Community Advocacy on Environmental and Social Justice

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Lessons we MUST learn from Matatu Industry workers e.g. Touts

In our modern society there is this category of people who we mostly view from a negative angle yet they have very important lessons for us in our modern career world, dating and relationship games as well as tolerance and endurance in the modern world tough social-economic conditions. We normally blame them for road carnage, rude behavior towards customers (travelers/passengers), road overlapping and causing traffic jams, over charging and hiking fares without notice, and at times roughing travelers to an extent of beating them. But in all these, these guys have very important lessons that we can learn if we are willing to learn from them and apply in real life situations. Read on.

Colorful Matatus.

These people among the so many members of the modern society are among the mostunited and harmonious people amongst themselves. There is a lot of team work in them. Imagine this scenario: there is a crackdown on matatus and drivers who are “breaking the law”. Word goes round like wild fire amongst them and within no time all the matatu operators within that route know that there is an operation against them. It is not a wonder most will never be caught in the so called “msako”. Also when an opportunity to hike fare arises as in when there is traffic jam, “msako”, downpour, etc word will go round very fast and all drivers and conductors plying a certain route will harmonize the amount of fare to hike such that literally none is left out on the opportunity to knock some more cash from unsuspecting passengers.
Also in case of a breakdown of one of their vehicles, another one is always available to ferry the passengers to their destination and one of them will come to the aid of the driver in distress by e.g. supplying a spare tire, tools etc. These people will unite against any force working against them in the society or for a cause favoring them. Do you ever inform your colleague of an opportunity to enhance their work and income?

The matatu drivers are normally very courageous, outrageous and brave with their work. They will do anything as long as it favors them in their work. They will ensure that they arrive to their destinations as fast as possible by all means and will stop at nothing to ferry you quickly. Many of us owe to these people so many things in life e.g. getting to our work early, meeting important appointments like a date, delivering goods and services in time, etc. The way they maneuver in our roads at times irks us but truth be told, aren’t there times you thanked God you boarded a matatu that was overlapping and driving so fast (albeit dangerously) to an extent you made it right on time to where you are going? (And probably missed getting dumped by your girlfriend or boyfriend due to being a poor timer, or you earned an appraisal from your employer or customer for delivering in time). So let us learn to thank these guys for their acrobatic skills in our roads. Without them, some of us would literally be reduced to abject poverty. (Imagine a day when they are on strike, don’t we fail to go to work, to attend important appointments, to deliver products and/or services etc)?

Just observe at how they go hunting for passengers, calling at the top of their voices to an extent of getting a hoarse voice. They will run for you and help you with your luggage and kids just to ensure that you board the matatu. They will reverse just for a single passenger. They will look around and find a seat for you. They will even sacrifice to stand to ensure you are seated and comfortable. (Even though to them it is work, it would help to have such aself-sacrificing attitude a lot). When you alight they will help you with your luggage and kids to make sure you alight safely. All along they are using their energy. Isn’t it? Do we remember to thank them or since we paid we assume it is our right to be served? [Do you know that the word tout is a formal English word that means an aggressive and persistentsalesperson? It also means to try to attract customers or support, especially in an aggressive or persistent way.]
These guys wake up so early to catch with the earliest passengers. They brave the cold chilling morning weather conditions of upcountry(sometimes rain) and at times the insecurity characterized by darkness in some areas just to ensure your daily operations runs smoothly. Few Kenyans wake up that early, and I am sure am not lying. Do we ever appreciate their effort?

I do not mean they dress well but the mental quality of being clever and mentally alert. Consider this; a car is involved in a grisly accident. Yet the driver and conductor mostly escapes unhurt or with minor injuries.  At times they are nowhere to be seen. How do they ever get out of the speeding vehicle and leave the rest to be slaughtered in the carnage remains a mystery to many Kenyans. But the truth is this, unless you are very smart and alert, you can never pull on such a feat.  When they are maneuvering in traffic jam, they all along manage to avoid being hit head-on by incoming vehicles. You will hear passengers screaming due to “dangerous driving”, but all along the driver is so composed, it is business as usual.
Also imagine at how they dodge the traffic policemen, how they avoid traffic jams, how they learn non-existent routes and follow them to their destination, etc. This is all being smart and alert at their hard work. Are you smart enough with what you do? If you keep on messing with your work, then matatu drivers and touts are smarter than you many times.

