I don’t have a car. I don’t have a drivers license. I depend on public transport to get around for personal things. Fuel prices are constantly increasing in Zambia. As I write this post, everyone is curious to hear the Energy Regulation Board’s update on fuel prices and to know what this will mean for people who use public transport to get around. People like me.
This is not the point of the blogpost. I am not here to complain about the government’s decision to review fuel pump prices every month because they only seem to go up. Additionally, we all know that once fuel prices go up, every other industry increases their prices due to cost of production. Here I am, getting side-tracked again. I spend K60 everyday on transport only. And that’s if I’m using a bus. Let’s not even talk about how much I spend if I use a cab on days when I knock off late and want to avoid walking in the dark. I’m sorry. This is not the point of the blog post but I needed to let that out.
As someone who has been getting on buses almost everyday for the last 3 weeks, I have been reminded of why I am not a fan and why the God of motor vehicles needs to do something for me. I do appreciate their convenience in terms of moving around and cost, when compared to taxis, but there are still some things I don’t like. Let’s get right into it.
1. “Fare chart iyi”
This loosely translates to “here is the fare chart.” It’s only right that my first point has to with money considering I spent the first two paragraphs complaining about it. What stresses me out so much on a bus is arguing with the conductor about bus fares. Especially after price hikes.
Two days ago, on my way to work, I gave the conductor a K20 note and he cave be back a K5 as my change. Up until that day, I had paid a K10 on that route every single day. I counted my change and braced myself for a challenge. I was about to ask for the rest of my change. I had to decide whether to speak Bemba or Nyanja. I settled for Nyanja though in the end that didn’t matter because I kept switching between the two due to pressure.
“Ba conductor kwasala K5. Change iyi si yo kwana.” Conductor there is a K5 left. The change isn’t enough. The whole bus went quiet and then the driver responded. Not even the conductor but the driver. He went on to tell me about how it actually costs K15 to get to where I’m going and I clapped back by saying everyone else paid K10. He then said the people you are seeing who paid K10 all asked to pay that amount before boarding. I said that was false because no one asked. We went back and forth for a minute or two. He then brought up how bus fares were increased and I had no strength to argue after that. My mistake was giving him a K20 note instead of a K10 note. When I stopped arguing, I told the driver to drop me off at the spot where I usually get off. Due to possible frustration caused by me, he said there was no actual bus stop where I asked to be dropped off. He then dropped me off several meters from where I wanted to be dropped off and I had to walk a long way back. My point is, I hate arguing about bus fares and being shown the fare chart is simply embarrassing.
2. Chickens on the bus.
I usually have no problem with this unless the chickens are near me. I have this deep fear of live chickens and it stems from a time I was chased by a headless chicken. Sitting next to someone with chickens has happened to me twice. The first tiime, the chicken was under the seat and I didn’t notice until I felt something scratch my leg. Startled, I jumped then heard a chicken under the seat. The owner of the chicken looked at me with a “it’s just a chicken” face. I couldn’t explain to her that a chicken with no head, that should have been dead, chased me around once and now I don’t like those creatures. The whole way up to my stop, I sat with my legs slightly raised. It was a very stressful ride.
The second time was with chicks. This man who I had no choice but to sit next to had a box of chicks on his lap. The box wasn’t covered and the chicks were just having the time of their lives on this field trip. Those chicks kept on trying to fly and the owner of the chickens just didn’t care. He wasn’t holding onto the box tightly and when a part of the box found itself on my lap, I gasped so as not to scream and he too gave me a look that said, “They are just chickens.” Animals on a bus is a big no. However, I don’t have a car yet so I can’t really complain.
3. “Baku Avondale bwelani mukwele iyi”
If you live in Avondale, I’m sorry for triggering a horrible memory. I should have put a trigger warning on that one. For the sake of those who don’t understand, the above translates to “The ones going to Avondale, come and board this one (bus).” This happens when the conductor has lied to you and convinced you that the bus is going to your destination and when you finally board and get to a certain place, they ask you to get off and put you on another bus.
Living where I live is tough because sometimes, bus drivers just don’t want to go that far. The worst experience I had with this was some years back when my brother and I were told to get off the bus and because no other bus was willing to get us because our conductor was offering a really low amount for us, the conductor left us with what was K1500 then (K1.50 now) for two people. At that time, my vernacular was terrible so I couldn’t argue.
We stood there for a very long time because all the buses that came refused to get us because the money we had was too little. Eventually, one bus came along that our neighbour was on and she told us to board. I don’t remember if she paid for us or not. I just remember that I got home and cried. Bus conductors need to be more honest. There really is no need to lie about where you are going.
4. Being dropped off everywhere but your actual stop
Why do bus drivers insist on driving past your stop and stopping somewhere way ahead because that’s where people potentially boarding are standing. Maybe I need to blame the pedestrians, or potential customers, for this. Go and stand at the bus stop. Yesterday I was dropped off way past my stop and I complained from the back of the bus until I got off. It’s just so inconveniencing. I strongly dislike it.
5. Bus drivers changing bus routes.
I saved the best for last because this is probably the thing I hate the most. Let me set the scene for you. You’re supposed to be somewhere at 9 am. You know that it takes about an hour to get there by bus, using Great East Road so you leave the house at 7:30 am. You decide to throw in an extra 30 minutes because you know that the bus may end up 15 minutes in Chelstone. So you’re on your way now and even regretting adding the extra 30 minutes because now you will end up arriving at your destination extremely early. Your bus didn’t spend that 15 minutes in Chelstone.
Before you know it, you’re overhearing the conductor telling the driver that they should pass through Kaunda Square. Kaunda Square is off Great East Road. It is not along the official route you should be taking.
This happened to me last week and I was livid. We ended up spending almost an hour in Kaunda Square. I eventually got off and got on a cab because I was seriously running late. The funny part is when you tell the conductor that you are now being delayed, they will just tell you to buy a car.
The number of times I this has happened to me is sad to say the least. What’s so difficult about sticking to your route? I understand they need to make money but we are paying for a service. Let me know if I am wrong.
This list could have gone on and on but I only have time to write 5 today. Let me know what your experience is with Public Service Vehicles. Have you experienced anything I have written about? What’s your least favourite thing about public transport? Please leave a comment below. I would love to know.
Hello lovely readers! It’s Day 2 of Afrobloggers Winter ABC and I’m excited to bring you to Lusaka, my home, and tell you a little bit of what it’s like on Lusaka Buses.
Find all Winter ABC 2022 posts here!
Thanks for reading.