The ever-changing landscape is truly captivating. The terrain littered with rock outposts and hills
amalgamate with large trees to form a dark shadowy outline in the late afternoon winter sunshine. A
puzzled look flashes across my face as my view is obstructed by another kombi as an attempt at
overtaking commences. I am frustrated as the rival kombi driver refuses to yield a single inch and
both vehicles race down the rough tarmac neck-in-neck. Oncoming traffic appears around the curve
and our champ cuts his losses and forfeits the duel. Our driver brakes hastily and in the nick of time
swerves sharply back to his lane. Everyone let’s out a huge sigh; obviously meant to be audible to
the speedster to have him reflect on his actions. With this turn of events, I take to my other pastime
interest; “people watching”.
For the first time since boarding, I take a good look at my immediate surroundings to grasp the
atmosphere and I start with scrutinizing the service providers themselves. The accused in question is
menacing as he is huge. A single glare from his bloodshot eyes is enough to cast a shiver down one’s
spine. The quiet accomplice at the door lacks the frightening physique and aura the former
possesses but I have the feeling he is not a pushover as he seems either. The passengers mumble
complaints in hushed tones to avoid further provoking the driver who is already spewing insults at
his contender fast disappearing in the distance. Sitting in the far-left rear seat, I can clearly see all
other seven passengers in the kombi. With the kombi half-full, it’s no surprise the driver is in such a
rush as well as a foul mood.
Joining me in the rear seat are two young lovebirds deeply engrossed in each other’s company to
take notice of their surroundings. A young gentleman is seated in the next row of seats together
with an elderly woman clad in white Apostolic sect robes as well as an elderly self-proclaimed
politically woke intoxicated father of five. How I came to know all this unrelated information? Let’s
just agree that two bottles of Chibuku Super tend to loosen lips. The rest were middle-aged women
absorbed in their own conversation a little too loud as if competing against or inviting the elderly
man. Either way I am relieved that someone other than the conductor, he was purposely trying to
annoy with his drunken hijinks decides to entertain him.
As we journey on, more people come into the fray, but I am seized with the dual partnership of the
driver and conductor. They sync well to bring the speeding vehicle to a squealing halt in front of the
waving commuters. Once full, the kombi speeds off climbing to its top speeds. Suddenly, the vehicle
veers off the road and leaps with a heavy jolt onto the bumpy roadside clearing. That is quite a scare
but by doing so, the driver manoeuvres through a traffic jam extending a few hundred metres due to
a collision ahead. There is tension in the air, and I sense a plot afoot.
With renewed vigour the elderly man voices his displeasure harshly at the driver. Before even
finishing his say, the women interject disapproving the driver’s risky gambles. The driver is quick to
respond to settle the matter, but he commits a critical mistake. Instead of showing empathy, he
goes on to enrage the passengers with his uncouth comments. At this point, everyone in the kombi
is raging with anger and the driver’s smouldering looks barely faze the crowd now whipped into a
frenzy. By now, public opinion is against the driver and his anger is beginning to cloud his judgement.
He is getting sloppy with his overtaking and I am now genuinely fearful for my dear life. I certainly
did not expect his mindset to be easily influenced by his emotions. With each passing second, the
United Collaboration Against Reckless Drivers front continue to engage in verbal warfare with their
villainous foe. I wonder if anyone has a grasp on the danger of the situation, we find ourselves in. At
this rate, a grave error is imminent.
The conductor opens his window, letting in the cold winter wind rush in drawing everyone’s
attention. He had been quiet since the start of the melee, occasionally chuckling as he observes the
skirmish. He signals the driver to pull-over and with a commanding tone instructs all those
uncomfortable to disembark. There is momentary silence, as we are all stunned, before the carnage
ensues. The bickering continues for a few minutes before the driver resumes the journey but now
everyone’s anger is totally focused on the conductor who has the audacity to disrespectfully enrage
paying customers despite the driver’s reckless driving. The mob continues to vent on the conductor,
who keeps his cool chuckling to himself. With an unresponsive and indifferent target, the excitement
begins to dissipate, and our destination enters in sight.
I notice that there had been no complaints or even a single mention of the driver for a while now.
Classic misdirection indeed! By drawing all our attention as an even greater villain, the conductor
was able to take the pressure and focus off the driver allowing him to pursue the task at hand
without disturbance. The brief intermission in the journey made him to take on the villainous mantle
but it was a ploy to buy time for the driver to calm down and steady his mindset. The conductor
exhibited emotional intelligence and excellent teamwork to save lives. He was able to shore up his
partner’s weakness and help solve the life-threatening problem at hand. I was moved by his selfless
act of self-sacrifice for his counterpart and hope to emulate such teamwork skills. Whether he meant
it or not, I will never know but either way I am a better team player all thanks to the conductor; the
stranger I met on my way to the big city.