The watchman knocks at your door early on a Saturday morning and says, “Hule mjamaa was C8 amegonga gari yako.” You pull up your tracksuit pants and go down to have a look.
The guy from C8 is standing by your car with an apologetic smile. You aren’t buddies. You nod at each other every morning and evening, but that’s it. Turns out it’s just a small dent.
Happens to all of us. A little polite chit chat ensues. You call Bruce, your mechanic, who says it will cost 4K to fix it. The chap from C8 says he will ‘Mpesa’ you the money in an hour, apologises; you chat a bit about something non-threatening, exchange numbers, shake hands and part ways.
Now let’s do this again. The same watchman knocks on your door and says, “Hule mama wa C8 amegonga gari ya mama.” You are in the bathroom, whistling because it’s a Saturday and you are happy.
So the mentioned mama (your wife) asks the hapless watchman, “Amegonga vibaya? C8 ndio mgani? Ni ule anavaanga weave ya red?”
She grabs her phone and stomps down the staircase to have a look. You get out of the bathroom minutes later and while you are towelling yourself you hear slightly agitated voices downstairs.
You look out the window and see mama and the neighbour’s lady, the one who doesn’t smile. You can’t hear a thing but that conversation isn’t going well.
Her car is clearly the bone of contention and you can tell that there has been a fender bender.
But you can’t go down yet, because if you do you will go all Kofi Annan on the situation and say that it’s no big deal, that the lady from C8 can just fix it, but that level of diplomacy might be misconstrued to mean you have taken the neighbour’s wife’s side.
If you jump in and join ranks with mama you will antagonise a neighbour over a small matter and since you believe in good neighbourliness you really don’t want to do that.
Plus, C8 might report you to her man who happens to be the size of your car. There is no knowing how that might end. So you keep off let them speak the female language.
You whistle away as you dress up, because it’s a Saturday.
It’s amazing how in an apartment block there is always this silent surveillance and nosiness going on with women. While you might not even know who lives next door a woman will have picked all the details and profiles of who lives where.
C4? She has an attitude. C9: Married to a drunk. C1: Single and looks suspicious. C12: Single mom. She has nice shoes though. C10: Looks kind and nice. (To mean, non-threatening). C1: Is a gold digger. (dating a man who looks like her father). C11: Mad woman. (Had a fight with her husband in the parking lot once. Bounced her phone off his head.) C10: Snobbish (Doesn’t say hi to her, drives a Merc, wears six-inch heels). And so it goes. They are profiled and pigeonholed.
And as a guy you quickly learn not to appear too friendly to the people she finds “unpalatable”. At least not in her face. Which means you can’t befriend the single mom from C12, or the single snobbish lady from C10.
My pal happened to have directed a single lady in their apartment block to a parking slot, because it’s painful to watch a woman reverse for a whole day.
Afterwards, she came out of the car laughing and he laughed too. You know, just two neighbours being neighbourly.
When he walked into his house he wasn’t being talked to and he didn’t figure out what he had done wrong until two days later. And the only reason he found out was a snide remark that was handed to him casually when he complained about how some of the neighbours let their visitors use other residents’ parking without informing them.
The response? “I see you have become the mayor of parking now, all of a sudden taking parking duties seriously.” He quickly changed the subject.
So don’t play saint to the single lady in the block and if she is hot stare hard at your shoes as you pass her. Who needs problems?
Have a lovely neighbourly Saturday, readers, it’s a gorgeous day.