No Country for Skinny People, and Stories of Stolen Phones

Once I regained my composure, I realized that there is nothing like the moment you realise something you value is gone.

You have to make a life decision-do you scream, react, slap someone, ask for a hug, run after the thug or just sit there trying to soak it all in, like I did? When you have to go through all the stages of mourning in a split second, time slows down, and for a moment you can almost reverse time-travel, have the phone in your pocket in that moment, then acceptance.

I lost my last phone in Githurai 45, the place where phones go to die. At the time, I did not realize that I had joined a small and growing population of people who have fallen victim to that little towns phone-snatching menace. It is when I first shared the story of the theft with my friends that everyone first sympathised with until I mentioned where it had been stolen. It turns out that losing your phone at Githurai is like getting mauled in a lion’s cage.

It must have the highest number of people per square mile with the guts to snatch your phone through the car window, run and stop thirty metres away and stare at you-as if daring you to alight and go after them. Githurai 45 is so insecure that any matatu or bus conductor worth his job is likely to start staying Chunga simu! Chunga simu as you arrive at that little stopover. You might have heard the saying Your girlfriend is so insecure we call her Githurai 45 (pronounced FORE FAE). Any bump on the road is a potential risk, and any open window is an invitation to treat.

There are 10 phones being stolen in the scene in this picture. Go ahead, look more closely....

There are 10 phones being stolen in the scene in this picture. Go ahead, look more closely….

Losing you phone in this city, contrary to popular belief, is a good thing. It is a good thing for the economy. Some of us would stay with the same phone until the last button on the keyboard dies or the battery swells (Yours truly has had both, and still won’t let go of that one). Once your phone is stolen you have to buy a new one, injecting much-needed money into the economy and making the middle class look good.?We have reached that point in economic history where anyone who has a cheap phone is automatically assumed to have lost a smartphone.

Getting your phone stolen is your civic duty, and I suspect that in the long queues of the eagerly anticipated March 4th elections, thieves will not only be getting elected to office, others will be in your pockets. The economy has needs, and no one can deny the economy what the economy wants.

My phone was snatched by a guy who was inside the mini-bus. Why didnt I just scream and grab the guy in a matching blue T-shirt and cap? Because he was standing at the steps and I was seated in the inner aisle, and have you ever heard a man scream?

That, plus my adrenaline takes its sweet time to kick in, it just slugged its way as the phone left my hands in the middle of a Tweet (I should have run after him crying out Finya OK! Finya Ok! huh? The most annoying thing was not even losing my phone 1t 11 AM the day before the end of the year, but the lady seated next to me. She started telling me Aki nilikuwa nadhani ni yangu anaiba (I swear I thought he was stealing mine). Who does that? Who tells the victim of a crime that she feels lucky it wasnt her. Sadism! Plus she used a tense that implied she had seen him coming, and had done nothing.?

A friend of mine once lost her phone when using the washrooms at Kenya National Archives. As she removed her pants to begin her business, the phone slipped out of her pocket and fell below the door. Since the business at hand could not be stopped, and there was hardly any movement outside, she decided it was safe to continue and pick her phone on her way out. She never found it, and even the janitor swore by his mothers grave that he had not seen anyone take the phone.

Because no one wants you to walk out of the house without skills...

Because no one wants you to walk out of the house without skills…

I know someone else who dropped her phone when alighting from a bus. She heard the sound of something hitting the ground, look behind and saw someone bending to pick something and decided it could not be any of her business. Until later, when she realized it was her phone.

The art has been so well perfected that I suspect there are Yodas of the art now, taking on apprentices and showing them how to spot a mark and make a move, or a snatch, if you will.

The pick pocket is the scariest of all phone thieves, at least to me, because they take a risk that involves skill and patience.??I fear the heart attack that follows the moment you realize someone was in your pockets without your knowledge; so much for being conscious.I think being robbed, in the literal sense of the word, gives you time to accept the loss. Time that being pickpocketed or conned does not, it just of tosses you inside that den of lions and expects you to cope.The phone snatcher is also a marvel, he is almost always wearing a cap so all you see is a blur. Some people manage to scream ‘Mwizi! Mwizi! until their voices are hoarse. The most ingenious ones Ive heard of was a group of three that lifted a laptop off an acquaintance of mine in a bus.?

