A weekend ago, I took a taxi home, not keen on walking from where the matatu would have dropped me off — it was getting dark and I had a heavy shopping bag.
Taxi drivers are different. There are some who like to talk with their passengers, and those who will put the radio on and proceed to mind their own business.
This taxi driver turned out to be the talking type, and after some chitchat about the weather and how erratic it had become, the conversation drifted to this one time he unknowingly carried criminals.
The pickup point had been South C, from where they drove to town. The two men, who had a small black bag with them, alighted somewhere on Kenyatta Avenue and asked him to look for parking and wait for them.
They would not be long, they assured him, taking the bag with them.
Ten minutes later, to the consternation of the taxi driver who had double-parked not far from where his “customers” had alighted, he spotted his two clients being escorted by a bunch of stern-looking men in civilian clothes to a police car that had appeared out of nowhere.
Both were in handcuffs minus the black bag, which one of the men surrounding the two got into the car with.
The taxi driver would later learn from people that had witnessed the arrest that the bag had contained two pistols and bundles of money.
“Hii kazi yetu ni hatari sana (our job is too risky),” he concluded his story.
It is then that it occurred to me that if a study were to be done, the aim being to paint the true portrait of the Kenyan people, the picture would not be accurate if the views of taxi operators were not included.
Think about it, a taxi driver has interacted with just about every Kenyan of every age group, in just about every profession, including career criminals — the robbers, the con men and women, drug traffickers, fraudsters, muggers, you name it.
This is the person who drives you home when you’re drunk enough to start singing off key at the top of your voice or talking to yourself.
This is the same person who drives your misbehaving teenage sons and daughters home. In a nutshell, the person who is treated to an unfiltered view of city life when it grows dark, when many are in their worst behaviour.
I have also noticed that many treat these men like they would do the house help who they look down on — talking and behaving as if they do not exist.
You can, therefore, imagine the secrets and intimate stories of total strangers they have heard over the years, or the many fights between couples they have witnessed in the course of their work.
Or the sick people they have rushed to hospital in the middle of the night, or the number of pregnant woman they ferry to hospital, who either return home with, or without the child they carried for nine months.
Imagine the kind of stories they have accumulated over the years.
I like stories. Unfortunately, there was time for only that one story, but before I alighted, I took his phone number, intending to call him one of these days and convince him, and perhaps a friend or two in the business, to give me their stories. Wouldn’t those stories be riveting?
The writer is Editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation; [email protected]; @cnjerius