A wise old man once said, driving in Uganda is almost as pleasant as looking at gangrene through a microscope. I couldn’t agree more. The plight of road users and abusers (which is what we all inevitably become) in this country is pretty obvious. Which is why, driving worked its way to the very bottom of my list of things to do before I turn 37 (a.k.a the far, far, distant future). However, like a lot of things in life, such as surprise tests, vegetables, ill- fitting clothes, injections; driving is one such thing that creeps up on you. There comes a point in ones’ life when, all good reason aside, one must rise to the occasion and “upgrade” from the status of passenger to driver.
Passenger- Person (or animal) that is sitting (or standing) everywhere else in (or on) the vehicle, except behind the steering wheel. These also include those that may be hanging from the said vehicle.
Driver- Person sitting (or squatting) behind the steering wheel in a vehicle. PS: Drivers are not to be confused with the mentally disturbed, although they may exhibit similar characteristics especially under stressful conditions like traffic jams in Natete, where they are prone to erratic behaviour and obscene language.
I was enrolled in driving school during my S.6 vacation. I ranted and raved and kicked and screamed, but ended up going anyway (this is a typical example of the power the “owner of the house” holds over all “dependants” in his care. I won’t mention any names.) I do not remember the details of driving school very clearly (this may have something to do with the fact that I did not learn much), but, I do recall the build up to that fateful meeting with my instructor. My excitement was churned by stories from many who had “walked this road” before me. There were tales of instructors who were in the habit of placing their hands on (hitting) the leg (read upper thigh) that was on the wrong pedal, there were the screamers (who were almost always women) who could bring a grown man to tears, instructors who could not speak a word of English and not forgetting, the sneaky ones whose used their instructing time to run personal errands. So you can imagine my disappointment when Charles turned out to be a very normal and nice guy. He didn’t even have the decency to have a funny accent. I dosed and slept my way through the entire 3 weeks of driving school (Not like that! Eh! Hopefully you know what I mean).
The day of my driving test, I was a wreck. I had done a dress rehearsal of sorts the day before around town (by town I actually mean my “kalo” in Kamwokya, which is in Kampala, which happens to be a town). I went to bed confident. I woke up in disarray. I considered catching one of the various diseases at my disposal (malaria, flue or food poisoning) whose symptoms I had mustered during my school days, so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed. Reason prevailed.
I was scared of reverse parking, balancing, hitting pedestrians on the sidewalk, killing those attempting to cross the road and most of all, failure to start the car. Clearly, I had the weight of the entire “traffic fraternity” on my shoulders. On the long drive from my driving school to Naguru (the “exam room”), I lost sight in my right eye, feeling in my hands and hearing in both ears. I must claim full responsibility for the prayer traffic in the atmosphere that morning. Thankfully, dear friends, there is a God.
I will not go through all the embarrassing details of my driving test. I remember getting a very well behaved car that did as it was ‘told’ for the first couple of minutes. All was well up until I reversed into a boda boda, but I’m certain these things happen to many people. I also remember the examiner (Is that what they are called?) telling me to “kendeza ku supeedi” over and over again. I couldn’t explain to him that because of the grip I had on the steering wheel (I just might have left my imprint on it); all the blood in my body had drained to my right leg, causing my foot to hover over the brake pedal without actually being able to make contact. Anyway, at the end of that long day, nothing died (at least as far as I could tell) and more importantly, I passed. I actually passed. I became the proud owner of a driving licence.
A few days later I drove into my daddy’s pawpaw trees.
Formula one, here I come!
Rebecca Abonyo Wana