This morning, we stopped by a fuel station on our way into town. As we waited our turn, we couldn't help but overhear one of the attendants conversing loudly with another customer.
He rode in on a motorcycle and pointedly asked one of the female attendants how her night had been. Now, there is a certain class of working woman that is most skilled at manipulating the local language, and very loudly at that. This is the type of woman who can hold her own in any kind of brawl. This pump attendant was that kind of woman.
She looked disdainfully at the cyclist from head to toe, sizing him up and mentally arranging her response. And then she declared that her welfare was none of his business, especially since he obviously could not afford to do anything about her problems.
And furthermore, if she told him how her night was and how she was feeling this morning, what would he do to change her situation. It went on and on in that vein, with the man smiling patiently under the woman's barrage.
After she had thoroughly berated him, drawing laughter from the other attendants and customers, the cyclist calmly pulled out his wallet.
He handed her some money, and said he actually wanted to buy her some breakfast. The very next instant, the pump attendant was beaming and thanking him and calling him 'Boss'.
She even did that half-kneeling courtsey thing that we Ugandans do when we do not quite want to kneel down and greet someone.
As we were pulling out of the station, we could still hear her singing his praises, including, but not limited to, comments on how fabulous his coat was, how shiny his motorcycle looked and how she wished all the customers who came through the station were as wonderful as him.
It was beyond hilarious. Meanwhile, out the other side of the car, things were far from funny - in fact, they were a matter of life and death.
There was a customer complaining bitterly about how people are raising their children, or rather, are not raising them at all, but are leaving them to run wild in the streets.
And that is literally what was happening. A child ran through the forecourt of the station just as this particular customer was pulling in. The driver had a particularly high vehicle and could easily have run the child over, had an onlooker not yanked the kid out of the way.
The pump attendants shooed the child away and complained that women in the shops nearby brought their children to work but did not keep a responsible eye on them.
One motorist commented bitterly about how if the child had been run over, the onlookers would not have hesitated to blame the driver of the vehicle. "You'd probably even supply the fuel to set us on fire," he remarked wryly.
And that is so true. No one would be burning the mother whose offspring was gadding about the station like it was his family backyard.
There seems to be a general hatred of motorists by people who do not own or operate cars. Our culture of corruption has also served to ensure that anyone who drives a Pajero, a Land Cruiser and anything similar in size or shape must be a beneficiary of the ruling party and actively involved in embezzling public funds. Woe betide you if you knock down a hardworking wananchi (drunk and jaywalking or not). You will be lynched.
We got our fuel and drove out of the station, but the teeming life in the area was not yet done with us. Parked right at the exit to the station was a sample of that not-so-human specimen known to us as a commuter taxi driver.
The matatu guys here are a breed apart. It seems to be a mark of honour for them to always be found doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, and so this particular one was blocking our exit.
His conductor and a passenger were in a very heated argument about one hundred Uganda shillings - an amount for which I think there is no Kenyan equivalent.
So many colourful insults were traded that I blushed as much as any black person can possibly manage. And all for three and a half Kenya shillings.
We were grateful when they finally cleared the way. If we had spent another minute in that fuel station I was worried there would be even more drama to come.