Window Shopping

I was coming from Endiro Coffee when I noticed a humanoid looking down at me from a shop on the first floor of Acacia mall. Clad in a cream shawl lapel tuxedo, I could swear I saw it wink at me; daring me to find out how much it would cost me to pull off such a sleek polished look. Challenge accepted!

I knew I could never afford a suit like that, not in this lifetime at least. But I also knew they would never charge me for asking the price. All I had to do was to feign the confidence of a potential customer as I walked into the shop.

“Hi, I am looking for wedding suits.” I started as I examined the dummy. “This particular one has caught my fancy.”

Having been examining me herself, the shop attendant thought it best to save mine and her time by telling me off with the price of the suit, which by my estimation, it would cost me a kidney and a portion of my liver.

“Do you have this in midnight blue?” I pretended like the figure I just heard was the least of my concerns. “I need four matching sets, different sizes of course.”

“That could be arranged, you just need to give me the sizes.”
I knew she was starting to fall for this old trick, but I had to fake a phone call to convince her even further because I wanted to ask about other items.

“Hey, guess what; I’ve found really nice suits that should fit within our budget if the lovely lady is generous enough to give us a discount.”

“You’re going to give us a discount right?” I turned to the lady.

“10%.” She replied.

“She says because we’re buying four, she’s going to convince her boss to give us a 15% discount. Trust me we can’t get a better deal than this.” I continued my phone conversation. “Tell everyone to come on over to Kiseminti this evening for fitting. Let me go withdraw the money.”

“Can I look at your shoes?” I turned back to the lady who had now dropped the attitude. And with surprising enthusiasm; she started showing me shoes with price tags that had more digits than my salary. She was also kind enough to show me their jeans, some of which cost a little more than my monthly rent. How much does one have to earn to buy a pair of jeans at 550,000?

Of Overly (and unnecessarily) Friendly Passengers

In taxis, people tend to have this “taxi attitude”. You know, that frown that warns “do not attempt to have a conversation with me” even when no one is trying. You find a seat next to a window, whip out your phone and start ‘facebooking’ with an absorbed look that suggests you’re on to something serious and should not be disturbed. It helps a lot with unnecessarily friendly passengers, but not all the time.

Last saturday, I was traveling to the village when half way the journey, the taxi stopped to drop off and pick up more passengers. Waiting at the stage, was a mother of three kids. The oldest, a gleeful five year old or so had a bald shaved head that shimmered like she had been dipped in a drum of oil. She hauled along her younger brother who was limping on one shoe with a dirty bandage on the other foot. Their mother carried their youngest sibling in one hand and what appeared to be a baby bag in the other. It occured to me that I was in trouble when I looked around and realized that next to me was the only available free seat. Had we been in the taxi park, I would have dropped my bag in the seat and pretended it was occupied by my friend who had gone to buy airtime. But under the circumstances, I had no option but to push up and let the woman squeeze in.

In all honesty, I have no problem with mothers and their kids. But if you’re going to travel by public means with your dreggy family, the least you can do is pay for an extra seat for your kids. But the problem with such people is that they’ll always pretend like they’ll cage their kids between their knees which is unfeasible. Ten minutes into the journey and girl started encroaching into my space, craning her neck to see the trees that were running in the opposite direction of the car. It wasn’t long before her brother started crying for my phone while the one they carried on the shoulder was drooling on my shirt. The most frustrating bit is that unlike grown ups, kids can’t decipher facial expressions to know that this one wants to be left alone. I only got lucky when a passenger in the front seat got off along the way and I took his place.

The 5 tipping commandments

ImageWhen I first started tipping, it was not always for noble reason. At campus, it was more of a social status gesture intended to convey a phony impression; not to the waitress, but the girl I might be trying to impress. “Aww…he’s so cool, and generous, and rich. He even tips waitresses.” I would imagine them thinking as I walk away from my 1k note with a heavy heart.

Earlier on though, I did it out of sheer naiveté. To my knowledge, if one expected to be served in a fancy eatery; the tip had to be on the budget. Even when the waitress guilt tripped me into eating strawberry and mint when I specifically asked for strawberry and mango ice-cream flavors, or delivered the condiments two minutes after placing my order and the food two weeks later (after my intestinal walls had been gravelly corroded by the enzymatic reaction triggered by the arrival of the condiment), she would still be entitled to her mandatory gratuity.

Over time, I have gradually outgrown my village (or so I hope). But the one thing I am not impressed with is the trend I’ve noticed in a particular fancy restaurant in town where waitresses craftily extort clients for tips (undeservedly so—I must add)like the irritating cat that keeps rubbing against your legs as soon as you sit on the dining table. And if you don’t oblige, for a couple of reasons that may range from living on a tight budget to poor quality service, you are relegated to the second class category of customers who get second class quality service.

The unfortunate bit is that the bosses don’t seem to notice this discrimination. It’s this segregation that prompted the thought that if this was my business, I would buy a good A1 size frame and away from the view of customers but conspicuous to the waiters and waitresses, probably in the kitchen, I would pin up this list of 5 tipping commandments.

