The Urban Conductor

These guys have a cool factor about them; they walk the earth like a cross breed of a lion and a news anchor. And the ladies love them; for some reason. They never have to chase tail, tail chases them; from the young fine somethings to the middle aged fine somethings heck even just the somethings chase him. He’s well groomed, dresses to impress but is far from cultured. As a matter of fact he is crude, his speech is as rough as a rugby match and it accentuates his ruggedness. If you want to milk romance out of this one, sentiment, loyalty you’re backing up the wrong tree. Meowing, mooing even neighing. Their lives are just as carefree as their careers, meet the Nairobi urban conductor.

Back in the day when they’d wear loose open shirts and baggy jeans, and have sticks of miraa sticking out of their mouths, and blood shot eyes they were something else and looked like bad examples with the bundles of cash they held between their fingers like lit cigarettes. There was nothing noble about their careers. We saw them as a necessary evil, smiled and even entertained their lewd behaviour just to get from A to B without getting doused in insults that came with bad breathe. So when did they become sex icons? Boyish celebrities with sultry smiles who win hearts with two words “niaje msupa”?

Not the crude ones that look like a cut-out from an OMO box. This one was silky jet black. Well-greased like an engine part. The beard too was manicured.

I met one of my pals, manicured beard, laser sharp hair line, hugging shirt, crisp khaki’s and brown oxfords on my way to town. The last we checked in he worked at a telecommunications company he still looked like he does only with a heftier pay rise and close attention to vogue magazines. Our eyes meet and we casually nod. Guys, we do that all the time. Nod. Something about the unspoken that’s sublime. We don’t engage in endless banter and air kisses summarized with excited gaping mouths and hanging questions like
“Aki it’s you? Unakula nini? You’ve changed!” Which are escorted by equally shrilly voices. We save that for the red, pink, blue and black lips. A nod is more casual. It says I’ve seen you, I acknowledge I’ve seen you. In some instances the nod asks about the family, the girlfriend, compliments the shoes and even throws in a comment about the weather. After the nod we can go back to whatever it is we were doing like nothing even happened.

It’s one of these flashy mats, loud music, screens on all corners, comfortable seats and an urbane crowd. These things like some Ugandan wrote, are a party wheels. I’m busy on my phone trying to look busy on my phone when my friend walks up to me. He fist bumps and says something about how it’s been ages then asks for the fare. I’m thinking it’s a joke. It has to be a joke; why would he be asking for my fare? Then it hits me he is the tout. At that moment I am made of questions. How? Why? When? Where? But I pay up and go back to my phone simmering in my thoughts. This chap is better dressed than me, I can catch the whiff of designer cologne on him as he snakes through the aisle and he seems to have some form of charming rapport with the lady passengers. For instance the one next to me handed him a two hundred bob and he smiled back. A smile so wide I almost thought the lady would tell him to keep change. She just smiled back and shied away.

The same day on my way home the tout on the mat I used had a Mohawk. Not the crude ones that look like a cut-out from an OMO box. This one was silky jet black. Well-greased like an engine part. The beard too was manicured. Sitting on his face like a bird brooding on eggs. He had a bespoke coat bright blue coat, red flower lapel pins, white shirt, bright yellow pencil tie, jeans and those military type boots. These are the times you begin to question career choices, is the 9-5 wasting you? Three months’ salary couldn’t get you such a wardrobe. And the weird part is they don’t wear the same thing in that week. Heck even probably a month. You half want to tell them to let you intern and half ask them to subsidize your fare. It feels almost unfair. As usual you give the casual nod and your money. You let the bitterness sit in the pit of your belly like a lazy husband. You imagine it calls out to the pancreas and asks for the remote and the pancreas cussing under its breathe for that good for nothing bitterness.

“Why can’t you be more like bile and do something?”

“Shut up and get me the remote.”

“As of this remote could change his life” Pancreas would murmur.

“What was that!?”

“The sound of my disappointment” it would murmur again


“Nothing here’s your remote.”

“Okay go.”

“Ungrateful bastard”



Weeks later I’m at a club with Kev, it’s a bit dull for a Friday night. It feels like a Friday with the attitude of a Monday morning. The music is okay, it’s not great; it’s like kawaida food. You will listen to it just because it’s playing but given the chance you would be listening to something better. We are talking about how disappointing Arsenal is and how he screwed up a good thing he had going on. And I think guys do that on purpose, screwing up, it’s like they know it’s bound to happen so they rather it happen sooner rather than later.

At the bar you don’t nod. This is the only place a man can show his emotions. Which are limited to three: happy, excited and disappointed.

“Man I fucked up!”

“Sorry man. Shit happens”

“Do you know she was about to move in?”


“What do you mean why? Si she was my girlfriend.”

“No I mean why would I know she was about to move in?”

“You’re an idiot”

“Yeah but who’s the one that screwed up?”

We oscillate the conversation between girlfriends and Arsenal, which in my opinion is one and the same thing. He shines a light on my almost non-existent relationship life and wonders if it’s on purpose or I just can’t talk to girls. He even dares me to talk to the ones on the couch adjacent to us. I brush off the suggestion with a shrug, sip my drink then look up when someone shouts my name in excitement. It’s my pal, the tout. He’s just done his last round and has come to quell the dry parch itching in his throat.

