I was having a quick word on my mobile phone to my Mother-in-law on Friday. She was waiting for me at school and I was driving to meet her. Sadly my hands free mobile phone kit is not working (and has not been for the best part of a year).
I generally know where the traffic cops hang out, but on Friday they surprised me. On that day there were banks of cops all over Dagoretti corner. As I approached the roundabout, one traffic police spotted me on the phone and pointed (probably excited), gesturing for me to pull over. I immediately dropped my phone into my lap. My mother-in-law heard me say distantly - 'OH God'. My four year old from the back said, 'what's the matter mummy?' 'Nothing Darling' I said.
I was in a rush and in no mood to be arrested. I had ten minutes to get to assembly. I've been arrested once before for talking on my phone, it was just after the new law was introduced and I had to admit that it was a fair cop, but there was no way of getting out of it. I ended up driving the police officer to the police station and hanging there for the best part of three hours as everybody studiously ignored me and refused to tell me what was going on. It was only when a nice CID woman officer turned up that I was released with a caution.
I didn't fancy repeating this experience so this time, Thelma and Louise style, I swerved around the policeman, driving up onto the curb, past the policeman's colleagues, round a small pick up van via the dirt verge, onto the roundabout without stopping and on my way round, I clocked a second policewoman on the other side of the roundabout who was interrogating a van driver and sped past her.
Once home free I looked in my rear view mirror. A line of three cops were looking, waving and pointing at my car. The decision to just put my foot down was based on the fact that I've seen this done before elsewhere in Nairobi and it actually seems to work.
I figured that there might be more cops at the next crossroads - and in case the Dagoretti Corner ones had radioed my number plate ahead, I decided to take a short cut down a dirt road and to avoid them too.
When my daughter said, 'what's wrong' a second time I said, 'well I'm feeling stressed because I've just dodged the police as they were going to arrest me for talking on my phone ..... and we're also late for Granny.'
By the time I reached school I was a sweaty mess, adrenaline pumping. Fortunately I had the whole of assembly to sit quietly and recover myself. Later I hung about drinking tea at school until a friend (with a hands free kit in her car) let me know that the police on Dagoretti corner had gone. I then felt confident enough to go home. I wonder if they'll get me this friday?
Once, driving along the Naivasha road with a girl friend and three children on our way to a school match, I stopped a couple hundred metres from a police road block in order to adjust a child's car seat/seatbelt. I thought this was a safe place to pull over as it was a busy main road and traffic was slowing there anyway.
What should happen but a surly traffic policeman decided to take advantage of my stupidity and stroll over to interrogate me. He asked whether I had the correct licence, fire extinguisher, safety triangles in the vehicle. I had everything with me, pulled everything out so he hadn't much to go on - until he saw my slightly tatty driving licence that I pulled from my wallet and said 'this is Government property - it has been abused!' He then did that usual thing of pocketing my licence it so that I couldn't leave and had to sit there like a lemon, totally at his mercy.
The policeman made out that he was going to arrest me on the basis of a scruffy driver's licence. I found it hard to contain my temper, but just about managed it. It was only when I asked for the man's police number that he started back tracking. First he said, 'What number is this you are talking about? My phone number? What is this?'
'No' I said, 'Your police number - so that I can report this to your superiors.'
Finally he threw my licence back in through the window,
'Just go.' he said.
I do worry about my new lawless streak - but I ask you? What to do.