Note to self: do not walk through the throng of matatus/matatu touts waiting to attack and pounce outside Prestige (shopping mall). Never again. ALWAYS walk around them. Reason for this note? Yesterday I was mobbed, yes mobbed as I walked through the mass. Yes, I was wanting to take a matatu, and the matatu touts used this as their excuse to swoop on me.
Story: I briefly hesitated to see which to get on – which was most full and therefore most likely to leave fairly soon – and in a matter of seconds I was completely surrounded by about 10 touts all desperate for me to get on their vehicle. In that moment’s hesitation I was set upon, with one particularly insistent tout completely blocking my path so I was trapped between him and his matatu.
I was surprised at his absolute forceful insistence that I must get on his (empty) matatu; I’ve never encountered one so physically persistant in blocking my path. Normally the touts can be a bit aggressive, but accept that if you don’t want to go the way their going then they can’t force. But not this one!
But I managed to dodge him, and so he grabbed my wrist. There were a few seconds of me struggling to release my arm, laughing at his persistence but also wondering…how am I gonna escape this one. I just couldn’t get him off me and so – I can’t believe I did this – I properly granny-handbag swung at him! It was a split reaction! Ha! Although it wasn’t a granny-handbag, it was a carrier bag full of books (I was on my way home from teaching a non-existant adult literacy class in Kibera). And they hit him round the shoulder with a clunk…I was quite impressed with myself, I’ve never shown violence towards a stranger before! Don’t worry, I wasn’t too violent. He laughed at my reaction, but did loosen his grip and I managed to escape. The other touts half-heartedly tried to pull me into their matatus, but were obviously a bit wary after seeing my reaction. I got away and ended up getting a bus, avoiding all matatus for the rest of the day!