At the bar you don’t nod. This is the only place a man can show his emotions. Which are limited to three: happy, excited and disappointed. If you are sad you go to your house and stay there until the feeling passes. I introduce Kev to, let’s call him G, G. He has a sit opposite us and orders a cold drink. I figure this is the best time to ask him about the career change. So I do, and I don’t know what response I was expecting but he simply said “The money is good. Oh and the ladies love us.” And that was the end of it, nothing about passion, calling, circumstance just a decision made on present information. Just a casual response in passing like I said your fly is open.

We’re back to conversing, all three of us and a call comes on G’s phone. He points at the screen, it’s a lady. He makes a crude gesture, dry humping the air, then rushes out to take the call. On his way out, the lady Kev asked me to talk to has switched seats and is next to where G was sitting. She smiles at us and waves introduces herself and asks where our friend went. I can’t believe that shit. We had been there all along and she comes right after G left, saying he’s cute. But green does not look good on men and so we don’t get jealous. So we say he’s talking to the girlfriend, with no remorse, just stating the truth, fuck the bro code. She smiles again and says fine. Like he was talking to the lord in prayer. Or the land lords annoying son. Jeez. It doesn’t bother her she just sits there and waits. But what happens next she wished she’d have left. G comes back and looks at her. Sizes her up top to bottom. She stretches her hand out and he slaps it away.

“Get the fuck out of here!” He shouts.

I’m shocked. Kev is shocked too. We don’t know what the fine lady did. Is this how they treat them? Or did I just catch him on an off day? I know they are usually crude and obscene but this surprised me. G on the other hand is unapologetic, his tightened fist and clenched jaws show he means business. He looks dangerous. Classy, but dangerous. And the lady does not seem shocked by the reaction if anything she looks a little bit turned on. She tries to plead her case; a shallow whisper here a sultry glance there but G will have none of it. The girl has to go.

“This b*****s come here and drug you.” G says to me.

“Go before I kick you out!” He says to the girl.

I feel sorry for her, almost, but she chose the wrong guy. A decision she should live with. I’d have been polite. Again, not jealous. She, in her tight jeans, and white blazer totter off into some other corner of the club.

“You guy G what the hell?” I ask

“My girl is coming. She can’t be here. It will be drama.”

“Si you could’ve asked nicely?”

At this point he laughs.


I feel like I’ve probably said the dumbest thing. So I muffle my answer with a sip of beer.

“You can’t be nice to them. They like bad guys.” He says.

“Even if you like them?”

“Especially if you like them.”

Mary J Blige might have been onto something with her Mr Wrong.

I nod as if I agree, and keep the conversation going. The whole time his phone keeps lighting up like a faulty bulb. Different damsels asking different things wanting the same thing. Him. I wonder what it feels like to be on such high demand. Maybe like bank loans now that the banking act was passed. Everyone will want them so banks have to act a little sugar. I think it’s the same feeling, knowing you can have whoever you want and have those you don’t want still want you. Powerful. Even the shunned lady kept throwing glances our side maybe looking for remorse, an apology or her dignity.

When his lady comes she’s not what I expected. She’s a bit heavy, layers on the sides pouring over, the skin on her hands is wrinkled and she looks like she’s just closed her hardware shop. Sells hammers and nails during the day and gets hammered and nailed in the night. She’s older. Like a hip auntie, one that wouldn’t tell your mum if you had a sip of her beer. G introduces her without flinching but her eyes are searching ours. She’s apprehensive, maybe we know her. So after a few niceties she makes them move to another club in hushed tones and whispers. G gets up to leave and asks for a cig. I hand him one and they walk out into the night whose darkness camouflages them from prying eyes.

On a later meet he tells me the lady likes him and she finances his nights out. I ask about the clothes and other stuff but he says that he pays from the hustle. The lady just likes his company on the weekends and pays for drinks. I ask how they met and he says one morning she gave him a thousand bob for fare knowing change would be an issue. They got to town and as everyone got off she pulled him aside; other passengers of course thought it was her change she was after, the reality was she asked for the number and made him keep the change.

“But she’s jealous you know?” he says. Like he can read my next question.
“So that other girl the other day?”
“They just want the thrill and that’s part of it.”
“You don’t think in the long run it could affect your reputation?”
“Affect how? Inanijenga buda. They either want a bad boy or someone that was once a bad boy.”
“Win-win for you.”

Again his phone rings.

“Her?” I ask

He shakes his head.

“This is a new one. Anastay Fedha.”

He leaves the bar to answer the call and comes back a few minutes later, gushes down his drink before asking where Kev was. I tell him I’m waiting for him and he bids me a goodbye, tells me he has a new mat he’s working now that I should look out for and again disappears.

Maybe it’s me, maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe the whole myth behind being a gentleman is just a myth. All you have to do is like one. Maybe G and his like are right. Maybe women do want to be treated badly. Or maybe they are attracted to their crazy lifestyles where a double shot of vodka at ten is normal. The adrenaline rushes they derive from hanging on moving metal. Maybe it’s how they talk like they don’t care maybe that brush with danger is what’s intriguing. Or maybe it’s a thing like guys with threesomes that ladies want to have had a fling with those guys. Or maybe I am reading too much into it.

But ladies, what is so fascinating about that guy? And guys do you agree, bad boys win?

Lacoste Umoja
Lacoste Umoja

2 thoughts on “The Urban Conductor

Add yours

  1. “A nod is more casual. It says I’ve seen you, I acknowledge I’ve seen you. In some instances the nod asks about the family, the girlfriend, compliments the shoes and even throws in a comment about the weather. After the nod we can go back to whatever it is we were doing like nothing even happened.” Hahah. Entertaining and well written.


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