Riding on a Matatu
The seating order in a matatu is as follows:
First, the front seat next to the driver is taken. Two people can fit in this seat and is most definitely the best seat even if you are a bit squished which is nothing compared to being in the back. Sometimes the front seat is reserved. Especially if you are a western (white) female. I've had a front seat cleared for me more than once. You may pay a bit extra for the front seat.
Second, the back of the matatu is filled. And I mean filled! You can fit six people on each bench plus two or three people at the back end of the truck bed where there is usually a bench. Once the benches are filled people start sitting or standing (hunched over) on the floor in the center. Sitting/standing on the floor is illegal, everyone should be on a bench. What happens when a matatu driver spots a policeman (askari)? That in a little bit.
Lastly, the touts get on board. They try to squeeze into the already overcrowded matatu. They tell everyone to 'sit nice'. Many times they can't get into the matatu, so they hang out the back, or even sit on top along with the luggage! All of this being somewhat illegal.
If a policeman stops an overcrowded matatu the touts tell everyone to sit down. If you are one of the poor souls in the center without a seat you have to duck your head as low as possible. The touts get off the matatu to talk with the policeman. If you watch closely you'll see one of the touts hand a 'little chai' (a bribe) to the policeman.
There are two other type of matatus which are a bit nicer and roomier. There is the type which is more like a bus and the Nissan mini-van type. Everyone gets a seat although you may be squished in to it. Sometimes you may get charged more for these matatus, but usually not.
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