I Met a Guy in a Matatu, My Commute Has Never Been The Same

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    A matatu spotted at Nairobi CBD on Saturday, December 19, 2020
  • I had a movie guy once.
    Then he gave it all up to sell watermelons.

    Davie was a cool guy as far as movie guys go. He had a small empire on the second floor of two-stacked containers. Every week, for two years, I would brave the makeshift staircase that would creak praying every time that it doesn’t give way. Yet, even this very real risk of injury wouldn’t keep me away from this small heaven: a little world of films.

    Everyone has a movie guy or had one, at least. It's the culture: the movie guy, and the mutura guy. Anyway, Davie was our guy. a short man who rarely spoke except to ask you: Niburn na Season two? 

    I don't even think that little movie place had a name. Davie was the man, the trade and the business. What I can tell you is that Davie’s place was always hot. Not normal hot, no no, this was in the heart of Kitengela. It was the kind of heat that fried eggs. And remember: Davie’s was located in a container, which in the Kitengela sun was more of a large sufuria. 

    There we would stand (Davie never saw the need to have chairs for his customer) and we would roast, we would burn, we would sizzle, browning like human onions. But we always returned.

    Raised by Wolves Poster
    Raised by Wolves is a series showing on Showmax. The new HBO sci-fi series shows how two androids are tasked with raising human children on a mysterious planet when the Earth is destroyed in a great war.

    It was working well until the day I went looking for Raised By Wolves and found Davie outside slicing watermelons. Long story short, the movie business was down: Davie had moved on, and: 'Did I want a watermelon?’ Of course! The heat was unbearable, but that’s not what took me there.

    If I had a hat I would have tipped it to him: our brave soldier who had battled to the very end before finally, the long arm of kanjo broke him. Good old Davie. Davie never did become my watermelon guy though. I had somebody else for that, a fiery woman who gave me change from the folds of a lesso. I couldn't leave her, we had a good thing going.

    After Davie went under, all of us, his loyal customers were at sea. Where to find a new movie guy? It's not that they were in short supply, it was a question of the right fit. Finding a good movie shop is like buying a shoe: you can’t guess. The fit is either perfect or it won’t work. I tried a few: some were too loud, some were too bright, some were just committed to movie-poverty. I’d ask for I Am Laycon, for instance, and the response, invariably would be, 'Ah, hio? Hio sina.’ 

    I Am Laycon Poster
    I Am Laycon is a series showing on Showmax. The lights shine on an icon as BBNaija winner Laycon takes you behind the scenes.

    Slowly I began to lose faith in the whole movie place hunt. Maybe this was Armageddon? And Davie was the last good movie guy to ever walk the universe of movie guys. I was contemplating going back to his stand, telling him that watermelons were not, in fact, his calling. That he was destined for better things: better, bigger movie things. That was until I found it: the perfect movie place.

    Many have thought it's a myth, but no, I found it. It was hidden away in a small corner of a rundown building right at the side of the road. It was clean, had a waiting bench, and miracles of miracles: even had a fan so you wouldn't melt away as you waited for Hollywood to be copied and handed to you in a disk. Did I mention that they even had a water dispenser? Truly, heaven had come down. I was sold, this was my movie place, I had claimed it.

    I remember I was sitting silently sipping water from the shop's own 'vikombe za wageni' when the county askaris came in. There were two men and one woman. It happened quickly: voices started out low, then one of the men, a veritable goliath, pointed at the lone computer machine standing at the corner and whoosh, the other tow stepped in and carried it away to one of the notorious county cars that was waiting outside. 

    They didn't stop there, the CDs were bundled along with the machine, and so were the two movie connoisseurs cowering behind the counter. Kevo and Kim - the owners - were not to be spared either, they were dragged by their belt hoops and unceremoniously deposited along with their movies, in the car. 

    Off it sped away, leaving only a trail of dust in its wake. I had quietly stepped out by then, not wishing to be caught up in the whole thing. I wasn't sure where they were taking them but I was sure it was nowhere I had the intention of going myself, heaven forbid.  Before I left I gently pushed back the door on the shop, with a sigh and a heavy heart, I walked home dejected: we would not be watching Tiger anytime soon.

    Tiger Poster
    Tiger is a series showing on Showmax. HBO presents an intimate portrait of Tiger Woods, telling the real story of his road to riches and fame.

    With this slew of tragedies in my rearview mirror, I had all but sworn off movies. Clearly, some higher power didn’t want me to watch them. Inama Bookshops became my new haven. I would stop by one of the many littered across Moi Avenue and pick out a few books on my way from work: weekend reading. Yet I still thought with nostalgia about our old glorified sufuria, and the wonder of those movies, hours of incomparable joy.

    It was only recently that this slump ended when I discovered Showmax quite by accident. I was sitting on the back seat of a matatu, headed home, and beside me (well, as besides as social distance allowed) was a man engrossed on his phone watching what appeared to be Fargo. Now I'm a big fan of the show, great writing, impeccable storytelling, there's really no downside to Fargo.

    He was still on episode three of the first season and I couldn't resist shooting glances at his phone, following along as the series played. I must have forgotten myself at some point and turned very obviously towards him; by this time I was invested. Anyway, he caught me looking and we had a bit of an awkward moment as I tried to tell him that no, in fact, I was not a weirdo who spent her days staring at strangers’ phones on buses.
    After awkward introductions, we talked a bit about Fargo. Mark said he didn't understand the intriguing plot but someone told him it would get better. I agreed, told him that yes indeed, it started off so but soon he'd be hooked. I couldn't resist making a comment on the fact that he seemed to have so much data if he could casually stream a whole episode on the trip.

    Fargo Poster
    Fargo is a series showing on Showmax

    He laughed, one of those deep belly laughs. 

    ‘No! It's Showmax! You know Showmax, right?’ 

    Did the man think I lived under a rock? Of course, I knew about Showmax. But I still didn't understand, Showmax was a streaming service, no? That's when he explained that you could download films to watch offline.

    What! Considering how bored I usually was on these commutes to the far far away land of Kitengela, that sounded like a deal and a half.

    “Yes! You should get Showmax. They even have a running offer now, if you pay for one month, you get two months absolutely free,” said Mark.

    What! I couldn’t believe it. You mean I don’t need to sizzle in a glorified sufuria or dodge city council askaris to get the latest season of The Good Fight? I checked for myself, not only was he not lying, but the subscription cost just 380 bob. Mark got off at the next stop, and I wasted no time, I signed up for Showmax right there on the bus. Best money I've ever spent.

    Life is sweet, my friend, let no one lie to you. I haven't enjoyed my daily commute this much since... well ever. I just started on Fargo Season 4 and what glorious genius it is. I bought headphones specifically for this: my matatu-movies. So if you spot me one day, staring intently at my phone, large headphones crowning my hair, just wave at me kidogo, and I'll tilt the screen your way. 

    Movies are made to be shared anyway. 

    Or better yet do what I did: get Showmax, trust me, you won't regret it.