Recently, I took a ride to Mukono on a bright Sunday afternoon.
My mind kept running back to the church sermon and then reflecting on the splendor of God’s works. I was in such a jovial mood that I did not mind taking the back seat. Normally, I would have waited for another passenger to occupy it. See, being at the back of the van, every hump or pothole you hit tosses you up in the air. You can imagine how uncomfortable the whole journey is eventually.
Shortly after I’d sat, a middle-aged woman occupied the seat on my immediate right ultimately filling the three-sitter. My mind got lost again and before I noticed, the taxi was full.
Our journey to Mukono begun. Three minutes later, the mama on my right pulled out a polythene bag stuffed with six ripe bananas. As if apologizing for what she was about to do, she offered an explanation why she was about to eat her bananas; “I have not had a proper meal the whole day. The gentleman on her right accepted the ‘apology’ and from there they picked a conversation; you know how Ugandans are. No one is really a stranger. A conductor can pick a conversation with a passenger in another taxi while stuck in jam.
Before long, all the bananas were gone; deep down into the stomach! What happened next is normal, except, I twisted the normal story.
How dare you?
The now satisfied mama motioned me to open the window. I was about to then I noticed she wanted to discard off her polythene full of peelings. I declined.
I shut the window quickly and kindly requested her to wait till she finds a dustbin where she can properly discard the rubbish.
Hell broke loose. She was not amused in anyway.
But I was ready for the challenge. Ready to defend my cause. Ready to campaign for what I believed. Some of the words I was about to tell her I had rehearsed them for a long time. Many are the times when I looked on when people just threw rubbish out their moving cars. It haunted me. And then my gut troubled me with “you could have said this, you could have said that” till it chocked on my throat. I was not about to keep mum any longer. And that afternoon was the perfect opportunity.
In an almost meek tone I inquired, “when you are leaving your house, don’t you want to return and find it clean? Would you love it if you found it littered?” She answered like I’d expected, “Of course not!”
She now started on how she loves cleanliness and how her home is clean. Bingo! I was moving her closer to my side of the argument.
I went on, “exactly my point! Uganda is our big home. You cannot go around littering it without a care. This is like your house.”
I pressed on, “the way you would love your housemates to keep your house clean, we all ought to do our part and not litter our country anyhow.”
But then she was not about to pack these peelings in her hand bag. The peelings seemed heavier in her hand now.
“Who cares? Just open the window and I throw the rubbish already. These peelings are going to stink!”
Lowering my voice even further, I reminded her that good thing she had tightly closed them in the polythene bag, a few more minutes would not hurt until she reaches home.
Ironically, she confessed that she would rather keep used sanitary pads in her hand bag all day, but not banana peelings. I was amused! But I did not show it. Her argument was that used sanitary towels are private and ought to be well kept.
The gentleman on the other side joined in. His argument hang on a fence though. Some other passengers had abandoned their conversations and were now listening. One young lady- probably in her mid-twenties – was nudged by the argument. She requested us to stop ‘quarrelling.’ “Why bother, she asked?”
I understood her position. I really did. Especially because I was alone in this yet my challenger was very lurid. I waved her off and told her we are having a positive argument not just quarrelling.
It was now time to throw in another ‘missile’. Again, politely I asked my contender if she had any children; in school. Oh she boasted about them. She told me how proud a mother she is and how her children are studying hard in high school.
I requested her to allow me be the image of her children. “When you send us to school, you clearly do not want us to waste your hard earned money. In return, we ought to implement what we learn in school. We are taught to keep our environment clean, for various reasons…”
This should have been easy, considering that she was proud of her children’s education. She cut me short. Her problem was that a small girl was telling her what to do.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), she had reached her destination. She stopped the taxi. I think we said good-byes, I do not remember clearly.
Silence then befell the taxi. Deep down, I was pleased. I believe that much as I had faced resistance, my message was ringing in their minds. The gentleman on the extreme right now moved closer. He then whispered, “you know what, you are right. What you are saying is very correct.” He went on pointing out how society has ignored such things and blah blah blah.
I was disappointed that he feared to show his stand especially when the lady was still around. Is it because they had earlier created a rapport that he feared to ‘betray’ her? I was kind enough to accept his appreciation for my “brave argument”.
Join the campaign!
Whether she threw the peelings in a bin or not was now up to her. At least I had done my part.
I have not stopped my advocacy. When the person insists, I sometimes tell them to place the peelings in the taxi, or bus. These guys will clean up after the day’s work. It is better than dumping the rubbish in swamps, littering highways all in the name of KCCA guys are not watching or we are out of the city thus Musisi’s boys cannot arrest me here.
Join the campaign. If you are in the habit of littering stop it. If you find fellow passengers doing that, stop them. At least there is an example to follow if you do not know what to say.
For God and my country!