effort to show my gratitude by pressing a few buttons on my phone.
I had never been grateful, I was so happy that I literally hugged my savior, I began initiating the transaction to send airtime to my rescuer but my password kept on being rejected which sent Goosebumps down my spine, my hands were trembling and it didn’t help that the transaction was taking long since my battery was getting low.
In a bid to regain control I took a deep breath and reaffirmed my commitment to my task by restarting my phone with the hope that restarting might fix my network and allow my password, it was after restarting the phone that I finally saw where I had got it wrong.
All along I had been initiated the transaction on my Airtel network number instead of my Mtn number where I had kept the money, my nerves had really worked on me and done a good job at it.
I sent double the amount of airtime I had promised and left the taxi immediately after soiling my rescuer’s ears with messages of gratitude, I didn’t doubt it in my mind that the conductor and driver might increase the fare just to get at me but I had never been grateful for humanity, maybe when I meet the Chancellor of Mubs I’ll hug him in appreciation of what his student did for me.