The conductress

woman

Credit: Daily Monitor

I never realised how easy it is to assume things until I caught myself doing it sometime back. I got into a taxi to head back home, and the taxi got full and started to move without a conductor. I thought, well, this must be one of those awkward situations where the driver does the conductor’s work too and when getting out a passenger has to stretch their arm like “omujiini” to pass the money over to the driver himself. I accepted this sad situation and began to work on a way of easing life by getting out the exact money required so that the driver wouldn’t have to search for change. I was feeling quite happy with myself, what with being well-prepared, until my neighbour asked me to do her a favour by giving her my 1500 so that she’d pay for the two of us at once with her 10000 note in order to do the same thing I had wanted to do: to ease the change situation. I gave it to her and then from nowhere began to feel bad. I had done my part not to make the driver suffer and now it was reversed because of Madam Neighbour. Then I became angry: why doesn’t this ki taxi have a conductor anyway???
And then lo and behold, I see someone handing money to the woman seated where the conductor would normally sit. I see her give the person back his change. I see her pulling a bunch of notes out of one of those waist strap bags. I see her ask other passengers for money. My God. We have a conductor all along. A conductress.
I am, in this particular order, shocked, glad, confused, elated and then perturbed. How could my brain have so automatically refuted the possibility of her being the conductor? I mean, I had seen her sit there in the conductor’s place, and no other conductor had come in. How hadn’t it occured to me?
A thought became clear in my mind that had been swimming there for a while, blurry and formless: there’s a reason for stereotypes. There is a reason why it is a little difficult for my mind to wrap around the fact that this woman was the conductor. And why is this? Because not many women, actually barely any even do this job at all. So when one is shocked by it they don’t mean that a woman can’t be a conductor, they just mean it’s not common and they are not used to it.
The conductress has began to make sense to me in lots of things. There is a reason  why many non-Africans think Africa is only populated by hungry, begging, war-ravaged people and why many Africans think all white people are rich. There is a reason why some groups of people are seen as thieves and others as cheats. Not because everyone of them is. But because, many of them, too many, exhibit this very same behaviour, and because over time, this is the part of them they show most to others, despite not being entirely like that. There is a reason for stereotypes. I realised that nobody wakes up in the morning and creates a stereotype just because, but that it instead comes from something people notice over time and begin to get used to. Of course some stereotypes are exaggerated or over-used or plainly ridiculous. But most come from something at least close to reality in one way or another. I have realised now that much as societies and peoples and tribes and genders need to learn not to view each other through stereotypical lenses, it is also the responsibility of the group of people being stereotyped in a way they don’t like to change this stereotype, because others will never change how they see you until enough of you are different enough to break the mold. Some will say it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, but I don’t think it’s entirely true. Simple things like these affect so many aspects of life, even in ways we do not notice. They might affect if you get a certain job or not, if you get awarded a contract, if you are given the position of treasurer at your local church, or a million other things.
The conductress broke a stereotype for me. I never thought I’d see a woman do that. Frankly, I’m inspired. Not that I’m about to become a conductress any time soon, but I feel like I should open up to many more opportunities that I would have previously ignored because of the stereotypes I harbour about my own self.
A toast to you, Madam Conductress.

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