Every matatu that attracts many passengers has a lot of creativity applied to it e.g. nice and sophisticated music system, nice seats, etc. Most of the times the drivers and conductors are the ones who know where to get the technicians to style-up their vehicles to the desired taste of the customers. They know the most innovative garages in town, the most innovative mechanics and where to get the right spare parts. They also know the “right” stickers to display in their vehicles. (At times the stickers are outright annoying). 
They make the matatu to be as attractive as possible and they try to move with the latest technology trends to ensure that they stay in the market. Most passengers being thegeneration-Y, they have in mind the type of customers they have and what to do to keep the customers coming for more and to maintain them. What efforts do you do to ensure regular satisfied customers?

These guys act so confidently and have a strong belief in their own abilities and what they are saying. When they claim a position they do not swerve from it no matter what. Those who have tried to argue with a conductor know what I mean. 
Also the confidence they exude in their driving skills is awesome. They have learned how to have an aura of perfect drivers to an extent other experienced drivers in their personal cars gets intimidated by these masters of the road. They climb and remain at the top of their game. Most vehicle owners know how futile it is to compete with them on the road. They will cut across a road so confidently you are tempted to think probably you are wrong and he is right. When you try to show your annoyance, you are met with a confident glare that seems to signal to you that your “correction” is not welcome. Courtesy to them applies only when a situation is in their favor.
But truth be told, with this so competitive world, aren’t there some situations that warrant such a behavior in order to get what we want and how we want it? So, appreciate these guys’ “courtesy” for once and learn from them.

Their disregard of danger and ability to be so carefree on the road is nothing new to passengers, road users and pedestrians. These guys can even drive at the edge of a cliff at a speed of 100KM/H daring fate in broad day light. They will go ahead and make a U-turn in a highway given an opportunity. They will cut across or in between two 26 wheeler-lorry-cum-containers without giving it a second thought. They have to earn something at the end of the day and they know this; the more daring you are the more you will get at the end of the day. They are risk takers who will stop at nothing to see that their desired action goes on successfully.
Trust me; there are so many real life situations in our society that warrant this type of a trait in order to succeed. Business world is one of them especially at times of national economic hardships. What about dating and relationships? What about climbing the corporate ladder in the modern competitive career world? Who is the most popular political acrobat in Kenya now? Find out.

Their ability to exploit a situation and take maximum advantage of it is nothing new to us. Just imagine how they hike fares during traffic-jams, during times of “msako”, during heavy-downpour and when schools are opening in total disregard of anything.
Now that the holidays are approaching, it is their perfect opportunity to make as much money as possible. Many people have to travel regardless of anything and it’s a boom for the matatu industry. I once heard a conductor say, “I wish everyday was a holiday, and every month was December”. Unfortunately, it is not courtesy of the rising and setting sun daily.

So, generally, with so many other lessons to learn from our matatu fellows, how successful can we become if we took an opportunity to learn and apply some lesson or two from them? Apart from cursing the conductor for overcharging you when you need to travel most, do you see that as an opportunity to learn and apply in your life or business? For the shy in the dating and relationship game, why don’t you learn and master the courage of a matatu conductor or driver and apply the skills in the game? For managers, don’t you think it is worth to learn assertive skills and confidence from these guys? What about business men with opportunism in their operations towards maximizing profit when the season is most favorable? For the lazy bones, hard work and diligence. How about surviving the modern work place work related politics? Survival for the fittest.
Next time you interact with them (and I think this is a daily affair to most of us), just be moreobservant and keen and you will learn a very important lesson or two from the driver and conductor of the matatu that is ferrying you to your destination. Appreciate them and count yourself lucky to meet and learn from them.

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Hi Eroo !! Whats your Views on this ?