A close encounter with death

Sarah Lagot Odwong mugshotThe not-so-secret love-hate relationship that I have with boda-boda folks can make for a very good telenovela.

Unsurprisingly, my dislike for boda-boda riders has only intensified following an incident recently.

A few days ago, I was swamped with work, trying to beat deadlines and so I stayed really late at the office. Time check: 9:00 p.m.

I packed up my laptop in my gray weather-beaten backpack and walked out of Nyonyi Gardens where I work, which was now steeped in a deathly silence. A few cars drove by the Kololo Airstrip stretch and my only means to Nakawa at the time would be by, you guessed it, boda-boda.

Since my regular boda-boda man was home already, I was left with no option but to trudge down the road towards Shoprite Lugogo. A few cars sped by as I walked on the uneven pavement.

My eyes were firmly fixed on the winding road and bogged down by the weight of the laptop in the rucksack on my back and a handbag firmly clasped in my right hand, I possibly looked like a pitiful hunchback making her way through the dark Kololo streets.

“Hoot hoot,” I turned my gaze to the road at the sound piercing through the silent night. A boda-boda had finally shown up.

“Nyabo , where are you going?” a boda-boda rider clad in a thick green leather jacket and a cracked helmet atop his head asked. The front lights of his bike blazed fiercely through the thick cloud of darkness, casting a yellow hue over the street.

“I am going to Kireka,” I replied.

A tough bargaining session over the fare then followed. He wanted Shs6,000; I wouldn’t budge. That amount was too much. I told him I would walk the rest of the journey to Shoprite. Defeated, he rode off in the opposite direction as I continued my laboured walk towards Nakawa.

I cannot tell for certain what happened next but in a split second a huge force was pushing against me from behind, threatening to overpower me and throw me off balance.

His engine roared as he tried to pull away my bag. He exerted so much energy pulling the bag that he dragged me into the road. I fell face forward onto the rough, unwelcoming tarmac.

The rough stones scraped against my face. A car that was driving in my direction screeched to a halt about two metres from my bruised body.

The driver had obviously noticed the chaos from afar. He switched off his engine and came out. The boda-boda rider, caught in the car headlights, rode off; afraid of getting caught, and in the process he thankfully dropped my bag on the tarmac.

“Are you okay? Are you okay? Madam, are you okay?” the driver of the parked car asked as he patted my forehead. Other cars had proceeded to park behind his; and a crowd of worried passersby was milling around me.

The adrenaline and nauseating fear must have made me pass out. The driver, very worried now, scooped me in his arms and placed me with my belongings in the passenger seat of his car and drove to Engen Petrol station.

That is when I came to. My heart started to race again as I realized I was locked up in an unfamiliar car. I looked around to see if I could raise an alarm. The pump attendants at the petrol station were engaged in light-hearted banter.

Their laughter rose through the air as they clapped their hands with glee. Then a middle aged man in a pin-striped suit walked back to the car and opened it. He climbed in and started the engine.

He passed me a bottle of cold Blue-Wave mineral water.

“Drink this!” he said in a fatherly tone.

“Who are you? Where are you taking me?” I asked on the verge of a panic attack.

“Calm down. My name is Benjamin. I picked you from near The Lawns. A boda-boda man was trying to rob you,” he replied.

The memory of the attack came rushing back like a gust of ice-cold wind chilling me to the marrow. I shuddered to think what would have happened if Benjamin had not come to my rescue. He could have easily run over me on the road too if he had not been sober and alert.

“Thank you Benjamin,” I muttered, very grateful to be alive.

Benjamin, whose second name I never got to know, dropped me off at Shell Nakawa. I then boarded a Namugongo-Kyaliwajjala bound taxi that dropped me right outside my mother’s house.

Like everybody else, I live with the knowledge that death will come but I never fathom how soon that will be. It seems like some far-off apparition that I occasionally glimpse at when I hear of somebody’s demise.

However, my boda-boda incident has sobered me up to the reality that I can go to meet my creator any time. I am making certain evaluations in my life, working on having a better relationship with people and my Creator, and trying to enjoy every minute of every day. Alas, last Thursday night, I could have breathed my last.

That day also promptly ended my business relationships with boda-bodas. A morbid fear of them has gripped my heart and soul. When I see a boda-boda rider my mind races back to the man in the thick green leather jacket with the cracked helmet, a sight that terrified my soul!

As I am learning to be more cautious, I am also making the deliberate decision to put my life, safety and health above all the material things I am working for. I have let my boss know that I will not be working late any more. He can always find a replacement in case I pass away. My mother however, would never recover from the grief of my demise. Like Toby Mac said: “You don’t want to gain the whole world and lose your soul.