Monday, November 10, 2008

FREQUENT FOOTER MILES.


You are flying the flexing delta airline or BA or KLM or anyone of the thousands of airlines that line the skies. On any one choice of these carriers, when you fly long distance you get enough miles.

Yes, right, You get miles. Some business people use their miles to take them on holiday. You could, for example gather enough miles to take you on vacation to China and back by flying to the US and Europe for a couple of times. I considered this thought as I walked from my work place recently all the way home.

Call it financial illiteracy; call it poor planning, or plainly a profligate spirit. I have had to walk to work and back these past few days.

It started one day when I had not enough transport and so I said I will take a taxi to the park and then walk from there to work. It turned out to be a 20 minute walk from the taxi park to work.

Fair enough my dull, sweat-inebriated brain told me.

And so the next day on discovering that I didn’t have enough money either, I decided I would walk from the park to home. So I took the taxi to the park and thence began the trek home. By the time I got home, every bone ached and my arse hurt from the overuse of my Gluteus muscle.

Now as I look back, from the 20th of last month to date I have walked approximately 5-10 kilometers a day. It’s been tough and grueling. But most of all it’s been insightful.

I understand that people around the world walk that distance daily to get water for the survival of their families, but I also understand that had I planned properly I should never have had to be in such a rut! And honestly most of those people have no choice really; they either walk it or have their families drinking piss, which is just plain tacky!

But I digress

I look back at that month and think of all the things that changed in my life that I had thought were constant and unchangeable.

EYES GLUED TO THE GROUND

Whenever you are in a taxi and you see a roadside preacher you stare at them as they yell and chastise passersby as though they were otherworldly. In my experience as a pedestrian, as you walk on by, don’t look this man in the face or look at any passing traffic. Why? Coz someone might know you or recognize you, and as a rule of the trade [street walking] you never answer someone calling you from the comfort of their car. If they can’t stop the damn thing, they can sod off!!! So you walk with your eyes hugging the pavement, never letting go. On the other side of the car window, it’s very cold; I assure all of you who have the comfort of looking at pedestrians.

The preacher looks you in the eye, and in earnest, makes his call for you to repent. You feel like slapping the fella. But honestly you are not sure if you slap him whether you will have enough energy left to get home. You abort the slap. And walk thinking, furiously away.

Thinking furiously and translating into madness

Mad people generally talk to themselves or people who talk to themselves are generally mad. Whatever works. Wanna know the Truth? They are not mad, they are recounting and swearing on graves, salaries, monies and debts that they will never go through this again. Next time they have some money they will save and plan. Never. Never again.

I found it’s the novices who swear and since they do this as they walk they end up talking to themselves. Its like self induced Schizophrenia. They make full facial movements and gesticulations. The real walkers walk on silently saying nothing. They have acquired the neutered look on their faces. They know that talking doesn’t save you energy and they too talked to themselves when they first started walking, but they stopped because even when they got the money they are still walking today.

Acceptance

The more you walk certain routes the less you look like a stranger. The beggars on that route know you and silently nod when you pass by. They know you have hit hard times. When you are new the beggars will bother you. After a few days, you blend in. They know it. They accept you, make way when you briskly walk past and never have their little watottos cram you begging for money. You understand what they are about and they get you. This, my dearest reader is the point of no return, if you were a missionary sent to tame the savagery of the streets this is what is called 'going native' When you switch sides in sympathy for the other side, you have gone native. Acceptance is a crucial stage. Its where you start to long for your lonely times on the road where you think alone, plan alone, talk alone… am going crazy!

The Miles!

Beyond acceptance come the miles. When you walk so long that you start to accumulate frequent footer miles. Building up on a daily basis, your body takes a certain shape, the thought of dust clogged nostrils doesn’t bother or nauseate you and your understanding of the Kampala landscape is so highly advanced.

The downside of the miles however is that you become and think almost like a true villager. You top valuing time and you never see the sense in spending any money to go anywhere. If you can walk there you do it day in day out. Triggering the vicious cycle of poverty because no one can trust you to be on time, or get things done because you cant get a taxi and be some where in time for any function.

And as I look at myself in the mirror after I get home and take off my shirt I begin to think of all the things I could have become. And no, pedestrian was not one of them. I had so much promise, so hope, so much to live for and that I ended up walking on the streets to work, in this prestige-sensitive city is proof of how far anyone can fall.