Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The day I became a criminal

Just having arrived back in Nairobi from following up a business deal in a neighbouring country I was feeling pretty good about my business. It was 2004, I was a third-year student student and SoftLaw had just started taking off. We finally had more than just cobwebs in our bank account and were learning how to roll with the big boys.

I guess it was because of this positive vibe that while engaging in conversation with one of my classmates I happened to mention that I was now an "international businessman". My statement was met with a sneer, she looked at me from toe to head lingering on my well-worn leather shoes. "So why do you still have dusty shoes?" she quipped.

The statement, intended to knock me down my perch, was delivered with pin-point accuracy. I did my best to laugh it off, but deep down I knew she was right, I knew I had to get a car to prove myself. As absurd as it may seem to a non-Kenyan, a motor-vehicle regardless of its state, is the ultimate status symbol.

It took almost a year after that dusty shoes quip, but I eventually got my car. And I did so with about three months to spare before the end of my stay in campus. The car was painstakingly chosen and customised with tinted windows and the obligatory 1200 watt sound system to deter anyone from thinking I'd borrowed it from my dad. With my excitement at leaving the dusty shoes club I had no idea that I had just become a member of a much worse club, the criminal's club.

Now before you call the cops on me, allow me to explain. Although most drivers in Kenya would balk at being called a criminal, the reality is that they most likely are. A criminal is someone who has committed a crime and when it comes to traffic offences, I doubt there is a single Kenyan driver who is innocent.

How many times have you gone down a one-way lane, driven through a red light, crossed lanes in the roundabout, failed to carry a fire-extinguisher in your car, driven without insurance? These are the common ones, but some you might not know about: driving a car without a speedometer, or filling petrol while the engine is running, or driving with part of the body protruding from the car.

Here is one traffic rule which I'm sure everyone has broken:
No person shall drive any vehicle into a roundabout unless, at the time of entry of the vehicle into the roundabout, it is reasonable to suppose that the vehicle will not be forced to stop in the roundabout by reason of traffic already therein.
Are you curious to gauge how much of a criminal you are? Take a look at the Traffic Act here

The worst part is that when most of us get caught we go ahead and commit an even bigger offence. However because of the fear of self-incrimination, I'll leave out any personal anecdotes.

Today I'm working hard to turn away from a life of crime. I've gone full circle and my shoes are dusty once more. You should take time today to appreciate all Kenyans who have chosen the dusty shoes way.


Anonymous said...

Criminal offenses: driving without license, running a red light, entering a lane without signalling, rushing over zebra crossing, and those were just the ones committed when I was in driving school ;)

Unknown said...

My guy, he.. sisemi kitu