I am not a rich man even though I have very good health. Because my health is not my wealth I get tired of being asked for money everywhere I visit by security guards manning door entries. I make just enough to get me by but to these guards every pedestrian walking in and out might as well be Bill Gates.
Growing up I was taught not to ask for things from people. Our parents would beat us to death (felt like it) if we dared beg for money or food from a stranger or neighbor. But it appears Kenyan security guards were living in Mars at the time of our upbringing.
At times I wonder whether their training starts with ‘Begging 101: An introduction to Security Procedures’.
Don’t they graduate with a double major Masters in Begging and Guarding?
If you belong to the imaginary Kenyan middle class then you probably drive a used Ex-Japan Toyota on loan. You probably drive all the way to the shopping mall every day to get freshly baked bread. And you must be familiar with the security checks at the entrance which usually go like a well-choreographed dance script.
Guard: Mkubwa habari yako? (How are you big man)
You: Niko salama? (Am fine)
Guard: Naona umerudi. (I see you’re back)
He doesn’t really remember any of the hundreds of customers. He is simply trying to flatter you that you have a memorable face and imply there is something familiar between the two of you, some kind of pre-existing relationship. This is to cover the potential awkwardness for the request that is about to be made.
Since your mom raised you not to be rude to people, you feel obligated to respond. But you do not know what to say and your mind is probably far-off wondering whether the sacco will approve yet another loan for your kids to go on an educational trip to South Sudan.
So you respond with something meaningless.
Ndio nimerudi (Yes, am back).
Then he proceeds around the car with the inspection which inevitably ends up at the driver’s window or front passenger’s window. He leans in with a nice fake smile.
Guard: Na mkubwa leo kuna baridi. (It’s a cold day boss).
At that moment the sun is shining brightly like Trump’s climate agenda. You are tempted to ask him why he didn’t put on a sweater on such a cold sunny afternoon. But remember your mom raised you to be polite to people.
The security check is now taking too long and you just want it to end, so you agree.
You: Eeh, saa nyingine January kuna baridi sana.
(Yeah at times the hot month of January can be very cold).
It is like a little courtship dance, or like the dance of the vulture circling high up in the skies before finally swooping in for the kill. He finally gets to the point of all the niceties and courtesies and pleasantries that he has showered your way. He comes in with his final dagger stab.
Guard: Si utuwachie ka chai?
(Please give us something small).
It is at that moment that you realize you are not really the boss and you do not have a memorable face either. And he was not interested when he asked how your day was. Neither was he honest when he remarked how new your used car looks. Your heart breaks when you realize he doesn’t care to be your new friend. All he wants from you really is nothing more than twenty shillings.
Depending on what mood you are in, you either give him a coin or you just shrug and say nothing. He looks at you sadly if you don’t give anything for one brief second of shaming you.
Then like he has just remembered something called manners, he quickly smiles broadly and says:
Karibu sana mkubwa (Welcome Boss).
Security guards will ask you for money everywhere! You don’t necessarily have to be driving into a mall. Even pedestrians are harassed with requests for ‘tea’. Begging has become their second nature such that anytime a security guard approaches you to offer assistance or give you directions you expect a tip request to follow.
The begging is so notorious that heavens will forgive you for wondering whether the guards at the mortuary doors stare at mourners in sympathy or in expectation of getting something small as mourners leave with their departed ones. True story.
Well, the pay of a private security guard is not that much. But so low is the pay for many other jobs. Most of us are also struggling. It is not an excuse for unashamedly harassing visitors for tips. It is bad manners amongst this professional category of Kenyans and it should stop.