If you want to know your place in this world,you must meet a traffic cop in his worst moods during your motoring.
It will work much better if you have committed some traffic offence,it doesn’t matter how minor the offence is.
This cop who flags me down, the traffic cop who later
leans into my window, has a face that isn’t in the
mood for folk and dance. And he has eyes that have
been bled off sympathy.
And his chin, my God, his chin is so sharp
I bet he uses it to slice open envelopes.
I’m in the wrong, of course.
I have broken some
traffic law, the one that frowns on driving while
talking on phone, but in my defence, traffic was
But when he raises his hand – a stiff defiant
and authoritative gesture – an image of a nude goose roasting and
squirming over a flame leaps in my mind.
My day too of roasting,has finally come.
He swaggers over.
He’s maybe 40 and
has a face that has been standing in the sun for too
He looks like the kind of chap who has been
dealing with scum bags like me all his life.
But that walk of his: unhurried and resolute, a walk of
someone who knows exactly where his lunch will
There is nothing friendly about him or his
walk, but I’m not perturbed, I’m not even anxious
because I have since perfected the art of charming
my way out of sticky situation with cops.
He silently checks my insurance then deliberately
walks over to my window and without as much as a
hello, without any emotion or nicety he barks in my
I hand him my driver’s license while
I chime happily, “Habari ya leo, officer?”(Hello Officer,how is your day?)
I’m dutifully ignored.
If I were a lesser man, if I was impetuous, I
would have broken down right there and cried.
But i didn’t, because I was wearing my lucky underwear;
it’s black; and old-colour denoting manly strength (obviously).
I’ve taken to wearing old presentable underwears for the nurses to look at during my now frequent physical examinations down there for my prostate cancer clinic days-mostly,they are black in colour for reasons i don’t want to detail in here.
My license is studied in complete and loud silence.
I’m let to sit there, to stew in and contemplate my
You’d think I had tried to run the
president’s motorcade out of the road.
have been stupid, but – admit it – fun.
Finally – after I have almost grown senile waiting for the longest time – he growls; “ Sasa
mbona unaongea kwa simu na unaendesha gari? ” (Why were you talking on the phone while driving?)
Don’t be fooled by the question mark at the end of
that sentence because it’s not exactly a question, but
But if you choose to take it as a
question it’s one that doesn’t need an answer, it
simply draws your attention to your error.
I start talking fast.
I’m plying him cock and bull story.
I’m charming him.
He stands there, leaning his weight
on one foot and staring at me like I’m scum (and I
am), like he is a god (and he is, a traffic god who
needs to deworm) and he is beautifully unimpressed
and unmoved by my string of narrative.
And he doesn’t blink.
Now, I have this routine that I have perfected down to the finest print in my mind when I
encounter the law.
I have learnt that cops will let you
go with a slap on the wrist if you make them
understand that you know your place in the food
chain; that you are nothing before them.
So you don’t argue with them, you don’t challenge their opinion;
you keep your head low.
But most importantly, you
don’t ask to touch their gun.
So you smile and look
remorseful and say you are sorry and that you
exercised bad judgment.
Or you play to their
manhood or fatherhood.
I once told an obstinate traffic cop who had caught
me making a U-turn; “Look, I have that money you
are asking for but it isn’t exactly mine; I’m going to buy
my son a school bag tomorrow [I know, I’m
Please don’t make me beg, you look like
a father, come on, let this one slide, officer.”
And he had stared at me for a while before saying
coldly, “I’m not a father.”
And for some reason I
found that funny as hell and I laughed, and he stared
at me before he broke into a broad smile, then I said,
“You might not be a father but you are a man and we
don’t kick each other while we are down,”
He shook his head and let me go.
But normally if diplomacy crumbles (hardly ever) I
use my tramp card; The Cancer Clinic Card.
That’s always my last ticket to freedom.
It’s gotten me out of some grim situations-people knowing i’m on my last legs.
So anyway, back to the cop.
Just as he’s ready to
drag me away to the station, I sort of play that last
Only I play it to the wrong chap because for
one, he’s having a bad day and two, he felt like I was
arm-twisting him and lastly, I suspect he was just
having bad bowel movements that morning.
So much for my lucky black underwear.
What happens next, happens really fast.
The card, he feels
rightfully, was used to try to undermine his authority.
And so his ego is tested, not only as a cop but as a
cop with intestinal worms (his big belly seems out proportion with the rest of his body if you ask me.)
I stand no chance.
All bets are off.
As this story goes, will end up at Milimani Police
Station at some point and at the parking lot, I will
embrace my mantra “Only fools don’t
change their minds,” and I will hold his arm (not his
gun) as we walk towards the station office and I will
tell him, “It doesn’t have to go this far, I don’t want it
to, and I can tell you don’t either.”
And he will stop
and look at my hand on his arm like it will infect him
with foolishness, and before he says anything, before
he proves that I came onto his turf and undermined
his authority, I tell him something I should have told
him as soon as he asked for my license: “It’s too early
in the day to start it in this fashion. I’m sorry, officer,”
And lets me go without a bribe.
This post was to be about Kenyan cops but like most
things i did back in my High School days they always seem to turn to be
about my lack of sound judgment, or my fumbling
and unfawning (Word keeps underlining this damned
But I always intend them to be a
window into human nature, as I see them at least.
Mostly I fail.
Just some random thoughts that came to my mind….