Chronicles of a train-catcher part 2

The train-catcher’s story continues…

Monday 29th Sept: Was late today, so I missed the train & had to take two matatus to work! Not funny because since I started using the train, my transport budget has reduced by a third. There is only one train back this evening and I’m now beginning to suspect that Kenya Railways are trying to make this the rule. Anyway, I don’t mind leaving an hour late because I have a good read in my bag: “The 4:8 Principle” by Tommy Newberry.


Thursday 9th October: D-R-A-M-A! The honeymoon is officially over. I got there by 6:15am but no train arrived. After waiting for a few minutes the crowds started dispersing in search of other means of transport. Seems they had inside information to the effect that the train was going to be a no-show but they did not share. *Mscheew!* My friend and I ignorantly decided to wait a little longer and as the minutes ticked away, the likelihood of matatus hiking their fares increased. So the longer we waited, the more we felt trapped – do we wait and risk being late for work or do we take a matatu at double the fare? Some guy from KR suggested that if we’re in a hurry we could rush to the next train stop and catch another train which stops there at around 6:30. And we started off, somehow believing we could miraculously cover the 30-minute distance in 5 minutes.

Well, this train happened to be late as well and showed up just as we were approaching the stop, but guess what? It did not stop. We ran after it, thinking we’d catch it at the next stop another 30 minutes away. No prizes for guessing that we of course we missed it. So now we’re at Makadara Railway station waiting for another train which eventually arrives. It is packed to overflowing, with people hanging from the window and doors. I nonetheless board the train, one hand on the safety bar and one foot on the steps and it only took me a minute to decide that one-handed train-hanging is not for me. We walked on to Jogoo Road and found a multitude waiting for matatus which were few, far between and mostly full. It was at this point that it dawned on us that the chaos on the roads, was probably a result of President Uhuru’s anticipated arrival from the Hague that very morning. Realising that our chances of getting a matatu were next to nil, we headed towards City Stadium another 30 minutes away. Yeah, I know, I too wondered whether this drama would ever end,*sigh!* Anyway, that is the long of why I got to the office at 10:30 on 9th October 2014. It’s a good thing my boss didn’t press for an explanation because he wouldn’t have believed me anyway.

Friday 10th Oct: Yesterday when I vowed, “I am never going to board that thing again!”, I didn’t think I would have to eat my words so soon but as it turns out, I left the house at 7:45 am and the train was my only hope. I hesitantly headed towards the train stop and was amazingly just in time for the 2nd one!

Thursday 23rd Oct: Another one of those days: I ran out of the house; ran all the way to the train stop, and wait for it, ran after the train! Never in my weirdest dreams had I ever thought I would run after a train. Since it is technically impossible to run after a train, like we do to catch buses, taxis or matatus, let me explain. There I was jostling school children, and weaving through the masses headed in the opposite direction, when I saw the train zooming past right at the railway crossing. Atsii!! I had not come this far to be left behind! No way I was going to wait for it to stop, so I started running alongside it and then behind it when it passed me. Never mind that it stopped waay ahead with the last coach about 50 metres away – I just kept on running because come what may, I had to board that train! And I did, as my fellow train-catchers in the last coach cheered me on.

Tuesday 28th October: On my commute back, the train arrived at Mutindwa Railway Crossing (my stop) as darkness was setting in. Today it was packed to the rafters with passengers, so there was a major problem for those of us planning to get off because non-alighting humans were jamming all the exits. For many of them, standing by the exit is a strategy for relieving passengers of their valuables as they scramble to get off. The train starts moving before I can get off and I have to half-jump out in a panic, because I don’t want to end up in Ruiru. I’m not familiar with the place and I don’t know anyone who lives there.

Monday 3rd Nov: I hear the train siren while still in the house, but that doesn’t faze me – we veterans tell how far the train is just by listening to it’s siren in the quietness of the morning. Right now I can “tell” it’s in Dandora so I have time. When I leave the house, I call my Kenya Railways contact – after the October 9th fiasco, we got wise and made friends with the train crew – and she tells me the train is only 2 minutes away. Meen, here we go running again!

Monday 17th Nov: Got to my stop when it was already dark. Now, I’ve never mentioned this but there’s a huge garbage dump just beyond my stop at the railway crossing, and a gang of street boys/men who hang out there. If you get in the wrong coach or the driver’s timing is off, you will alight straight into the stinking mess. You can imagine how bad it is if it happens in the dark. So Murphy’s law tried to do a number on me and all of the above happened. I got gunk from the dump inside my shoe and was traumatized to the point of tears, but I survived.

Meanwhile, word is that there will only be one train plying our route. Something about unavailability of engines….

Wednesday 26th Nov: I arrived at the station early for the evening train in order to catch up on some reading before it departed. At 6:30 p.m. the scheduled departure time, the crew was still waiting for an engine while we jealously watched other commuter trains leaving with their happy passengers. I’m not sure why I stayed put, but by 7.30 p.m. we were still waiting inside the dark, engineless train. I was soon to discover that mosquitoes board trains by the thousands too, because they were having a real feast on my legs. The train finally left at 8.30 p.m. and reached my stop 1 hour later!! Even the traders at Mutindwa market had already closed their stalls because no one passes there at such hours.

Needless to say, I have not used the train since then. But I can’t say that was the last time because train catchers never say never. Power to us. The train catcher might be back in action if the train bug bites again.

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