The drive to work this morning was as predictable as only Kigali can be. I stood at my bus stand for a couple of minutes and after a while several buses with loud and annoying touts parked almost by the tip of my well polished shoe.
When I entered one of the buses, it turned out the inside of the vehicle-with its jabbering radio presenter-was competing with the outside-where the touts held fort-in who can shout the loudest.
I cannot remember the channel of the radio station which was tuned on a monstrous volume, the programme, as I learnt later was aptly named ‘Sun Up’.
The radio presenter repeatedly played many different versions of his jingles with a frequency that suggested that even he feared the thought that he might forget what he was presenting. It was easy to think that this was because he had few commercials to play as the only advertisements were those of an amorphous telecommunication firm as well as a beverages company.
Typically I was left with no option but to go into ‘space.’ Space in this case varying from reading a book, using headphones to block out the sound as I create my counter noise by use of a walkman disc or simply gazing out of the window in the hope that something worth attention takes my eyes and thoughts.
Meanwhile, the desire, ambition and incentive to buy my own private vehicle was increased tenfold as is normally the case with Kigali mornings.
This morning however my regular ‘space ship’ which doubles as my mobile cellular was low on battery, as yesterday load shedding ensured that I never charged it. So I was left with no option but to endure the punishment of the bus and its early morning irritating noise.
Thinking about fellow commuters I imagined the volume was meant to update them on the happenings in the presenter’s life and his mambo jumbo about an event taking place at BB night club today or some other place of Kigali fun nights.
Fellow commuters seemed not to be bothered by the noise; probably the normal thinking amongst bus operators is that radios are hardly affordable these days so their vehicles serve a double purpose as a public address system.
(And you wonder why then, we have so many radio stations.)
Through the windows of the bus I was taken up by one of my favourite pastimes. Looking at roadside commercial billboards and what they were telling me to do or about the events and issues of our society, (the billboards that is.) And true there were several about HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, water purifiers, corruption and investment.
One was informing the public about a new service of some development bank, another about a cellular company which suggested that if I bought their airtime frequently, the romantic relationship with my woman will considerably improve.
Another promoted some products that I never understood. And just before disembarking from the bus I saw this one poster which hooked me for a while that I reported to work late.
It was a television that was hoisted as a poster and played commercials non stop. The adverts were sliding up and downward, sideways on top of disappearing and then reappearing suddenly.
Eh, this city of mine, now it is like New York? I stood there in a posture that only a person who has just arrived from deep in the country to the city can understand.
The commercials were written and spoken in foreign words with words falling over themselves like rocks falling off a cliff in an earthquake, spoken in tongues that seemed to be flipping in the nose, in accents so strange that North Americans would be jealous.
In all the commercials I saw both on the City television, on the roadsides and even heard over the radio, there was one overriding fact.
They were all wrapped around a soothing voice of a presumably beautiful belle, (in case of the radio,) and on the body of a visibly attractive one on those in the posters and television.
The woman seemed to invite me to leave everything I was going through in my current life to take her and the product she was promoting, if I had a caption for many of these adverts it would go: “Come to me you wondering fellow, you will enjoy your time with me. Leave your life, your wife, your everything, I am the best thing in this world.”
Contrary to the poster that stands right outside the entrance to my ‘home’ in the inner city, the roadside adverts on the way to my work station were only appealing to my machismo while the poster in my neighbourhood simply had this caricature of a fish and a presumably cow leg and the words Amafi and or boucherie. With Alimentation at the bottom.