Saturday, February 21, 2015

When Life Is All About Being Idle

TB: “Yo Dude, you good, you paying, what you up to?”
Dude: “Ah bleak TB, just passing time.”

The conversation with Dude was to the point and lasted a mere three minutes. What I found interesting was the notion of him “just passing time.” Passing time is a saying – if it can indeed be termed a saying that I have heard of, but really don’t know what it means.

Is it a Ugandan invention and something that we own the exclusive worldwide rights to? If we do own the rights, where are they kept? My guess would be in the vaults at Uganda National Bureau of Standards. So I placed a call to them.

“You want to know if we keep the rights to just passing time” so Lady on the other end of the phone shot back. 

“Yep, I want to know if Uganda invented them and if we did, do we own the copyright.” The line went dead shortly after. I called back but as soon as Lady heard my voice, she hung up.

I tried Google and he too was not forthcoming but one person who ought to know would be 18-year-old Nephew and this is what he had to say. “But uncle, you must know. It’s passing time, like I can wake up and decide to spend the morning passing time.” I was not with him and sought further clarification.

“Okay, sometimes I don’t have anything to do so I go into town and pass time. You know how it is these days, don’t you?” We obviously weren’t playing the same chess game but after more probing I came to understand that it had something to do with being idle.

In Uganda, it’s seemingly no big deal if one is idle. In western Uganda for example, Munyankole Man passes time by squatting at the roadside to watch speeding Gagga buses en route to Kigali. In Kampala, Muganda Man passes time by tugging at his crotch as he watches cars being clamped. In Gulu, Acholi Man is still fascinated at the way his Casio ‘disco watch’ flickers, with the Langi’s absorbed in trying to work out how many different ways they can rotate a tooth pick inside their mouths while we Basoga, stare intently at our toes waiting for the next jigger to hatch.

Passing time so I later found out is not exclusive to Uganda. The British also pass time and they do it by writing letters to a granny called Deidre. Deidre then passes her time by answering and plastering their letters in The Sun newspaper so other people can read her response as they pass time waiting in reception to see Doctor. Check out Robert.

"Dear Deidre, I have always wanted to be a woman. I feel I was born in the wrong body and had hoped the feeling would go away, but it just gets stronger. I am 26 as is my girlfriend. We cohabit but she is talking about having kids and I feel it would be unfair to bring them into a relationship knowing I want a sex change. I don’t know what to tell her.”  

Robert really has the time to pass to be writing silly letters to Deidre and I can understand why she would respond to him and the rest who write in. She’s a granny and if grannies are left to pass time, they end up senile and perhaps that is why The Sun gives her two full pages a week.

That said, I really hope that kesho when I wake up I have something to do, for if I were to spend the day passing time, what would I do? Would I write to Deidre and tell her how I’m off to Mbarara to meet Munyankole Man so we squat by the roadside while tugging at our crotches as we count the Gagga buses speeding by?

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