If you find yourself in Nairobi in the morning or at dusk, you will likely have observed long queues waiting for public service vehicles, commonly identified as matatus.
The queues can get extremely long and tiresome, especially during rush hours.
While Kenyans wait to board these matatus, you will notice the following behaviours exhibited by different characters.
The Patient Lot
A photo of matatus at a bus terminus in Nairobi, Kenya.
This set of passengers understands the value of integrity. They will patiently queue to wait for the matatu, regardless of the weather conditions. Especially those who use Super Metro matatus plying Waiyaki Way and Thika Road.
Pass by the National Archives in the evening, and you will find this lot queuing to pay sometimes a higher amount than other rowdy PSVs offering them a quick exit from town.
The Office Colleagues
This lot works in the same office or building and typically walks in groups of two or more as they make their way to the bus stop.
You can easily identify them from how they bicker about office politics while waiting for the bus.
Woe unto you if one of their colleagues arrives late to the queue. They will invite him or her to jump the queue as they exchange hugs and continue the discussion nonchalantly.
Meanwhile, you will find the gentlemen holding the queue for their lady friends. Whenever you find the ladies holding the queue, the gentlemen are stuck somewhere in the supermarkets or food vans buying snacks.
This lot has phones with high-quality cameras and is usually dressed in a trendy fashion. Most of them are teenagers in high school or Gen Zs on campus.
Like the office colleagues, the aspiring influencers are usually in groups, with one acting as a videographer and the others performing TikTok challenges.
Moreover, they are not worried about onlookers staring as they crave and love attention. They also do not care about the noise they create with their music. In fact, sometimes, they go as far as carrying a mini Bluetooth speaker to enhance the sound.
The pretender will spot a long queue of passengers from a mile away and devise a strategy to bypass others. They will scan the queue, and once they spot a familiar face, they will approach, greet, and stay to chat as they subtly squeeze themselves in.
While this type of pretender is subtle, there are those who are bold and will cut the line at any point within a jiffy. If you are bold enough to question their rudeness, they will ignore you and leave you to steam in your indignation.
They have questions and appear nudging. “Is this the queue for Thika?” they will inquire. “How long have you been waiting in queue?” “When do you think the matatu will arrive?” “How much is the fare?”
Once you answer the first question, prepare yourself for more. While some have genuine questions, others are bachelors in the hunt for a babe. Hence, they usually direct their questions to pretty women in the queue.
The Cargo Handlers
Armed with sacks or cartons of goods, the cargo handlers know how to exploit human sympathy. Sometimes, they are overwhelmed by their goods and would hire a cart or motorbike to deliver them.
While you have been craning your neck one hundred meters away to check whether the matatu is anywhere to be seen, the cargo handlers will stroll to the very front, plop their baggage on the ground, and wait.
Be assured that they will be the first to hop in after their luggage is secured on board.
They are hungry and not worried about chewing a full meal in the presence of strangers. For the diners, waiting until they get home to consume their takeaway food is too heavy a task. So they chew their food as the other passengers inhale the enticing aroma of their fries, hotdogs, or popcorn, from the queue to inside the matatu.
The Broke Ones
They will always sit far from the queue, waiting for the fares to drop.
These ones borrow fares from other passengers, claiming they are short of cash. Others ask for money to pay food.
Different matatu saccos along Ronald Ngala Street majorly occupied by matatus heading to Umoja Estate in Eastlands in August 2019.