1. A tip shall be, and will always remain as such, a tip; not a mandatory gratuity.

2. You may anticipate but not expect a tip after serving a customer.

3. Thou shall offer the same quality of service to the stingy nigger as you would to the most generous muzungu. You don’t know how long some people save to afford the day’s special.

4. It is rude to make the customer uneasy about what you assume to be an unfair tip in relation to the tab. So don’t contort your pretty face after picking your tip. Better yet, don’t look at, or count it where the customer can see you.

5. A tip is a privilege, not an inherent right.

Published on 1/19/2014 Sunday monitor

I stole my own savings

ImageWhen I was in boarding school, I tried saving by scattering money in inconspicuous places in my suitcase. The idea was to purposely forget which textbook I’d slipped the 5k note only to stumble upon it when it’s needed most, preferably by me and not a textbook borrower. But while the scheme worked for many of my friends, I personally faced a challenge that resulted from my impeccable memory retention abilities that were rarely replicated in my academics. With time I realized it all didn’t make much sense if one month into the term I could still memorize which page of the atlas had a 5k note and how much was in the Bible.

My first job after university was to supervise in my dad’s shoe shop. My remuneration was a daily wage of shs 10,000 that I occasionally supplemented by fleecing ignorant customers on a lucky day. It is quite hard to bank that money on a daily basis, but if you don’t come up with a decent saving scheme, you may fail to pay rent, more so if it’s remitted on a quarterly basis. It was during this time that the idea of a savings box was introduced to me. Not your fancy tinny piggy bank, but the basic wooden box that goes for not more than sh 1500. “Centenary” is how the vendor referred to his merchandise; a name that suggests a relationship with Centenary Bank’s previous description as a rural development depository institution.

Considering the price, I decided to give “Centenary” a shot. I’d heard stories from Sophia –the girl I worked with—of how she saved up to 120,000 in coins in under two months. I figured if this girl could save that much in coins and yet she didn’t earn half as much as I did, how much more could I save if I occasionally threw in five digit notes?

What Sophia forgot to mention though, is the self-discipline involved. In the first week alone, I saved up to shs 50,000. No coins, just notes. I did the math and the numbers were impressive. On my trajectory, I would have 200,000 at the end of the month, which would add up to 2.7 million at the end of the year. In two years I would have more than enough money to buy a 50 X 100 feet plot in one of Jomayi real estate cites and a couple of bags of cement for the foundation of my house.

However, what would vitiate my scheme was not the defective presumption that the next 107 weeks would be as fruitful as the first one, but my own indiscipline. After two weeks, I experienced a streak of brokenness that ended with the epiphany that I could actually escape my misery by simply relieving my savings box of one or two nails and grope for a note or two. But what was meant to be a onetime incident turned into a contagious habit to which my brother—with whom I shared a house—fell victim.

“I am going to return your money with interest.” Was always his response whenever I faced him up to his transgressions. I later bumped into a regular visitor who liked to refer to herself as my girlfriend crouching under my bed with a pen (which I presumed to have been used for a lever) in one hand a 10,000 note in the other. But while I was hoping for some signs of remorse, what I didn’t see coming was a nonchalant shrug accompanied with a reminder that I hadn’t given her transport.

Posted in Sunday Monitor

An Idiot’s Guide to Humblebragging on Social Media

Humble bragging is the art of disguising a brag in a faux-humble wrapping that allows the braggart to sing about their “achievements” behind the mask of false humility with little or no shame. So as the title of this piece suggests, I want to offer a few tips on how to make other people jealous in style.

“Woe is me” repartee
Let’s say against all odds, you find yourself beyond the borders of Uganda and this is a milestone so big that the world needs to know about it. You have tried to give subtle hints like checking in via facebook right after touching down at Dubai International Airport but for some reason you’re not receiving the anticipated veneration. Even after posting selfies with bazungu in the background, people just do not seem to care. The problem here is that you are going about it the wrong way, a brag needs to be direct but works best if you undercut it with a bit of “woe is me” luster. So Instead of the above, try something like;

“Turn on the hot tap water; you get hot water. Turn on the cold tap water; you still get hot water. #DubaiProblems

Testify of your God’s goodness
Express your gratitude to your God for the things He has done for you. It is important that you write the update in second person, like God himself is going to read it. It also helps if you daub it with a dash of emotions, that way it comes off less narcissistic. For a more perfect con, you may want to start by quoting a scripture, perhaps something like;

“What a faithful God I serve, you promised in Deuteronomy 31:6 that you would never leave me nor forsake me and you have kept true to your word. Who am I to get this greatly coveted promotion with all these inviting benefits…” Then go ahead and spout whatever you wanted to brag about.

The point here is to prey on people’s piety and emotions. Obviously there are people who are going to see you for the self conceited bastard that you truly are, but I can assure you the majority of people on facebook will buy that shit and smooch your ego with likes and the “eh maama” like comments you’re soliciting.