If you want to see the thief brought to justice then you need to grow a pair of boobs, because that is all you need to have it easy….or a military ID, either of them will make grown men act at your behest. In fact, if you are already endowed with a pair of the tits, and your phone is snatched in the matatu, and you play your cards right, you can leave with a new smartphone from a Don Juan-there is no scarcity of men seeking damsels in distress to prey on in this Nairobi. I suspect that had I had been blessed with a pair myself, the conductor would have no qualms chasing after the thief and getting me my phone back, but not before dialing his own number and telling me his name. Sadly, however, this is not a country for men, and we skinny men are at the bottom of the tier, the lowest rung of modern middle class-driven society.

Unless they are fat too, then the dynamics must change...

Unless they are fat too, then the dynamics must change…

You would think thugs would target fat people-its only logic because they are heavier, and cannot make good running mates-but they target people like us, the skinny, because our society hates those who have succeeded in keeping their body mass below 60 Kgs. It is almost a crime to be skinny in this country, although there are many people in the gym right now fighting to join the Skinny Party. Our African culture tends to relate having a kitambi (beer belly) with riches- and a loving woman or barmaid. You will get served faster if you have a big tummy, and people will respect you more. Cops will even be more polite to you, at least at first, before you open your mouth and ruin your own luck.

If you are skinny then you have to make an extra effort to get the teller to believe the money you are withdrawing is actually yours and you are not a thief or a boy toy of some old rich woman. The onus, and the pressure, will even force you to buy a newspaper once in a while so people can give you an ounce respect. Most people, including the phone thieves who are themselves skinny, do not even know they have a skinny people bias. Fat people look rich, or endowed, and will be served before you in a restaurant. In the man world, if a 50 Kg man sits on a table next to a 90 Kg man who looks nine months pregnant, the bill will be brought to the latter. To women, that is completely normal when they are on a date but to men, there are ego issues to sort out.

Disclaimer: This is only a hypothesis, the would-be sample population is not exactly forthcoming with data...

Disclaimer: This is only a hypothesis, the would-be sample population is not exactly forthcoming with data…

Note that this mostly applies to males, although there is a pecking order in the female world too. At the top of the chain are the lightskinned medium sized middle class women with more products on them than an aisle in a beauty shop. At the bottom of the ladder are the skinny colourless girls with too much geek to shop for a good bra. The obese women with serious self-esteem issues are slightly above. Men will give them seats in a matatu because they are afraid of the possible impact, not for chivalry.

...or the next best thing, a man with man boobs...

…or the next best thing, a man with man boobs…

Back to skinny males, culture expected a man to grow a tummy once he was married and rich. It was and still is regarded as a sign of opulence, that one is now too settled to want to see their own reproductive organs. You will see it with men who rub their tummies during a conversation, sending subliminal messages that they are hungry, and bored, and important.

If you are skinny then the shop attendant will be rude and hormonal since her first assumption is that you are just windowshopping. If you have the kind of egos they are giving birth to these days then you might even buy a car, three cars even, to prove to the car dealer that you are not toying with him trying to find out why a Vitz is more expensive than a Probox. The pressure to tip the waitress is immense, because the sneer on her face everytime you distract her asking your fat friend whether he wants a refill is more scary than annoying.

"Did

"Did

The skinny guy will have to work harder to get the ladies attention because the first impression is that he is a high school or young campus boy with nothing to show. He is best left as a boytoy, never for anything of meaning.

The bouncer at the entrance to the club will most definitely freeze you and demand your ID, and even then illuminate your face to confirm. A fat person will, unless they have small boobs, just walk through. A tummy also implies you did not use public transport, and that you can afford your own beer and meat.

