I’m not in the habit of having rust sharpened Machetes balanced on my Adam’s Apple on hot Tuesday afternoons.
But I guess there’s a first time for everything.
So it was that my decapitation-attempt cherry was popped there: in a farm in Kitengela, by a dozen angry workers demanding their day’s wages and what sounded like a lynching. I couldn’t help but think that I should’ve been peeing myself – generously irrigating my thighs and socks, at that – as I watched this furious worker wield his Panga, crazy eyes fully opened, nostrils aflare. I clearly wasn’t very good at this ‘being scared’ thing. So instead of succumbing to the madness, I began to try and theorize the whole situation.
I realized I had no logical reason to be afraid of the Machete guy. He was screaming and arguing. Those that bark seldom bite. Those that growl, however, are liable to maul a limb or two. Maybe even gnaw and chew on a ball-sac just to inflict maximum distress. So my gaze shifted precariously to the gentleman whose grip was slowly firming around the pick axe. He looked like he had never smiled in his life – let alone unclenched his jaw. He probably ate through osmosis: he’d bash his head against the food and then absorb it once it was vanquished. And judging by the giant scar from his shoulder to his waist, he was in the habit of getting into scuffles like this. You know, the type where a casualty is a missing limb and a body count. I, on the other hand, wasn’t built for that. I like fist fights at bars with wannabe thugs and rugby games with amateurs. As soon as construction tools get involved, I’m out of my league. That’s when I join the coward’s league and see how best I can excel at that. So far I wasn’t doing so well so I continued concentrating on pant irrigation.
See, there had been a gross misunderstanding. These guys were contracted: they had been doing a very typical job; digging. There’s a going rate for digging per foot that is in the 30/= region for that area. This almost makes me want to quit what I’m doing and go dig for a living. Minus working with Frankenstein Pick-axe and the Machete Samurai on a daily basis, I could see why people got into digging: it seemed like it paid well. Shout out to the Miners in Chile, by the way.
As I digress, they had agreed to this rate with the contractor (who in turn had sent me). With everything a-go, the workers dug close to 1,000 feet. Very tedious, tiring work, so they had taken shifts, and to the best of my knowledge, close to 20 some odd people were splitting those feet. And each one of them was quite pissed off at me.
This would’ve been cool, were it not for the fact that I wasn’t cutting the check; and those that were were only going to pay a lump sum that basically totaled a little less than half that amount. Gross miscommunication, cue blame games, bottom line is, I was negotiating with people who were very determined to play blade-hockey with my jugular.
“Give us the money.”
“Dudes, this is all I was given.”
“Where is the rest?”
I squealed. He growled. Not a good sign. I suddenly became an expert coward. He sniffled.
“What’s that smell?” he asked.
“Poop. I think I shit myself.”
“Well, I was trying to piss myself and things went sideways when you growled. And by ‘things’ I mean ‘my bowels’.”
Ok, maybe that didn’t happen quite like that. But it might as well have. Anyway, after doing some quick math, I figured I could stack my own moneys on top of the owner’s money and bring their pay up to 25/=. That’s not horrible. Surely my life was worth more than 5/=….right? Right? Wait, let me check.
“OK, so let me give you guys 25.”
“Is my life worth 5bob?”
Fantastic. The city boy out in the country and sh*t out of lack with an empty bladder and some murderous disgruntled manual laborers who had already fantasized about spots they could dig my grave where I wouldn’t be found until Justin Bieber ran for Presidency in 2042. And it’s only Tuesday.
“You must not like life.” One random man said.
I think that was the first direct threat at my existence. And what a threat, as Jeff Koinange would say. Now, to be fair, I’m indifferent about life but this was probably not the time to have a heart to heart about existentialism with a guy who couldn’t spell ‘ex’. So I continued to play innocent fiddle and honestly told them that I was giving them EVERYTHING I had, short of stripping, and asked them to be reasonable.
How I got out of there alive is still a mystery to even me. What I got out of there is not. No, this isn’t one of those ‘cherish your life’ blogs. You should already know that as well as I do.
What I had never thought of prior to that moment was the importance of my oft-neglected chin. Should the man have swung that machete, there is a possibility that my chin would’ve fallen to the ground in a clean slice. This would not only mess up the goatee I’m trying to grow, but my tongue would also fall out of the bottom of my mouth and I’d probably have awful balance if I recovered from that. Imagine a guy slobbering out of the bottom of his head, rocking back and forth, weaving through town: that’d look pretty weird. So I give you this life lesson:
Do not take your chin for granted. Rub it till it purrs tonight.