The Out-Of-Nowhere Oscar acceptance speech
Unlike the previous one, here you are addressing your friends directly for the prayers and support that supposedly helped you climb to that pedestal. Remember, the point here is not exactly to thank anyone but to make a public announcement that you’ve finally aced that retake that has been holding you back from graduating. For example;

“I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who stood by a brother during these hard times of unemployment, #URAhereIcome”

Written for my Sunday Monitor Collumn

One of those Girls

Sometime back, I rashly let a girl choose a venue for a “reunion” she mistook for a date, an impression she may have got from my pledge that it would be my treat. While I was thinking of a casual thing, you know, like two old friends catching up over coffee; Tiffany (not real name) had a completely different impression as would be revealed by her preferred eatery.

“Have you been to The Barn Steakhouse? They have really nice and fairly priced continental dishes.” She suggested.

I hadn’t been there, but I unwittingly asked for directions, committing to hooking up with her later that evening after work. What I would later realize was that Tiffany’s definition of “fairly priced” was pretty divergent from mine.

Reaching the venue—where I found her reclined in the couch, calmly sipping a Club—I glanced through the drinks menu and ordered for the same beer. Having failed to take a clue from the 6000/= price tag on all local beers, the idiot that I am had to wait for the food menu before I could question whether the girl who brought me to this place was in her right mind. Squinting at the menu through her glasses, Tiffany made her order.

“Hmm…I would like to try your Mozambican Peri-Peri Chicken, the 600 grams, please.” She seemed to be covering the menu when she remembered.

“Oh, can I have it served with Cheese and Bacon source?”

“Sure.” The waiter replied.

“Perfect, then I’ll have that along with baked potatoes.”

Crosschecking with my menu, I did the quick math and Tiffany’s order was already 38,000, excluding the desert, the beers we’d taken, and those that I’d now vowed were not to be take, not on my account at least.

What does this girl take me for, her husband? I thought. I came here with 70,000 and we’ve already spent 50,000 before I even place my order.

The waiter then turned to me with their signature graciousness, waiting with a notebook in one hand and a pen in another. I shoved my head back in the menu and looked more intently in search for an item that fell within the 20,000 balance I had left on my wallet. Noticing that making up my mind on my order was taking a while, Tiffany offered to help.

“Hey, I may not be an authority on this, but to my knowledge these guys make the best burgers around town, you may want to try their Bacon Egg and Cheese Beef burger.” She suggested as she gestured to the waiter. I wondered if she had noticed the 35,000/= price tag on the item, but ignoring her, I kept flipping through the pages until I came across an item that fell within range.

“Tell me about this Spinach Salad” I asked the waiter.

“Besides the fact that it’s a salad” Tiffany scoffed?

I knew I’d already lost most, if not all, the dignity there was to lose, but I was also reminded why I’d kept out of touch with Tiffany all this while. So instead of losing my cool and giving her a lecture—in the presence of the waiter—of how me I hadn’t brought her out on a date. I thought it best to be as barefaced as she was and force her into sharing the bloody chicken.

“Well, we could use some salad, you already ordered for 600 grams of chicken.” I retorted. “You can’t possibly eat that alone, unless you plan on taking some home for breakfast.” A chuckle escaped out of the waitress, which I am inclined to believe is the reason Tiffany felt some semblance of embarrassment and reluctantly allowed to share the food. I don’t remember much about the rest of how the catching up went, but I learnt my lesson and I now know better than going to eat out in places I haven’t been before doing a preliminary survey.

I made a year today. More facebook regurgitation

So WordPress reminded me that I made a year here today. I thought I should blog something but I haven’t written anything new in a long time. I’ll post another facebook update nonetheless. It’s about an encounter I had with a homophobic lady at court a couple of weeks ago.

The magistrate is proceeding in chambers, I sit in open court, waiting for my matter to be called. I am sandwiched between an elderly lady and another lawyer, the two must be related, client-advocate relationship, I guess. The lady is reading a book, I am doing things on my phone, facebooking things.

“Counsel have you heard about Family Network?” She starts a conversation. I glance at the title of the book she’s reading, ‘Pornography In Uganda’ it reads.
I gather she’s saved or something.

“Oh boy, here comes a sermon.” I weep silently.

“I volunteer with them”, she adds.

“That’s good.” I smile and get back to my phone, hoping she will decipher my subtle hint and leave me alone.

“Can you imagine these gays…” she continues. My attitude changes, she wins my attention. Mostly because I like these debates, only that I mostly have them online.

“What about them?” I smirk.

“They are ruining our children, bringing here pornography. We’ve done counseling in schools, Jesus, these people have penetrated everywhere…”

(I pause and wonder if she intended the pun)

“…to the point of introducing drugs in school.” She continues. “Why do you think there are many strikes in schools? Our children are supplied with drugs, sometimes concealed in sweets.”

(I drift off into my own mind)

“This woman is a lunatic,” I conclude. “but it’s kinda fun listening to her rant.”

“You know what would be even more fun?” A genius idea comes to mind.

“If you told her you’re one of them, the repulsive gays. Hilarious can’t even start to describe the look that will grace her horror stricken face.”

PS! I am very straight.