Jan 22 2009
Yesterday was a CRAZY day! Even more crazy than usual. I set out early in the morning for a meeting across town. I was driving along Ngong Road, listening to Bob Marley (it’s my only CD) when suddenly a big Mercedes station wagon comes out of nowhere and crashes into the passenger side of my car. The sound of smashing and glass breaking is big, and when I look out the window I see 4 (FOUR) policemen standing right there. One of them approached my car and said, “Pole” (“sorry” in Swahili), “It wasn’t your fault. Don’t worry, we will take care of you.”
I pulled over to the side of the road and got out of my car to get the license plate number etc. and one of the policeman approached me and told me to pull my car over to the other side of the road and to wait there, “Go wait by your car, we will take care of you.” The place was crowded with people doing all sorts of things and they all stopped to watch the action. A group of women (about ten) surrounded my car when I parked it on the other side of the road. “Pole” they all said, shaking their heads and looking at the damage (big). I was shaken up and sat in the car waiting for help. Help didn’t come. I got out of the car and by then there were about thirty people around assessing the situation and saying, “Pole”. Some of the women suddenly approached me and pointed to the scene of the accident saying, “The other man, he disappeared. You have to go and talk with the policemen.” When I looked, I could see that the car that had hit me was gone and also two of the policemen were gone. I ran across the street and asked the remaining policemen what was happening and why weren’t they helping me. They looked at me as though they had no idea what I was talking about, and then one of them said, “Madam, it is unfortunate. He has escaped.” I said, “Did you get his license plate number?” “No, he just disappeared.”
I was absolutely shocked…really and truly shocked and considered driving straight to the airport and getting the hell out of this ridiculous country. I said, “You mean that four policemen couldn’t manage to get one license plate? WHAT???? This can’t be happening.” I walked back to my car to figure out what I needed to do. I came up with nothing.
At that point, a very lovely young man came over to me and said, “You need to go back to the policemen and act very innocent and get their badge numbers. Don’t let them see what you are doing. I already got two badge numbers for you.” So I did that. Then I drove to the police station with the lovely young man who had very quickly become my very best friend. He is Sam. At the police station, someone took a very silly report and told us (now we were us…thankfully) that we had to go to another place to purchase an “abstract form” for 200 shillings and bring it back. You would think that they would carry those at the police station, but NOOOOOOOO! OK. We were (of course) given the wrong directions and it took an hour to find the place and then some more time to go back to the police station. In between, Sam thought it was a good idea to drive to the Central Police Station and report that four policemen had been paid off and so on and so on. We waited at the central police station and then spoke to someone in an office surrounded by files and papers up to the ceiling, who was not interested in my (our) story.
OK, back to the original police station and to meet with my insurance salesman, Sirilus who has been trying to get me into bed for months and who thought that yesterday (after the accident when he came to take pictures of the car) would be another good opportunity to try that. I also called the US Embassy, but not with much confidence, because I remembered when I was jailed in Spain in 1967 and the US Embassy in Spain said, “Sorry, we don’t get involved in those types of things.”
The Embassy guy did speak with someone at the police station, however, and that might have been the reason that my luck changed. About four hours later I was home drinking beer with Sam, discussing corruption and the problems with the Kenyan police department. Sam said to me, “Gloria I will stay with you to the bitter end with this story” and after a few beers he said (several times), “I will be with you to the better end.” That’s when I got a phone call from the Kilimani police station. “Madam Gloria? We have found the Mercedes and the driver has been arrested. Please come at 9:00 tomorrow morning and we will take another statement from you.”
I couldn’t believe my ears, and neither could Sam so we had another beer. And he was right; it was looking like a better end. This morning I went to the police station and sure enough, there was the Mercedes and it looked like hell…much worse than my car. The entire front end was crunched up and the hood was buckled. My car looked much better compared to that. There was a very stocky, unhealthy and slimy looking guy sitting in the traffic division and when he saw me he said, laughing (I don’t know why), “Sorry that I ran away yesterday.” Then he said, “It’s because I was frustrated and pissed off.”
Great…just wonderful. Then he said something about his children who were all hungry and I just glared at him. Sam was with me and we had to wait another few hours (normal in Kenya) and talk about how bad the Mercedes looked and how lucky we were. One of the policemen from yesterday came by and said (smiling), “Now are you happy? Yesterday you were shedding tears and today you are happy.” I said, “A little bit happy.” Because I really wasn’t that happy…I was spending my morning in a dusty, tiny and cramped traffic division of a police department in Nairobi, and no, actually I wasn’t very happy.
Now I have to wait for my “abstract form” to be filled out and that will take until next week because (as I was shown) there are about five hundred other people who had accidents before me and their forms are still in a raggedy file waiting to be attended to. Meanwhile I got Sam a job as a driver with a friend who works at the embassy, and my car will get repaired and I’ll stay in Nairobi.