Vanpool Diary

In college I enjoyed exploring the workings of real life interpersonal communication.  Inescapable messages, verbal and nonverbal.  Irreversible utterances whose effects remain even after the judge has told the jury to "disregard the last statement a witness has made."  And the complexities - the fact that no two people use the same words exactly alike, combined with the influences of perception, e.g. W.E.B. DuBois theory of Double Consciousness  (Google digitized version of The Souls of Black Folk).

Research observes that:  If communication can fail, it will.  If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just the way it does the most harm.

I wrote about the near death of our vanpool back in September 2009.  We managed to keep it going, but since then we have lost riders, due to job loss.  Now only four remain.  Our small group of survivors have developed, quite naturally a kinship born out of the desire to maintain the expeditious, stress-free means of getting to and from work.  Together with that kinship, there has developed a familiarity with one another, that  has become oppressive.  That is my perception.  I wonder how sensitive the rest are to the energy that circulates in our close confines for two hours a day?

Every day, the riders engage in what begins as palsy-walsy chat then distorts into rude intrusive innuendo. More often than not, there is one who does not know what’s kosher and what’s not.  Alluding to sex at every opportunity is adolescent at best. But why is it that certain topics, e.g. football, engenders carefully chosen words: show. pass. score. Politics and weather more of the same: mundane. affairs. galore. But then, sex sneaks in and out: teeny, tiny, bait. The culprit casts a weathered net: hard-nosed and in bad taste.

In Kiswahili we say, heri kujikwa kidole kuliko ulimi:  better to stumble with toe than tongue.

So, co-riders (time will tell if you do read this blog) when next we pass that billboard, the one with the pretty young lady's face, her smile right above the bold lettering STROKERS, a clever balance to what she is selling, keep your running commentary to yourself.  Please.

In the meantime, when I am not driving the van, I am thankful for my music and my headphones.

Wiki njema!

Mama Shujaa.


  1. Sounds like a great vanpool! But 2 hours commute is very Nairobi ;(

  2. The Souls of Black Folk should be required reading for all. I read it for the Literature of Social Reflection at college. I just love the witty sayings from your county – too true!

  3. Thanks for the update! Long ago I would wonder why people were so rude and anti-social listening to music on headphones whilst in the company of others. Little did I know then - We have something similar to the van-pool - a small 18 seater shuttle service that runs every 10 minutes between the job-sites. The official journey time is 24 minutes but it is often done in less. It is no exaggeration to say that those approx. twenty minutes are probably the lowest point of my day - every working day.

    The 'conversation' will start off on a track not unlike what you've described and then quite quickly descend into the gutters. I am only exposed to all the nasty isms known to mankind for a mere twenty minutes or so. I imagine that the shuttle drivers who have to listen to this drivel all day every day have developed some kind of survival mechanism.....

  4. Tamaku: Need some of your wonderful shoot from the hip style. LOL. You get to the point that the drama, intrigue and sleaze becomes draining nonsense.

    Sarah: Yes, I just picked it up that, timeless content.

    Wetwool: I understand completely. I start out my day sometimes with a positively brilliant thought about a story I am writing and even as I take my seat on the van, it quickly gets swallowed up in that trench, if I don't protect it, shelter it, block out the noise. The van does provide a lot of fodder though...

    LOL @ the survival mechanism...

  5. Your day should not suffer because of an insecure toxic person. I hope he reads this and recognizes the loser he is.

  6. We are bombarded daily with sex. It's in games, on television, billboards, etc. As parents, our concern is how these images will influence our children. However, after reading your entry, maybe we should be concerned with how it effects the minds of adults who have never fully matured emotionally or intellectually. Just my opinion.

  7. Trudy: He/She will do well to learn, if still able to...

    Starsew: Good point on the bombardment, it is mind blowing. The billboards need to be banned. Just like the banned cigarette ads on billboards.

  8. Oh and Starsew: Good point on emotionally and intellectually immature adults.

  9. "heri kujikwa kidole kuliko ulimi: better to stumble with toe than tongue" I love it!!!! Hopefully, someone will take heed to it.


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