On Friday the 13th, I was traveling to meet up with friends for the weekend. I took a few forms of public transportation, and 3 of them broke down.
Breakdown #1: In order to avoid getting stopped by the traffic police, the driver decides to take a 30 minute detour through the back road banana plantations. The roads are muddy from recent rains, he gets lost and has to ask for directions twice, and then our car stops with a jerk. He tries to start it but with no luck. We are out of gas. Of course we are! We went 30 minutes out of the way, then had to try to find our way back to somewhere familiar. The driver sends a guy on motorcycle into town to fill up a water bottle with petrol. He returns 15 minutes later, we refuel, and we're on our way.
Breakdown #2: We're driving through an extremely muddy portion of dirt road, and we stop. We can't go anywhere. We're too heavy in the mud. Everyone evacuates the car except for the driver, so that he can maneuver the mud without the weight of people. We re-enter the car, drive a ways, then get out again so that he can get through the mud. This goes on about 4 times, until the mud is cleared. Finally, we're on our way again, but then "Whack! Thump thump thump thump"....the fan belt breaks. No big deal, the driver will just fix it with a razor blade. How can this NOT work? It's back in the car again, and we're off. 2 minutes later, "Whack! Thump thump thump thump". Confused at how his razor blade theory didn't hold up, the driver tries to fix the fan belt again...but this time with a double knot. Perfect, right? No. It breaks 2 more times, and then the clutch goes out. We're stuck on the side of a dirt road with a car that won't work because it now has 2 things wrong with it. I immediately thank the driver for nothing, then hitch a ride to where I'm going.
Breakdown #3: In the pouring rain, the matatu decides that it is going to drive around looking for extra passengers...but only in the places where no passengers are ever likely to be. After trying to understand the logic behind this, and failing, I try to convince myself that the driver and conductor know what they're doing. They do live here, after all. We see a person who doesn't look like they want or need a ride. The conductor throws open the side door and yells, "Mbarara!?" The person responds by ignoring him, which means no. He tries to close the door...but it won't close. The sliding side door of the matatu is stuck halfway between open and closed. It won't budge either way. It's pouring rain, mind you, and we're on some dirt road where nobody else in town happens to be. We drive a little ways to another side street where there is a shop with tools and tires out front. The driver gets out, and tries to explain our predicament. Someone comes with tools to repair the problem. 15 minutes later, we are on our way with a door that works (and I use "works" very loosely). 45 minutes after that, we are back on the road to our destination.
Public transportation in Uganda, ladies and gentlemen....let's give it a slow clap.