These days—in response to your reduced “cash flow”—you deliberately report to the grocery late; close to closing time. Oh yeah, when it’s, say, 10.30pm on weekdays, or 11.30pm on weekends.
Being a slow drinker, one who takes his beer straight from the bottle, it means you’d take just two and time would be up. You tell yourself you mustn’t break the drinking regulation by staying a minute more past closing time, the good, law-abiding citizen that you are. Ahem!
Today, you arrive at your chosen grocery and head for the counter—as usual. The place is noisy, like it’s normally the case, but that doesn’t bother you. Why, there seems to be no one there who you might feel obliged to have a conversation with, so let them increase the volume even, if they want! You’re carrying an old novel for companionship.
Every seat at the counter is occupied, which means you’ve to drink your beer standing. But hang on…there’s this girl who is in grocery uniform, a white blouse and a dark skintight pants. A barmaid, taking a Windhoek and having a hearty chitchat with an elderly drinker who’s taking a Safari.
Vintage Bongo, this is, where you get barmaids having their beer like anyone. Why not? Everyone has the right to drink, even when they’re at work. It’s kazi na dawa, to use the old expression borrowed from JKT. It’s twisted of course, typical of Wabongo’s peculiar sense of humour.
Twisted, because literally, this expression referred to a sick soldier who, after a visit to the camp clinic, would be issued with medication and a chit to show to the afande that would indicate that the “patient” should still participate in the usual chores—farm work, military drills, etc. We didn’t like it, the treacherous, lazy rascals that we were—we’d always pray—and at times, plead with the doctor—that we get a full ED (excused from duty)!
It has come to pass that kazi na dawa now refers to a situation in which a person enjoys himself even as he/she does what they’re paid to do. Our barmaids will drink, make calls almost all the time, sit at some table, either by themselves or with patrons and chat; play pool. Or quarrel among themselves, or with patrons. Kazi na dawa redefined!
So, here you are, standing at the counter, a warm Serengeti Lite before you. You expect the akaunta to tell her colleague seated on the stool next to you to surrender it, but he doesn’t.
How about the seated “staff”? Can’t she notice there’s customer for whom she could vacate the stool? Well, let’s be fair…maybe she hasn’t noticed you. Now since you believe in customer rights and privileges, you tap her on the shoulder and when turns to look at you, you say, very calmly: “Hey, sister, can I have the stool?”
“But mzee, there’re all those vacant chairs there, why don’t take one?” she says, pointing to the many vacant chairs at the drinking arena.