Meshack Yobby in Nairobi, Kenya
You do not want to climb up the stairs six floors on an empty stomach. Not when you have been walking fast in the streets because you suspect that you might have dropped the bus ticket mistakenly and the City Council askaris are following you. Those guys are hounds. They once followed a friend of mine from Moi Avenue all the way to O.T.C, and when they finally caught him, they said:
“Do you know why we are arresting you?”
“No,” he replied.
“You spat on Moi Avenue.”
And, with all the human rush hour traffic, they followed him all the way to O.T.C. So when you suspect you might have dropped the bus ticket in the street, you do not wait to see if the City Council askaris were alert.
So I arrived at the building and wondered where the lifts were. Whatever was closest to a lift looked more like a janitor’s store and no one was using it, so I took the stairs. By the time I reached the fourth floor, my legs were trembling. But I pressed on, a light sweat coating my forehead. Finally, I arrived and stood for a moment to catch my breath. Good thing, the exam was late to start.
After a few minutes, I and a few other guests were ushered into the ‘restaurant’, chairs pulled for us, napkins laid on our laps, lukewarm water served. Of course, the room was a class, set up like a restaurant. The teacher sat in a corner wearing an expressionless face, eyes darting about, like a goddess watching over her minions. On the board, some charts were hung, I think to let the students know what was being examined. Having no one to talk to, my eyes skimmed over the charts, and I was smacked with ‘Use scissors to cut serviettes to avoid wasting’. No, do not cut my serviette! Do not! It cheapens your restaurant!
“What will you start with?” a waitress asked.
I looked at the menu. “Garden salad,” I said. I was there to try new things. I didn’t even know what it was. I only realized it was raw lettuce, raw onions and raw cucumber once it was placed in front of me. I picked a fork and ventured a taste.
There was this time I was really thirsty and entered a supermarket to buy some water. I was spoiled for choice, so I bought the one with the most attractive packaging. Sparkling water. Which I’d never had. Outside the supermarket, I took a huge sip. Then paused. That thing is awful! It tastes like dilute battery acid, and you can’t spit it out. Because you are trying to look cool. Your face wants to frown and twist, but you are trying to look impassive, so the end result is like your face is crumbling.
That is what garden salad tastes like.
I curled my toes inside my shoes to take divert my turmoil and wolfed down the rest of it, quickly washing it down with the lukewarm water.
“What shall you have?” the lovely waitress was back.
“Risotto rice, stroganoff beef and steamed cabbage,” I said. For the village champions, stroganoff beef is cooked in wine.
By the time it came, the garden salad mistake had made me forget everything I knew about fine dining, so I had to ask what cutlery to use. Okay, truth be told, I was thoroughly confused by one piece. It looked like a mediaeval circumcision tool, but turns out it was the fish knife! Ha! Who would have thought?
The food was superb! Really delicious. Had my taste buds sharp and happy. I worry that I ate it too fast. If I were a television presenter, I’d do the text book tasting, closing of eyes then letting a long, drawn-out mmmh. Dessert and coffee soon followed.
Suddenly, glass shattered to my left. The teacher retained her poker face. AT my table, the man on my left said, “It is provided for. Look at the ‘Expectations’ chart’.” We all looked. First on the list was ‘Wipe all spillages immediately.”
The lady across me said, “It is normal. Accidents happen.”
By now, the student had come back with a broom and was sweeping the shards away. The man on my right looked at the chart for a while, then knowingly said:
“You know, there are two types of spillages. On the table, and on the floor.”
The lady across me said to the first man, “There are two types of spillages. The chart is talking about spillage on the table.”
“She has failed, then,” the first man said.
“Don’t say ‘failed’,” the lady across quickly replied. “It is such a strong word. Say her marks have been deducted.”
I laugh quietly and stand up. I am pressed. I have to go.
About the writer:
Meshack Yobby is a writer and freelance videographer. He lives in Nairobi Kenya.