The last time I was in a fight must have been six years ago, and the only reason I did it is because this other dude decided he could fling my then girlfriend across the room. I mean, at that point, even Jesus would clench a fist. Since then, however, I have not been in a fight, which when I think about it, is quite remarkable for me because I have an impatient temper. It fires up fast and hot. About three weeks ago, I was this close to switching off the lights on some dude in Parklands, and here is why.
So, Lakwan and I were leaving her sister’s place in Ngara when my neighbor calls me to say he had been working so hard he lost track of time, so would I mind grabbing some fries and chicken for him and his brother? I said, ‘sure, why not’? And that is how I turned the nose of the car and headed towards that Galitos located in Kenol petrol station near the Parklands Police Station. When I walk in, there is this chap of Indian heritage at the counter in what was clearly a heated exchange with the cashier. And because at that point it was none of my business, I stood back and waited for my turn to be served.
A minute or less in and I can tell this guy is being unreasonable. He wants to be given a receipt for a meal he has not paid for, and the poor lady on the other side of the counter is trying to explain to him that company policy dictates you have to pay first before you can be served. Cash first, then receipt, then you wait for your food. If you have been to any Galitos outlet (honestly, any fast food outlet), then you know this is way the cookie crumbles around here.
Patel – didn’t catch his name, so this is a fake one – flat out refuses. And requests to speak to the night manager on duty. Mr. Manager tells him the exact same thing. Cash first, followed by service. Patel still does not want to listen, and asks for both the cashier and Manager’s names so that he can make a formal complaint to whoever’s number he was pretending to dial on his phone.
Meanwhile, I am getting restless, so I ask for my chicken and chips combo, I am told my bill, I pay via MPESA, and then I get my receipt as my order is being processed. Patel sees me getting a receipt without cash exchanging hands and he flares up asking, ‘how come you are serving him a receipt and he has not paid?’ From his words I can taste the implication of discrimination, but before I can open my mouth to say anything, the cashier explains everything.
In the end, whoever he was pretending to call did not help him. He begrudgingly pays, then goes to sit down. I stand by the cashier’s station and we make small talk. She tells me how that is how they are usually treated, and I tell her sorry about that. I remind her that Patel’s attitude has nothing to do with her, but everything to do with him. Next thing I know, this man, is inches away from my shoulders, coming at the cashier saying, “you know I heard you? What are you saying about me?”
Oh, now I am involved. I tell the cashier not to respond, and I turn to him and ask, “And what is it that you think she has said?”
He ignores me and goes back to talk to the cashier, “You know I can get you fired, I hear you talking about me, you know?”
And that is when I lost it.
You see, only a fortnight before, we had all seen a Chinese man had whipped a Kenyan for showing up late to work, and the question everyone was how dare the Kenyan allow that man to disrespect him like that? It was because he was trying to keep his job. Not so different from what this descendant of a railway construction worker was doing. And let it not forget that this was happening in Parklands – the hub of the Indian community in Kenya. If Galitos were to choose to maintain their business, whose side would they choose? A cashier or their customer?
Then there is the other thing about gender here. He is a man trying to intimidate a woman, but when confronted by a fellow man, he cannot stand up to the other fella. He comes at the innocent woman involved. What happened to picking on someone your own size?
Words were exchanged. I went on a rampage, and called him things I wouldn’t even call a sick pig when drunk, and then told him he can fuck off. Of course at this point, everyone else in the joint was looking at me, and at the corner of my eye, I could see Lakwan getting out of the car in shock. She had never seen me so angry, at the brink of fighting. Now she understood why my friends from campus call me Goon.
Patel came up to me as if he was about to do something. I did not flinch. “Do you want to take this outside or what?” He did not respond. He went back to his seat to call whoever he kept pretending he could call.
I was not made to fight. This body is a hanger for nice clothes and resting place for soft skins. I would prefer to keep it that way, but that does not mean that if need be, I will not consider creating a crater in someone’s face. It is always a risk getting into a physical altercation with strangers because chances of your behind getting handed to you in 50-50. So if you are going to take that risk, it had better be worth it.
Remember that dude from that famous song by Kenny Rodger? Not the wimp in Lucille. The small boy in Coward of the County. Well, sometimes you’ve got to fight when you’re a man.