You can’t even fit in the space between seats in a matatu, where you will be inevitably forced to sit if you use public transportation in Nairobi. Where a ‘buff’ person can comfortably anchor themselves on the seats on either side, leaving only the crack in the middle, a skinny guy can only anchor on one side. Its sad, having to hold on to the person seated next to you and with one cheek in the air as you grab the seat next to you with your butt crack. Being skinny is a crime!

Actually, if you are skinny you might as well tell the butcher to sell you steak because you are in for a good duping. The size of the bone the butcher selects is subjective and is dependent on how much he thinks you know about meat; being a skinny thing the first assumption is that you are gullible and therefore unlikely to to complain when half your order is nothing but connective tissue.

Discrimination on the basis of body mass; survival for the fattest.

Discrimination on the basis of body mass; survival for the fattest.

I challenge you to go and shop for pants or belts if the only thing on your waist is your pelvis. Its the skinny man who must use up a great deal of his lifetime getting the tailor to reduce the waist size on his pants, and the shop to reduce the length of his belt, while the heavyset pregnant-looking man can focus on more important matters.

There are so many people walking around with a fat person in them waiting to be fed into existence. Thieves do not want you, neither does the government, or even the women, being skinny is a curse, you should cancel your gym subscription and stock your fridge with GMOs.

Where you would think evolution would have discriminated against fat people-for obvious reasons-it seems skinny people are now in the outliers, waiting for the inevitable mutation or extinction. Maybe the zombies will restore the balance of nature as Darwin perceived it.

Owaahh, 2013.

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  • The curse of the skinny people, that i can relate. when you have to buy graduation suits from kids section, and all T-shirts for you are marked age 6-9 #embarrassing

  • could we chat. My twitter is @Kimiri_stephen Lets DM there

  • @OWAAHH where do you work? I love your article

    • I freelance, I am the writing equivalent of a prostitute 😀

  • Those saying long may have hardly read this piece with the peace needed. This piece is intense with reality so well presented in the words… Nice piece..

    • Hehehehe, its called colour writing Steve, trying to draw a picture of the exact scene with words…thanks for reading and sharing.

  • Ha ha ha as a heavy guy… they all assume that its money you have…lolest so true… Especially the story for seating between matatu seats… kujishikilia pande moja…lolest…You Just made my day… keep up the great writing… Another advantage of being big…. If you are at the back seat of a 14 seater then the conductor tries to add a fourth guy… you seat squarely then look at the oncoming passenger with a questioning glare of “where are you going??”

    • Hahahaha, are you a buff guy? I am so jealous, some of us have to sit on one side and push our upper body up against the other just to hold on, ama tuitishe ‘kiti ya wageni’….hehehehe, some day, some day I shall have some meat upon these bones 😀

  • loved it..but felt it was too long a blog…good work

    • Thanks Wambui. It was just 2000 words long, there are posts here that are double that :D. I prefer writing long, engaging, random stories :D. Glad you enjoyed it 😀

  • Ah yes, Githurai 45, the land of thievery. I lost my first phone there *cue long broody moment* and almost had my first public breakdown.
    The skinny on being skinny, haha, I suppose the grass always does look greener on the other side, doesn’t it? I’m sure a plus-sized person would have an equally long (if not longer) list on their woes.
    Anyway, the length of this comment is just code for I liked this post. I had quite a number of actual LOL moments. 🙂

    • Hahaha, I didn’t have an idea of the exact statistics of phones that have been stole in 45 until I lost mine and everybody would stop sympathising with me when I mentioned where it was stolen. On skinny, trust me, if you are a girl and you have meat on bones then you are waaaay up on the food chain… :D…LOL moments? Over my predicaments? Sadist 😀

  • Anonymous

    Gal on the bus??

  • Your posts are long, what! Anyway… I like your blog. 🙂 This post in particular was quite well-executed. Being rather skinny myself, I am regrettably well-acquainted with the Curse of the Skinny People.

    • My blog is supposed to be homely, the kind of place you can’t just zoom in and out….and I have my good days, this one felt like one of them :D…the Curse of the Skinny People? Hahahaha