Because we let them

I am on a bus on my way home from Johannesburg to Harare. It’s a reputable bus company so I am relaxed. The TV screens at the back of the bus don’t work and the volume of the ridiculous movie they are playing is too loud. Its been like 3 hours and people are trying to sleep, its late about 10pm. How do I deal with this small problem? I pull out my South African Airways eye cover and try sleep with the noise and flashing blue and black screen that hasn’t produced a single image the whole time I have been on the bus (yet it was still on). I got fed up and decided to go to the front of the bus to ask the drivers to put the volume down. I straddled my way through the aisle of the bus and reach the front and I knock on the drivers cabin. I was taken aback when the crew all ignored me and treated me like I was overreacting. The driver over the bus glanced over at me through the cabin window and raised one hand to me as if to say: ‘’And then?, what’s the problem?’’ which I interpreted as him thinking that I was overreacting and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything further. Other than that nobody seemed to pay any attention to me. I was frustrated and found myself in a hard place, having stood up to try say something, but not having enough clout to actually say what needed to be said. I was embarrassed for some confusing reason, as though I was being a fool for trying to speak up. So I turned back and just accepted the situation and made my way back to my seat. On my way I was passing a man complaining to his wife that the drivers in the cabin were just sitting there and ignoring him, not saying anything. He too had resigned to his seat. You see, its not an easy thing to speak up and say to a perceived authority figure, or almost anybody for that matter, that something is wrong. Especially coming from a place where speaking up to authority figures puts you out of favor with them, may even get you in worse trouble than the one that led you to say anything. It’s a real thing. And so perhaps you may choose to say nothing and find your own way around the problem and consider yourself a problem solver. Or you may complain to your peers in the hope that a champion may arise among you, who will put his neck on the line for the group…coz you know that just ain’t you. So the guy in the seat with his wife who had tried and failed, asked me to be his champion, and so I turned back to the cabin, feeling like the very lives of the people sitting in this bus rested on my speaking up. I got there this time and knocked harder on the cabin door, peeked my head inside and made my request again. But my tone was apologetic almost as though I had come in with a begging bowl. Yet here I was, a paying customer, struggling to make my point. If it were not for the girl who came next me and actually stepped into the cabin and spoke to them, perhaps their lame excuse of ‘’Well we can’t turn off the TV if the bus is still moving’’ would have stood. A few seconds later the whole bus was quiet and dark- they had turned them off. Victory. Didn’t feel like it though..felt like they had ‘’done me a favor’’, like I had begged to be treated with the dignity a paying customer deserves; disappointed with myself that I had endured 3 hours of nonsense before speaking up. And therein lies the question- what will it take for you speak up? An emergency? When it’s really bad? When it’s not so uncomfortable, so taxing on you limited resources of courage? I can see why it’s possible for dysfunctional systems to prosper; why sub-standard, barely functional, non-people centered, red tape-ridden systems remain in place. Because we let them.

One thought on “Because we let them

  1. Thank you for standing up for us Mufudzi!, I don’t know why but i let them cause i thought i did not have a right to say or do anything, yet it is simply the opposite of that…i paid!, Therefore i had all the authority, all the right to see my desires met.

    Thanks again, Powerful account!

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