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Wanna be taken to the cleaners? Try Kampala car washing bays – kanaabe!

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Author: Gawaya Tegulle. PHOTO/NMG

A few days ago, a lawyer friend of mine wondered why I had to drive some seven kilometres, all the way from Kampala’s Central Business District, to Ntinda, just to have my car washed. What makes my kanaabe (car wash boy) special, yet the bays in the city are bigger and better?

I explained that the kanaabe boys in the city are nice, courteous and kind. And extremely helpful; always ready to render assistance. They make you feel wanted and needed; and desired! They make you feel ever so important! Anybody who is being disrespected at home, work or church need not worry; just drive into a Kampala washing bay and you enter a whole new world of love and care!

The kanaabe boys spot you from a mile away. Did you hear that? A mile away! And immediately, they begin waving passionately and they flag you down. Does your boss – or your wife (sometimes it really comes to the same thing) – call you a fool or useless or good-for-nothing? These boys will pamper you to high heaven.

“Hey, chief, you are lost!” “Huh, boss, long time no see!” Doesn’t matter that it is your very first time to enter appearance around there. “Mr chairman, I am so happy to see you!”

“Nice to see you, manager!” The customer is king where a kanaabe is! He will scream at the guy behind him: “get out of the way, the mugagga (tycoon) needs to pass; are you blind? Hopeless!”

Their faces light up when they see you; they are beaming with happiness just seeing you – a far cry from wifey at home who sees you coming and immediately frowns and begins fussing about matters of great importance. You left the socks on the bed; you didn’t put the soap back in the soap dish and when you made the bed in the morning, her end of the bed wasn’t tucked in properly – and to make matters worse, you have returned home late. And why didn’t you answer her calls? The kanaabes will have none of that. They are happy to see you boss, chairman, chief, mugagga, etc.

They will usher you to a waiting area where you can enjoy a drink of your choice and a few pork or goat ribs. One of them will expertly park your car for washing, usually out of your line of sight.

Then three or four chaps will attack the car with practiced precision. One kanaabe will concentrate on the floor mats, taking them out for cleaning; as he ensures that any coins, or banknotes that fell down a few days ago do not inconvenience you again. Any loose bundles of money – even those as small as Shs50 or Shs100 million, will not be allowed to trouble you again. 

Meanwhile, one other will open the glove compartment to pick up any ‘useless’ items – a spare phone left lying there, a few banknotes which you had forgotten about and a perfume or whatever else.

Then the water guys will come and make a big show of spraying the car all over. Very impressive! Then one chap will move the car further away – as you sip away at your beer – and begin to work on the inside. 

One will wipe the dashboard ever so tenderly with a soft, wet piece of cloth; and within moments, it will be sparkling clean! 

Then the guy in the trunk will wipe it completely clean; first with a mop, expertly passed all over. Then he will help you create space in the car by picking up the wheel spanner and the jack. Then he will go to the front, to clean up the engine. He just might take out your new battery and help you with an older version. A really smooth operator will open the fuel tank and siphon out some fuel; not too much by the way – just a few litres, like 10 or so, depending on how much you got. 

As a busy man, you will only notice how sparkling the car is; you won’t be any the wiser about how nicely you’ve been taken to the cleaners. I am sure I do not need all that assistance, so I stick to just one washing bay.

Gawaya Tegulle is an advocate of the High Court of Uganda