Hold tight! The battle is not for the weak…
Flactuations: I have moved across Uganda, been to Arua, Kabale, Gulu, back to Jinja, Mbale, Tororo, I have even visited the hideouts in Kashari, spent nights in Rukungiri and there is one thing that makes us Ugandans – our customer service. We know how to treat a customer. We can treat a customer as a king, as a prisoner, as a slave, as a baby, as an estranged partner, or even as a birthday personality. Ugandan customer service is always on mood swings. It can fluctuate depending on the moment.
There are the taxis. These ones, you are a royal until you enter. Once you have entered a taxi, you must acknowledge one fact that your position in the hierarchy of power has shifted. You are no longer a king, you are now a subject. You are subject to the driver’s motivations. If the conductor asks about any people stopping around ‘small gate Nakawa’, and you forget to respond, your next stop could be Lugogo.
Then there are the banks, especially that one that outcompetes the Eiffel Tower. Nothing is smooth here. From opening a bank account to closing. Only the hardest of men and women have walked into that banking hall. It requires someone who used a hoe on a rock to plant beans and maize. It is not a bank of the softies. For what else could explain three hours processing a query on an ATM card? It is a bank of legends. Once you have kept money in a Ugandan bank, you have bragging rights on your CV. You have the discipline of a Shaolin master. You accept the fact that your money is no longer yours, every withdrawal is nothing but a favour or donation from the bank.
In Uganda, we have seen it all when it comes to customer service. If you dare complain, you will be reminded that you are not the target market. And the places have learnt. Find the one making the most noise, seek them out, apologise to them in private, and do nothing about rectifying the situation for the rest of the population. In Uganda, the mouth that makes noise gets fed. Yes, customer service in Uganda is managed by crisis. “This ka Ortega has complained. No worries, Sandra in customer care reaches out to him, gives him free goodies, helps him jump the queue and boom, case closed. Poor Ortega will go shouting in verses and songs about the way they reached out to him.” The script is always the same. In Uganda, the service requires one to wear those muddu awulira trousers, tied with a banana fibre rope by the waist. Hold tight. Hold tight. The battle is not for the weak!
We have vowed not to apply for jobs going forward in Uganda. If the decades I have spent in this country are not proof of my iron-work ethic, what more proof will these people need? If someone has lived in Uganda for more than three decades, that person is resilient, can work under extreme pressure, that person will deliver on anything. They have gone through the hottest of furnaces, the furnace of Uganda customer service.
Speaking of furnaces, I still cannot bring myself to deal with the furnace of potholes. When I was younger, the government used to serve the people. Now that I am older, the people serve the government. The only times you will ever experience the presence of the government is when it is taking something. Need to be taxed? Need to pay for your National ID? Need a new passport? Need to be imprisoned? Do not worry, we are fully present in those moments as your good government.
I have now become an expert in noises, thanks to the Kampala potholes. My car has made all tribes of noises that will ever exist in the world. Some of the noises, not even Toyota could have anticipated them while manufacturing my Outback. And Outbacks are resilient cars, it takes the worst of conditions to get noises out of them. I finally stumbled on the source of all Mudra’s songs. Each Mudra song has been inspired by a pothole somewhere in Salaama, a pothole on the Ntinda-Kyambogo road, or that grand Bugolobi pothole. Because every pothole in Kampala hits different.
Sometimes I am driving, thinking of how to progress the country, thinking of how we can help MK become President, so he makes his mother proud. Then my car just starts singing out loud from the stabiliser bar; “Kuba eyo, gyikube… omwana kyi yo azina buttock…”
Now, in Uganda we fear complaining. We shall take anything. We have taken things for 30 years. In Uganda, we do not want to be branded with Kalyegira’s lugezigezi. You do not want to complain lest you annoy the small gods. In Uganda, we are resilient. We have handled Bijambiya, we have handled potholes, we have handled the presidential mug of porridge. What is it that we have not handled?
Sometimes I even wonder when I see Ugandans divorcing. Like what in hell? What is so hard about your marriage that you have not already experienced in Uganda? Your wife cheating? You mean you have not dealt with a Ugandan mechanic or carpenter or builder? Like what is worse than the food served in most Kampala lounges? What is worse than the passport office? In there, you must move with suspenders, you will get abused for nodding too much, tilting your head at an angle higher than theta…
Everything about Ugandan customer service has prepared us for the worst… we have seen it all. Not even Baby Ndunya on Twitter can move us…
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