My name is Stephen . I am a full-time consultant in Nairobi and recently, my mentor challenged me to try something different that would invigorate and improve my communication skills. We explored various options and when he suggested that I register to drive for Uber in order to put to test my ability to communicate in different set-ups and environments, I thought this was a brilliant idea. I signed on
My communication skills have let me down in different spheres of life. For example, I once lost a big contract when I snapped during a presentation when potential investor asked me a question that I thought was child-like! I have also chased away many a great women, who could not stand my pride anchored in an inability to communicate properly. My mentor calls me an ‘aggressive communicator,’ and one who ‘only hears but never listens.’ This project is geared towards correcting this!
What I want to learn is the ability to look at things in a more varied perspective. I am not in it to make extra cash-heck, who minds the extra coin anyway, even though I am comfortable with what I earn.
This, therefore, is my diary as an Uber driver.
One late Friday evening, after clearing a pile of paperwork on my desk, I paced up and down the office, checked the time and pondered on whether to catch up with the ‘boys’ for a drink somewhere in ‘town’ or go for my first Uber drive! I opted for the latter.
Being a Friday evening in Nairobi, as the offices emptied out, the demand for Uber had sky-rocketed because no sooner had I switched on the App, than I got my first assignment! I was to pick up a client in Hurlingham.
“Man, this is a nice car,” James mentioned as he made himself comfortable on the back-left!
“Thank you. Sir. I appreciate your kind words.” I offered.
“If there is anything you would like me to do to ensure you have a memorable Uber experience, please let me know. What type of music do you listen to? Is the temperature okay? I see you are headed to Muthaiga. Is that the correct destination? I posed.
James looked perplexed for a minute. He was about 5’8 tall, donning blue denims and brown leather shoes. He was dark in complexion and I could tell he was a smart guy.
“Yes. I am headed to Muthaiga. Hii dae ni poa maze.” (I like this car). James repeated himself.
Traffic was heavy and apart from the matatus trying to prove they own the road, James and I remained quiet for the most part. Just when I thought this would define the rest of the way, James asked:
“Hey man. How does a man deal with a break-up?”
I did not know how to respond to his inquiry. In any case, my break-ups were a private affair and I had no obligation to disclose to a stranger how sometimes I would pretend to be okay, to only a few hours later miss the girl, pick the phone, make an attempt at calling her, but then end up not doing it, of course distracted by my own pride complimented by the wisdom offered by a bottle of Jameson
“Who broke up with you, and why?’ I inquired
“This girl I have been seeing for 7 years. I was at her place, that’s where you picked me up. She thinks I am wasting her time. Who does she think she is?” James offered, sounding betrayed.
“Do you think she is right in saying you are wasting her time?” I asked James, almost sounding like his therapist.
From the rear-view mirror, I saw James stare at the roof of the car and with a voice that sounded scorned, he said: “I don’t care man. She wants me and she has to deal with me, the way I am. She is not even as petite as this other woman I am going to see right now. What she does best is wear her weave. She is not as beautiful anyway. She cannot match the woman I am going to see right now. This other woman is more beautiful than this bitch. Damn, she can go to hell. I should have told her to sign on to a gym.”
I thought James was giving too much information. I could, however, understand his frustration. Even players want to remain players without being caught! What was perplexing though was that this woman that James was denigrating had been with him for 7 years-in his own words! How come then he had never seen all these shortcomings? Was he blind and now somehow he could see? I wanted to challenge James on that front, then decided to hold my horse. After all, it was none of my business! Then I found a more diplomatic question, to keep the conversation going:
“What do you mean the girl you are going to see? You mean you have two women?” I asked, of course getting drawn to the drama at hand.
“A man got to do what he got to do. The woman in Hurlingham, I have been with her for 7 years. The one I am going to see in Muthaiga, I have been with her for 5 years. They both like me. It crazy man. But they both love my ability to put it down like a jogoo!
I could not control myself from bursting into laughter. “Putting it down like a jogoo.” That was a new phrase!
There were too many thoughts going on in my mind, nonetheless. I wanted to know what type of life James lived. Did the two women know he was playing that kind of game? Could it be that the Hurlingham woman had gotten wind of the Muthaiga woman, and the reason he was calling it quits with James?
I did not have the time to ask these questions as we finally got to our destination. As James alighted, I could only hope that he found his happiness. Definitely, for me, the trip had offered a clue on what communication is all about! It taught me about the importance of listening. James offered his predicament. I listened to him. Maybe it made him feel better.
What I haven’t told you is that after James had alighted, I drove about 50 metres so that I could turn around and head back to the city centre. As I passed the house where I had dropped James, somehow, I managed to see face of the woman James had gone to see in Muthaiga. Her face was familiar. Then I remembered that the Uber request was made by a person with a feminine name,. Her face matched her name, because she is a well known woman…..