‘Officer, good morning’ Birungi greeted in his most respectful tone as the traffic policeman walked up to his car window.
‘No, sa. How is it a good morning when you are here trying to kill people with that speed, eh?’ the policeman responded with a slightly confrontational tone as he peeked inside Birungi’s Silver Mark X.
‘Let me see your driving permit’
Birungi groaned internally as he handed over his permit. With that look and accent, tribe wasn’t on his side and it didn’t sound like this was going to be an easy one, he thought to himself as he squinted at the policeman’s name badge.
‘Mr Odoki, I wasn’t trying to kill anyone. I was following the speed of the car ahead of me and didn’t notice we were entering a town. Please forgive me this time and I’ll be more vigilant’ Birungi started the negotiation while trying to strike a balance between bargaining and maintaining some confidence in his voice.
‘Hmm, those are excuses of people that didn’t go to driving school’ Odoki retorted as he started walking around the car to check its condition. He paused at the front and entered the license number into the app on his phone.
The app returned a clean record sheet. Hmm, this one was either well-connected or good with the bribes. He hoped it was the later as another message from his son’s school asking about the fees balance popped up on his notification screen.
‘Officer’, Birungi called out as he mentally calculated a bribe amount, ‘I promise I wasn’t intentionally reckless. There weren’t speed bumps which would have made me slow down even if I missed the speed limit sign.’
It really was a tiny town that was around a corner and didn’t seem to stretch beyond a kilometre after which the road disappeared around another corner. There were about 20 shops spread out on each side of the road, the majority built in that old Indian style with business premises upfront and residential rooms stretching behind. The town was in a valley and in the surrounding hills, one could see some homesteads among the banana plantations. The street had a single taxi with a conductor calling out for passengers, a truck loading matooke, a boda stage with just two bikes whose riders were engaged in a heated conversation and a scattering of foot traffic as the residents went about their day to day business. The cops really knew how to pick hidden spots like this where it was hard to spot them.
‘You man, first you were blaming the car in front of you and now you are blaming the size of the town. I am going to write you a ticket so you learn to take responsibility next time’ Odoki countered with as much indignation as he could master.
‘Agaba,’ he called to his colleague who was interrogating another driver, ‘bring the book.’
Agaba walked over, took one look at Birungi and remarked, ‘Bitu Iwe, just give my colleague ka chai and be more careful next time. Tikwe? Ah!’ before walking back to the other driver.
Odoki and Birungi exchanged a look before they both started chuckling as Birungi reached for his wallet.