Ever been guilty of road rage? Admit it, we all have at some point. But this is now getting too much, laments a frustrated Jackson Biko
The average Kenyan female driver can’t reverse park. Come on, don’t act pious – you know it’s true. But since God is a kind Lord, since he likes to give and take, he also decided to make the Kenyan male an insolent and brutish driver. One who blindsides women into a ditch (OK, so some deserve it) and who has no qualms showing the finger to a family in a car (including the dog, my goodness!).
It’s no hyperbole, but that’s what we have become regrettably: bad drivers. Very bad drivers.
Some would say we are adapting to condition; the road network hasn’t changed much since the imperialists left, and the middle class has since burgeoned, increasing the number of automobiles on the roads. Consequently it’s survival of the boldest and the rudest.
Kenyan roads are fraught with monstrous juggernauts, big shiny serpents hogging the roads and snorting down at the man with the little car. Men with little cars are touchy and temperamental and they don’t take it lying down, so they nudge and wedge and basically do everything in their throttle to register their presence on the roads.
So it’s small cars against big cars, male drivers against other male drivers, female drivers against male drivers, female drivers against female drivers. It’s the duel to the next traffic light. This is the modern battle of the road, and what this means, simply, is that the roads have become the new stress ball for the modern man. A place to vent frustration, settle scores and go gaga.
Since driving in Nairobi is defined by sheer brawn, and minimum brain, even the women have caught on, having realised that it’s the only way they will get anywhere. On time. But, over and above that, they have perfected the game, by rising above the mediocrity of simple acts like not ceding way, racing to an exit and offering smouldering looks to other road users, to just stopping to care at all. And that’s the most dangerous driver: one who has just stopped caring. Gentlemen, we have created monsters.
But, more than just driving badly, we have become angry drivers – and angry people as a result. All that venom has drowned the little decorum we had left. We put our cars before humans, we froth at the (dirty) mouth, we imagine that our meeting is more important than the other guy’s (and it is), and we don’t make any bones about throwing common decency out the window.
A case in point: some round-faced chap with a pencil moustache rammed into my car recently. Moonface was driving his Tuareg too close behind and when I braked suddenly he was into my bender. Nothing major. But his attitude was worse than his moustache. And we got into it – guy with a small car against a guy with a big car (and a bad moustache), until his wife (the brave one who faces that moustache daily) put a stop to it and asked us to be men about it (but we were).
That little spat showed just how wound up we are as drivers and as men. This is not a rant from a guy with a small car (and a big ego): it’s about sanity on the roads and a plea to steer our unbecoming conduct back on track.