Kids, a license of abuse?!
I had my first minibus fight Saturday morning! But, fortunately for me, it wasn’t with a “Woyala” (for I like to think of myself as somebody who tries to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, and I’ve been heard saying that if i had money, the first thing I would “maQwaqwam” next to a Teacher’s training center that could come up with the kind of teachers I had in Junior High, at a tiny public school of only one class a grade that went by both “Bitweded” and “Yeka Misrak Chora J.S.S.”, is “Yewoyaloch Mebt Askebari Mahber”! Coz it breaks my heart, seeing these kids being treated “ke’me immint betach”. It’s as if next to the rulling party, they are the “thorn in the flesh” the whole of Addis would have had liked plucked, if can).
No! This was with a parent (or what Bertie Wooster would call “the dotting uncle type” of parent) to a little girl who looked about 6 years old.
Here is what happened:
After trying to unclog the problem with my weblog Saturday morning, and failing, I decided to head home to my parents’. I bought a newspaper, took a cab and would have immersed myself in its content had I not been interrupted (and disturbed) by the row that was taking place next to me.
This was a man holding what appeared to be a little girl of not more than 6 years old. He was as stocky and loud as I mentioned, and she was as cute and sucking up to the attention as every other 6 year old is & would. Needless to say, they were trying to make the best of their journey… asking questions and giving answers, pointing stuff, taking almost all the space on the chair.
If this was your usual average-sized minibus endowed with enough space to pack a stocky man, a little girl, and a woman with newspaper without any problem, I would have held onto the seat infront of me and patiently waited for my journey’s end. That not being the case, however, I took it for as long as I could and finally asked the man if he could put the little girl on his knee.
This displeased him, as can be seen from the wounded look he gave me. And asked if they were “maschegering” me. I concurred and added that infact they’ve been “maschegering” me ever since they got on (around Addisu Sefer and we were nearing Legahare).
My answer came as a surprise and in a fit of rage, and trying to half raise and half sit himself, he blurted “ok! We will go somewhere else!”. I had my reservations about the wisdom of moving around while a minibus is still in full speed. But cleared my knees out of the way.
That made him mad! He sat back fuming and after a silent brooding, he turned to me and asked what it was about them that bothered me.
I showed him how much space he was supposed to take and how much he has taken.
He declared he was holding a child exclamation mark and looked around him with what looked like approval-seeking eyes. “Yes”, said I, and borrowing a line from my favorite sitcom ‘Sex and the City’ I added that I thought his child was his choice and not mine, so I don’t have to go through any trouble because he decided to bring her along.
This not only stirred all those present, but obviously excited the man. If he was white, this would be the time he’d start turning pale. If, on the other hand, he was playing a detective in one of those mystery dramas Jemanesh Solomon was always getting involved in pre-Andargachew Tsige era, it would be the moment he’d scream “AHA”!. (And gone on, I imagine, to tell me what I had for breakfast, what my job is likely to be, what the dirt in my heel is supposed to tell the observant bystander and when I was supposed to die, and of what). But this being neither a drama, nor him a caucassian, he simply tried to shame me with a victorious “Ayy.. if you have a problem with kids, say it!”.
A smart reply would have been “if I had a problem with kids, it won’t be your problem”. But smart replies only occur to you long after you left the scene of fight and had ample time to chew on it. Instead, I replied that I didn’t give a damn what he thinks and to just move. Normally, such an “atekara” would have been concluded by somebody being slapped and somebody else screaming “beHig amlak!!”. But the guy, being the amiable type mentioned above, simply took his bewildered-looking kid by the hand and vacated the place, and yours truly returned to her newspaper (to learn that Chichi Tadesse might have “found the Lord” and may quit singing soon, and took comfort. For I’ve never liked that woman. She, Neway Debebe and Ephrem Tamru! They have the same effect on me as a stale beer might)
Where were we? People with kids!
Now, I know many of you don’t know me but all those who knew me well would tell you that no other female is more practical about her love for children and would give her life for the protection of the right of one, or atleast to save one from the kind of abuse she and kids her age went through every day while young. That doesn’t mean she likes them kicking her knee or soiling her dress with their cute little shoes every time somebody decided to drag them along, or don’t want to shake one like a rat when she sees him/her slapping their parents around, literally. But she’s ready to give kids the kind of of license that she is unwilling to give adults. Why? Because she knows they are more to be pitied than censored. And ofcourse they are cute! And cuteness is a “commodity” that sales… especially on taxis! 🙂
But she’s still fogged as to why people with kids (and young pregnant ladies of a somewhat “lowly” profession in offices) give themselves a minute celebrity status and expect us not to complain treated however bad we might by them. It’s no secret to those of us who probablly can never hope to afford to buy cars, yet are too aware of ourselves to wait for “31 Qutir”, that no other word commands silence and obedience on a taxi as much as “Lij yijalehu”!
Yet, disobedience doesn’t seem to be the only thing you can do to offend these people! Say, busy with your own thoughts, you didn’t make as much fuss about a child sitting next to you as you should; neither laughed nor made a hoo-ha at everything he/she said or have forgotten to fondle his/her hair if he/she sat in close quarters and play peek-a-boo if beyond reach. You suddenly become what Will Smith’s character on “Enemy of the State” became, i.e. Enemy of the State!.
You’d start being spoken-to in a strained voice and with the kind of politeness that’s more hostile than rudeness can manage to be. The unfortunate child would, ofcourse, be told repeatedly to keep out of your way (clothe, leg and all) as if you are some kind of anti-child bomb about to explode. All these.. administered with doses of shaking head, heavy breathing and dirty looks. If you are a woman, the alienation is worse! There may even be a ‘weichegud andandu sew’ or two thrown about, clearly meant for your ears. And if, God forbid, you were remaining when they are exiting, a look that would haved turned you into “a pillar of salt” (except, fortunately for you, these aren’t biblical times) would be shot at you from beyond the minibus window.
Which is why you would start to wonder, as I usually do, if minding your own business, and being a reasonably decent human being (who tries to do as much good as can to your neighbors and as little evil as necessary to foes) is everything. And who gave these people a license to torment us thus.
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