Maybe it’s the way I look, but people don’t seem to think I understand Kiswahili. Especially when I’m out in public. And especially when I’m writing at a “fancy” cafe.
I took my laptop out of the house today. I usually carry a notebook with me, but I needed to press some keys and hammer out some new parts of “Project Linked” in a place where I couldn’t touch my bed.
The butcher’s overweight cat has been missing for a few days, so I don’t have my usual company today.
Maybe it’s my earphones that make that gathering of expensively-dressed teens two tables away think I can’t hear them. But the fact that they’ve chosen to use Kiswahili when speaking to each other but English when speaking to the waitresses means it’s a conscious decision.
I know “the type”. I’ve lived with “the type”. Gone to (expensive) school(s) with “the type”. The type who subject you to the head-to-toe ocular “snort” when you enter their field of vision. The type who’re chauffeured from mall to school to mansion. The type who own hover-boards in Nairobi because they live their lives in tiled, air-conditioned indoor enclaves.
The type who think they’re so cleverly hiding their conversation when they talk about you. But they – along with their estimation of what the world seems to owe them – are more wrong than an intact ice cream cone in a shark’s stomach.
The subject of discussion? My electronic devices.
I’m of the school of thought that doesn’t throw anything away unless it’s beyond use. My laptop is, therefore, over a decade old. One of the keys has been snatched off by someone’s toddler, who also went on to destroy the “connecty-part-thingy” which would allow for a replacement. One of the touch-pad keys is mangled beyond repair after a brief yet passionate affair with a live cigarette-butt, so I don’t use it without a mouse. It has a CD/DVD drive...of all things...and a floppy disk “induction port”, so to speak. It’s old.
What’s worse, in consumerist eyes, is that it looks old.
But I’ve used it for over a decade. Bought new parts for it when the old ones failed. You get the drift. I’ve been thrifty with my laptop.
As I’ve been thrifty with my phone. It’s a smartphone, sure. But one of those “cheap” models you can get in Christmas offers after saving up enough loyalty points from your telco. Most people who got the exact same phone in 2014 – which is when I got mine – have a new one by now. But I don’t.
As I’ve also been thrifty with my earphones. In fact, they came with my phone. I’ve had them for over 3 years and they still work fine. Sure, I’ve had to fix it up with tape when the wire snapped. Remember that thing about me not throwing things away if they still work? Also applies to earphones.
And that’s why the teenagers are making fun of me. Because I don’t have “the latest crap”.
I’m still waiting for the part where one of their know-it-all mouths utters the words “maybe that person doesn’t need new stuff?”
But there’s an electronics shop across the food court. According to these stupid people, I have no excuse.
Same stupid people who’re clearly not using their own money to dress and pamper themselves.
Same stupid people who’ve collected yes-men and “yeah”-girls around them. I bet there’s a celebrity stuffed in there. One of those teenagers who gets one photo in a magazine that hardly anyone can afford to read and thinks their life is set.
But I came to this cafe. “Fancy” places attract a certain crowd. And the staff likes me because I will NOT be quiet when customers abuse waitresses. And because I can keep the cat from dashing between their feet when they’re carrying heavy trays.
But those teens. The ones who thought I couldn’t hear them…
“Okay, guys, duckface!” One of them declared while they huddled for a group selfie. With a forward-facing camera that wasn’t facing...forward...
The ones who took my photo and uploaded it to “The Gram” cos they’re starting a mean-spirited list of some sort…
Around whose whims a large part of this economy has arranged itself, and unwisely depends upon...
Those teens left without paying.
I dream up worlds and try to help others live in them.
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