If any of you have visited Kenya, this post will not be so much of an eye opener to you. But for others, allow me to share my experience on the roads of Nairobi this past Tuesday (3 May).
That afternoon, I needed to fill a prescription. Unlike in the US, there are no standing orders for refills or even a computerized system to show a previous prescription that you’ve filled at any given pharmacy. With some medications, you also don’t know if what you need will be in stock at the time. So, instead of driving around to a few different chemists (i.e. drug stores), I just decided to fill the prescription at Nairobi Hospital. The up side to this – I know they’ll have the medication in stock, and the hospital is less than a mile from our home. The down side – it will probably be a bit of a wait due to the previously mentioned lack of records and large number of patients at the hospital.
I set off on my journey planning to be back in the hour. My first “road block” came when I went through the roundabout just before the hospital. In the US, there are traffic laws. In Kenya, there are traffic “suggestions.” Following what I knew to be accepted practice, I went around the roundabout on the left side in order to make it straight through to the hospital. Unfortunately, the car on the inside path (to my right) decided he wanted to take the outside as the inside lane was stopped – right into the side of my rear driver-side door door. I saw it coming, but there was nothing I could do about it.
After pulling to the side (basically on a small median – still in the intersection), I saw that the damage wasn’t too significant – a small dent that needed to be popped out and some paint. So, I went to meet the other driver who was pulled on the curb just past the roundabout.
There was a traffic cop just next to us direct the traffic coming in from a side road, but as is common practice, he kept to his business and left us to try and make arrangements between ourselves. Basically this involves agreeing on a figure for the one at fault to give the other party in agreement that there will be no police or insurance involvement nor any request for further funds. Most of the time this is done when the damage is small and would be less than your insurance deductible to cover. If it is larger or you want to submit to the insurance or you can’t figure who’s at fault, then you need to have the police write up an official police report. To do this, you have to get the policeman involved (usually paying him something small for his time), get the report, submit it at the nearest police station, get a copy of the report and submit it to your insurance. All of this takes time (usually the remainder of your day) and money. So most people opt for route #1.
As we talked it over, it was clear that we both felt the other was at fault. We could also tell that we both had other issues to deal with. If I would have had more time, I would have pushed him as I knew he was on his way to try and pay a bill (after overhearing his phone conversation) thus making it more likely that he would agree it was his fault and settle with me. In the interest of time (sometimes more important than money!), we decided to let each go their way and take care of the damage out of their own pocket.
With that behind me, I continued on to the hospital for the medication. It took about 30 minutes to get everything done – which I figured wasn’t too bad for a Tuesday afternoon. Again, I thought I could still make it home within the hour.
Unbeknownst to me there was a fuel shortage going on creating long lines of cars on almost every major thoroughfare (or at least everyone with a gas station!). The long lines along with frustrated drivers making up their own lanes and traffic laws caused my less than a mile commute to take an hour and a half…and I didn’t even make it all the way home. I was so frustrated by that time that I pulled into a gas station (which was obviously out of fuel at this point considering its lack of cars lined up) a block from our house and walk the rest of the way home. I figured Joe could go pick up the car later in the evening to bring it back.
So that was my trip to fill a prescription on the roads of Nairobi that lasted longer than it should have (like this lengthy blog post!). I look forward to seeing you all soon and rejoicing in the beauty of traffic laws again!