Reservations are as old as travelling itself. Its the norm across different methods of transport from shuttles, buses, trains, ships to planes. It affords you peace of mind and you are able to select the seat you want and in some cases, advance booking affords one discounts and special fares. Funny question, how would you go about making your reservation?
Back then once you had the date of travel in mind, one would explore his limited options. In most cases, the price would be the overall determinant. Buses were considered to be more of function over form. With a bus company in mind, one would ceremoniously proceed to the offices and proudly ask for a bus to lets say Nairobi. He would be shown a lot of respect and all his questions regarding departure, toilet breaks and even estimated arrival times. He would be advised on the best seats to pick from. Being sceptical, this particular traveller would be armed with his own theories about the seat arrangements. The middle seats would be his final choice. Its safe from the front or rear impact. For night travel, keep it left and pick an aisle seat to be able to avoid oncoming vehicles’ headlights. All this wasn’t interesting.
The most interesting part was to cast your eyes on the passenger manifest. You would look for names that appeared to be those of girls. Beautiful names then were easily complimented by beautiful faces and that would have made the safari more interesting. This choice overrode any other choices of comfort or ‘safety’. You book your seat happy, excited and very anxious hoping that your seat mate Brenda is as beautiful and as cute as her name. At times one would Linger around the office waiting for beautiful girls to book and the book right after them hoping that they would be your travel mate(s).
On certain instances you would just be cocky and declare to the booking clerk that you want a seat next to a fly Hino. Depending on your rapport with the clerks, your wishes would either be granted or ignored. Some circumstances were so extreme that money exchanged hands or trips were called off until a favourable gender composition of the bus was achieved.
Finally it was time to head home and look forward to the journey.
Arrival at the waiting lounge on the day of travel was the beginning of an exciting day. You spent time grooming yourself very well. Sharp dressing, trimmed hair and you even doused yourself in some sort of exquisite perfume and assumed some gentleman tendencies. You travelled light and would hear none of your mother’s efforts to persuade you into carrying some foods to the city. Just a simple bag and a newspaper. You then scouted the lounge for you seatmate. A couple of beautiful girls would put a smile on your face. You even played ‘Picky picky ponkie’ to see who it would. Results wouldn’t disappoint.
An announcement to board, would be made as people stashed away their luggage and filed into their buses. You played your cards well to ensure that you walked in among the last people. This way Brenda would be able to see you and your nice clothes. She would also notice the bag you were stashing in the overhead carriers. Then you would proceed to ask her to let you pass since you were to occupy the window seat.
Most times it worked. Then there are those times when things went South West and into the sea. The bus would be almost full and all the beautiful girls seatrd quite far away from you. Then you would see kids trooping in holding bags followed by their mom also with several other bags. She is nowhere near being Branda beautiful. You quickly recess into a world of prayer and saliva fasting. May they pass and proceed to the back of the bus. Your prayers are answered as they pass and you sigh in relief.
With eyes still closed, a tiny hand touches you. You open your eyes to find an overdressed kid looking at you. ‘Kaa hapo na Anko nakuja’, she hisses at the kid who is almost crying. ‘Mami nikae wapi mimi?’. You realise that there are two more kids in the aisle who have been relieved of their bags. All the kids sit next to you and suddenly it dawns on you. Instructions are issued, such instructions that spell doom for you. ‘Kalia Anko nibebe dada yako’. The lady looks at you with a straight face and tells you ‘Nibebe Huyo’.
You are too annoyed to speak. Seems like the journey has come to an end. You feel like asking for a refund. There is a tap on the window and you slide it open. There is this beautiful girl who should have been the one seated next to you. She pushes a paperbag full of foods into your laps. ‘Pea Madhe please’, thats the voice. That was to be your soundtrack for the whole journey. ‘Thanks Brenda, stay safe and see you next week. Ukae vizuri, sawa?’. She smiles at both you and responds ‘Sawa mom, see you’.
So that’s your Brenda. Saitann. You sit back and close your eyes and get angry at the travel gods.
Brenda, why Brenda? Why why why me Brenda? Why?
Photo Courtesy of Marvin Karlito