It is a public secret that I have a turbulent relationship with boda-boda folks. The love and hate relationship that we have can make for a very good telenovela.
Unsurprisingly, my dislike for boda-boda riders has only intensified following an incident recently. A few days ago, I was swarmed with work, trying to beat deadlines and so I ended up staying at the office really late. Time Check: 9:00 p.m. I packed up my laptop in my gray weather-beaten back pack and walked out of the office. Nyonyi Gardens where I work, was steeped in a deathly silence. A few cars drove by the Kololo airstrip stretch. Because it was pitch dark, I needed to get a boda-boda to reach Nakawa before it got any later.
My regular boda-boda man was home already. Left with no option, I trudged down the road towards Shoprite Lugogo. A few cars sped by as I walked on the uneven pavement. My eyes were firmly fixed on the winding road from Nyonyi Gardens to Engen Lugogo that seemed to have no end. Bogged down by the weight of the laptop in the rucksack on my back and a handbag firmly clasped in my right hand, I looked like a pitiful hunchback making her way through the dark Kololo streets.
“Hoot hoot,” a vehicle honked.
I turned my gaze to the road at the sound piercing through the silent night. A boda-boda had finally shown up.
“Nyabo, where are you going?”
A boda-boda rider clad in a thick green leather jacket and a cracked helmet atop his head asked. The front lights of his bike blazed fiercely through the thick cloud of darkness, casting a yellow hue over the entire street.
“I am going to Kireka,” I replied.
A tough bargaining session over the fare to Kireka soon ensued between the boda-boda rider and myself. He wanted 6,000 shillings. I wouldn’t budge. That amount was too much. I told him I would walk the rest of the journey to Shoprite. Defeated, he rode off in the opposite direction. I continued my labored walk towards Nakawa.
I cannot tell for certain how it happened but in a split second a huge force jolted me out of my reverie.
I tried to make sense of what was happening. The boda-boda rider had suddenly turned back and attempted to snatch the handbag out of my hand. For some reason that night, I had held the bag with a deathly grip. As such it was hard for him to release it out of my hands. His engine roared as he tried to pull away my bag. He exerted so much energy pulling the bag that he dragged me into the road. I slumped face forward onto the rough, unwelcoming gravel on the tarmac surface. I felt the full force of the fall as rough stones scraped against my face. A car that was driving in my direction screeched to a halt about two metres from my bruised body. The driver had obviously noticed the chaos from afar. Putting his car headlights on, he switched off his engine and came out. The boda-boda rider, caught in the car headlights, rode off; afraid he had been seen. He dropped my bag on the tarmac.
“Are you okay? Are you okay? Madam, are you okay?” the driver of the parked car asked as he patted my forehead.
Other cars had proceeded to park behind his car. A crowd was milling around my body. They seemed worried.
I was in a daze. The adrenaline and the nauseating fear made me lapse into a stupor. My heart raced so fast. My head was spinning in circles. The driver, very worried now, scooped me in his arms and placed me with my belongings in the passenger seat of his car. He locked the door and drove to Engen Petrol station. That is when I came to.
My heart started to race again as I realized I was locked up in an unfamiliar car. I looked around to see if I could raise an alarm. The pump attendants at the petrol station were engaged in light-hearted banter. Their laughter rose through the air as they clapped their hands with glee. The overhead lights from the canopy shone through the car. A middle aged man in a pin-striped suit walked back to the car and opened it. He climbed in and started the engine.
He passed me a bottle of cold Blue-Wave mineral water.
“Drink this!” the man said in a fatherly tone.
“Who are you? Where are you taking me?” I asked on the verge of a panic attack.
“Calm down. My name is Benjamin. I picked you from near The Lawns. A boda-boda man was trying to rob you,” he replied.
The memories all came rushing back like a gust of ice cold wind chilling me to the marrow. I shuddered to think of what would have happened if Benjamin had not come to my rescue. He could have easily run over me on the road too if he had not been sober and alert.
“Thank you Benjamin,” I muttered.
In that moment, I was so grateful to be alive.
Benjamin, whose second name I never got to know, dropped me off at Shell Nakawa. I then boarded a Namugongo-Kyaliwajjala bound taxi that dropped me right outside my mother’s house.
It is true what they say. You never anticipate that your life will be taken from you any day. Like everybody else, I live with the knowledge that death will come but I never fathom how soon it will come. It seems like some far-off apparition that I only occasionally glimpse at when I hear of somebody’s demise.
However, my boda-boda incident has sobered me up to the reality that I can go to meet my creator any time. I am making certain evaluations in my life, working on relationships with people and my creator and trying to enjoy every minute of every day. Alas, last Thursday night, I could have breathed my last.
Last Thursday night also promptly ended my business relationships with boda-bodas. I will not take boda-bodas. A morbid fear of them has gripped my heart and soul. When I see a boda-boda rider, my mind races back to the man in the thick green leather jacket with the cracked helmet. A sight that terrified my soul!
As I am learning to take care and be more cautious of my surroundings, I am also making the deliberate decision to put my life, safety and health above all the material things I am working for. I have let my boss know that I will not be working late hours any more. He can always find a replacement employee in case I pass away. My mother however, would never recover from the grief of my demise. Like Toby Mac said; “you don’t want to gain the whole world and lose your soul.”