After teachers, touts must be the most confident people in the world.
They go about their job oblivious of scrutiny from those around them, while the rest of us, for some reason, feel the need to behave a certain way while in public; to be proper, constantly conscious of who may be watching and what they would say about us. It is as if we are in prison.
Touts, however, say what they feel, eat what they want in public, laugh however they want without holding back, sing and talk to whoever they want without first wondering who that person is or whether they should talk to them in a certain way because of their status in society.
To them, there is no distinction between a watchman and a CEO of a listed company — if both are their customers, they will address them using the same title — boss, buuda, madam, mrembo, or whatever term they use nowadays.
Titles, unlike many of us who consider ourselves educated and enlightened, do not cower them.
They know that behind the important title is a man just like them — a husband, a father, a son. They will therefore confidently walk up to you, whoever you are, and say what they need to say.
It is different with us though, and if we’re honest, majority of us are terrified of the boss and will tend to behave in an ingratiating manner around them, censoring our thoughts and suppressing what we really feel if he/she does not feel that way about the project under discussion.
We forget that the boss is human, just like us, our only difference being the title. OK, and the money.
Anyway, a tout is the only person who will walk up to you and say something like, “Madam, na leo si uko smart?” without making you feel as if he is trying to pick you up.
Two or three years ago, I decided to buy a duvet with money I had got from a chama merry-go-ground — it was either that or the money would have gone down the drain quite fast.
The thing was quite big and heavy, and had been packed in a transparent bag. When I got to the matatu stage, one of the touts remarked, “Heh, kamum, hiyo nikijifunika nayo nalala the whole day …”
They can be humorous too, so needless to say, I was amused.
Many of us struggle with public speaking, the major reason being that we are self-conscious, all the while wondering how we sound, how we look and what people think about what we’re saying.
This fear of speaking up, of walking to the forefront is a weakness that holds us back in many areas — in our careers for instance, because it prevents us from being seen and heard, while those with the tout mentality climb up the ladder and leave us at the bottom, where they found us.
Imagine then how well many of us would fair if we had an uninhibited nature like touts; if we learnt to speak our mind more; if we stopped caring too much what people would think of us if we said or did what we really wanted. If we gave ourselves permission to be ourselves.
The writer is the Editor, ‘Society’ and Magazines, ‘Daily Nation’. [email protected]