The Matatu Survival Kit

We were all laughing at the young lady behind us. She was clutching for, pretty much anything. Her seat, the seat in front of her, the seat behind her including the people in those seats. She was probably saying her final prayers. “If I survive this I will become a nun, please Lord”.  The other lady next to me kept explaining with a heavy Danish accent that they were warned about our (in)famous Matatus. Unfortunately for them the driver was having a ‘party of the lanes’ much to her disgust. “This is very different from Odense”, she insisted.

For those of us who are used to it, we will tell you that we have experienced a little bit of everything from our daily commutes. Near death experiences to ones that were more humorous than deadly, a run in with traffic police to meeting interesting people. I said meeting but I really meant staring. From fancy ones that have all kinds of graffiti, lights and loud music to the old has beens that need the tout to occasionally carry the door all by his lonesome. You cant escape using them. Anywhere you want to go,  there is a matatu that will most likely get you there. They are the most used means of transport in Kenya.

For my all interaction with matatus, I have come to grow accustomed to all it’s horseplay. To develop a level of tolerance I came up with a ‘daily survival kit’ for what to do when in a matatu. In all my commutes this kit has never failed me. Someone cc WikiHow.

Choose The Best Seat

If you can, because believe me you don’t want to end up seated next to the lady that takes up her seat plus half of yours, has like five kids who wont stop crying and is carrying more luggages than she has hands. You will come out of the matatu with a certificate in fatherhood and luggage handling. So what is the best seat in the house you ask? The one behind the conductor. Its a single seat which means I don’t have to deal with anyone more than myself. When you want to alight, you don’t bother anyone and no one else bothers you when they are alighting. Perfect. I don’t always get this seat but when I do, its one less thing to worry about.


Listen, I don’t advocate for asocial behavior, but if you’ve ever had a heated political debate with someone who had eggs and an onion inspired meal for breakfast at 7am on A MONDAY MORNING you will understand where I am coming from. You cant take that conversation back. Neither can you take his breathe away (Pun). Worse still you are seated where the window just wont budge open. Jesus didn’t wash away my sins for this. Never forget your earphones.

A Sense of Humor

Crazy things happen. They always do. They should set up a Matatus Anonymous. I imagine the stories that will come out would easily beat The Audacity of Hope to the Pulitzer. You need to have a sense of humor. Just yesterday, as I was headed home from the city center and everyone was doing their thing, we started hearing strange noises from the back of the matatu. It was so strange and loud that it caused quite a commotion. After a brief inquiry, a lot of debate and the driver actually having to pull over to the side of the road, we finally discovered that there was a goat at the back below the seats. It’s owner quietly asleep as we scratched our heads. We had a good laugh!

I hope this helps some sorry soul out there!

First published on, a brainchild of Zain Verjee, former Kenyan CNN news anchor. Find it here


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