I am in a queue at the bank, a very long one. It’s a hot Friday. Some cashier is almost dozing off, he keeps rubbing his face with his sweaty palm. There is a mother with a toddler who is staring at the man (the toddler not the mother) in the behind row reading a magazine which has a topic,


There is an old man with a walking stick which has seen 3 presidents exchange ‘the sword of power’ at Uhuru Park. He is wearing an old dingy checked coat, the one with thick grey checks. His is fumbling with some papers most of which have been creased. The askari is there with him showing him the ticket machine in the bank.

“It needs to serve you before the real people serve you.”  (He tells him in vernacular)

The old chap is getting agitated. He says he wants to fill a slip. The Askari tells him to take a ticket and have a seat. At first when told about the ticket machine his eyes bulged, he thought the askari was a joyrider there. He asked him in the traditional way of showing disbelief,

“Ati umesema?”

He looks at the askari kimaandazi. He tilts his torso on one side.

“Acha nikutolee hii ticket mzee ndio uhudumiwe kule kwa counter”

He disagrees with the askari. He demands an explanation why the machine before humans. Everybody in the banking hall is looking at this old chap. It’s a question the world has been trying to answer for two decades now.

He hold his stick more firmly now. After a long explanation and intervention from the customer care executives, he finally gets a ticket.

His ticket reads TICKET NUMBER 542. This old man rolls it and trashes it. He asks the askari if he will wait for these other 500 chaps to be sorted before him. He is made to understand that it’s only a sequence they are following. He sits down on the edge of the chair. He puts the cash money he was holding in his right hand and the crumbled papers in his coat pocket. He pulls out a red phone togethre with a couple cigarettes. He squints at the phone and puts it back.

There is another chap who receives a phone call near me. He has a smooth polished sound. He speaks in high valyrian Dholuo. He converses something and then mentions “first time Mombasa” and he chuckles softly, like a rich widowed lady, the old man in our line looks at him disgustingly.

“This boy has less manners”

Pointing at him with his pallid forefinger, disgusted. He swallows hardly like he has a sore throat. He has a thin unshaven beard on his thin and pale skin on the sun exposed faced.

“Does he mean to say I am seeing this city today? I have been here far long”

Another man beside him gets called by the mzungu lady for his ticket number.

The chap from Valyria hangs up, looks at this old man and says to him it wasn’t about him. It was about something else. Everything is calm, after some few dismayed clicks the old man gives.

A lady calls him not for his ticket number but maybe to forgo any further chaos in the banking hall. He stands up shakingly like and old forklift and goes to the counter. He holds some cash in his hand firmly, the lady probably tells him cash is delivered into the new self-service cash deposit machines though he would be guided.

All hell breaks loose.

He left murmuring something under his breath after he thumped his stick on the floor very hard. He walked away. He probably didn’t sleep that night. Maybe thinking how the city people have made life so complicated, he would sit for dinner with his wife and children telling his children how they used to bury the cash in Kimbo cans below the guava trees in their times.


2 thoughts on “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

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