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MAN IN THE HOOD: I have no love for caretakers

Wednesday January 16 2019

There was one caretaker who had his own small bedsitter just next to the gate where he used to spy on tenants behind the curtains. When you stepped outside or came back home, you could see the curtains being opened slightly.

There was one caretaker who had his own small bedsitter just next to the gate where he used to spy on tenants behind the curtains. When you stepped outside or came back home, you could see the curtains being opened slightly. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

PHILIP ETEMESI
By PHILIP ETEMESI
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Over the weekend, one of my friends requested me help him to look for a new house. He had an absurd set of requirements.

First, he wanted to move into a place that had lots of female tenants. Apparently, he is a fan of zero-grazing.

In Agriculture, zero-grazing is defined as the act of cutting grass and feeding it to cattle confined in a shelter instead of setting the cattle free to go yank grass from the ground on their own. But in the hood, zero-grazing means hitting on your neighbours instead of going to distant lands to hunt.

My friend says he prefers it this way because he is a busy man with minimal time for courtship. Worse still, Tinder and social media haven’t worked for him. But zero-grazing has yielded results. He has managed to date a few of his neighbours in the past.

His other requirements included a place with a leaf-rich tree where he can chill under when the sun’s fangs have sunk into the rest of the environment, a place with a bath tub, a place with 24-hour CCTV surveillance with more than two cameras in place and a place with free DSTV. As expected, he didn’t find a house.

NO LOVE

However, he had one requirement that I totally agreed with. He wanted a place with no caretaker. I usually insist on the same when looking for a house. I prefer a residential area where I deal with the landlord directly

I have no love for caretakers.

Maybe I could make them listen to songs by Lil Yatchy, Lil Uzi Vert and all the annoying Lils out there for 12 straight hours until they lose their minds. This will be proper punishment since most caretakers are hardcore reggae fans. You know those who call radio stations to request for Lucky Dube songs? Those ones! They can’t stand hip-hop. Now imagine making them listen to the worst rappers.

Why do I hate caretakers so much? I have always clashed with caretakers throughout my journey of renting houses. I can’t remember one that I had a good relationship with.

I remember one in Eastlands who would disconnect the power for the whole plot in case one person failed to submit money for the electricity bill. He never even waited for the Kenya Power guys to come and do it themselves. I mean what sort of behaviour is that? This was during the days before token meters were introduced.

That plot had one general meter and whenever the bill was brought the caretaker would divide the amount by the number of houses and make you all pay equal amounts. It didn’t matter if your neighbour used more power than you. That was surely one of the worst places I ever lived.

FEUD OVER A GIRL

Another caretaker feuded with me because a female neighbour he was eyeing appeared to like me too much. Our conflict was cosmic, even Israel and Palestine would have been envious. He liked to do what is called kunitafuta maneno.

The lady’s name was Makena. She had a predilection for knocking on my door all the time and it would kill him. Due to his jealousy, he always found ways to ignite arguments with me. He would come and say things such as: “Si ni wewe hukufunga gate jana? Mbona hukufunga?”

Occasionally, he would turn into Moses and issue commandment after commandment. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Don’t leave clothes on the hanging line for too long. Don’t use too much water. Bla Bla. Yet what he really wanted to say was “Don’t hang out with Makena.”

There are times when he would knock, peep through the door, look at the walls, see several items hanged then say “Usieke vitu mingi sana kwa ukuta…sawa? Hatutaki ukuta zichafuke.”

Then there were days when he would knock late in the night or very early in the morning either to piss me off or just to see if Makena was in my house.

I was patient as I made plans to move out but I was going to snap quite soon. I had vowed that the next time he knocked, I would charge at him like a bull in a rodeo. Lucky for him, the landlord fired him just before that happened.

SPY

There was another place I lived in where the caretaker always had eyes on us. He was a human CCTV. No, he wasn’t ballsy enough to just sit outside and stare. He had his own small bedsitter just next to the gate where he used to spy on tenants behind the curtains.

When you stepped outside or came back home, you could see the curtains being opened slightly. He even had a pair of binoculars to watch those who were far. I kid you not. He zoomed in on them like a tourist watching squirrels being chased by cheetahs in Maasai Mara.

I’ve encountered plenty of other vexatious caretakers. Some were just too languorous and had to be forced to do anything. If you had a concern, it would take forever to be addressed. Others were just too friendly and couldn’t give anyone privacy. When I finally found a house with no caretaker, I was grateful. I vowed that I would keep it that way.

I am never moving into a residential plot with a caretaker again. That’s unless Brenda Wairimu is living in the same plot. Hi Brenda. Ni salamu tu.

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