of Hustling In The Kingdom Of Funny Money

Let me tell you a story, about how I got married and the lady who stole my heart money.

First, indulge me to introduce you to my country Zimbabwe, The Kingdom of Funny Money. Officially our currency is the Zimbabwean Dollar and if you will believe the news, the Minister of Finance and the Governor of The Reserve Bank the currency is stabilising having gained a few points to the United States Dollar on the Forex Exchange Auction and a massive crackdown on mobile money operators seems to have curtailed the black market rate from its meteoritic orbit.

Unofficially, we have re-adopted the United States Dollar as an alternate pseudo-currency and benchmark index. Prices are usually quoted in USD and then converted to the Zim Dollar or RTGS Value Or Bond Note Price using the Forex Currency Auction Inter-Bank Rate though some tend to use their own funny rates which will end up with 3 different prices depending on the mode of payment.

Zimbabwe is on lockdown, but money-changers are still busy | Zimbabwe News  | Al Jazeera

One will find its easier and cheaper to trade directly with United States Dollars if you can find them, but what you won’t anticipate is how extremely difficult it is to get change. Trying to get change for USD $10 probably ranks as one the trickiest things as the $1 dollar note has gotten ever elusive.

Ok who is hiding all the $1 bills?

You will never believe it but there’s dealers who “sell” change… If you give them a $10 they give you a 5 dollar bill and four 1s, if you want the change in all singles then you have to add an extra $1.. don’t hate the dealer hate the deal…

The only time I ever saw heard such a rip off was at a strip nite club where they charged you a premium commission for breaking your notes into singles… Where else do you think people get the $1 dollar bills people use to make it rain on the dancers… I wouldn’t know… just like I would not know that 10 $1 lap dances make more cents than one $10 dance….

Anyway, I was telling you the story about how I got husteld hitched, and no I didn’t meet her in a club, before you start jumping into muddy puddle conclusion. I can imagine the gears in your head turning scandalously…

Once upon a time, I was in this public taxi, these are commuter minivans known as Combies or Kombis or Makombi and currently are banned from operation as part of COVID Lockdown Restrictions leaving only ZUPCO buses and those under the state owned ZUPCO franchise…

Random picture of me in a combi

So, there I was in a combi and this lady came and sat next to me.

I am not one to strike up conversation with random strangers but I had looked at her briefly as she sat, and tried to convey that I was non-threatening, as I nodded slightly in greeting then went back to looking out the window. I hadn’t wanted to get into that particular combi but the touts known as mahwindi are aggressively persuasive. I once was bundled into a combi that wasn’t even going where I was going.

The touts have a code of their own and as soon as you make eye contact with them, its like signing a contract, you have no choice which combi you shall be ushered into; if you are not careful and go against them, you might get pickpocketed in the ensuing fray.

I had walked up and asked one of the touts which combi was going to Mbare and he had pointed me in the direction of one shouting  “One asara, yenyu iyo rasta… bho music, hooo driver mirira rasta!!” implying that it needed only one more passenger to go and the driver was jamming reggae music so he would love a rastaman aboard.

It had tinted windows and I was dismayed to find when I entered it that I was only one of a few passengers inside which meant we would be parked there for a long time as they tried to hustle other people to board with the trademark shout of misrepresenting the number of people left to potential passengers “One Asara!!!” one more left.

The lady next to me had fallen for the gimmick, she sat and we waited. At least, they hadn’t lied about the music, I was shaking my head along to Bob Marley‘s Jamming.

“If Bob Marley music starts come out of you printer, know this, the paper is jamming…”

I laughed out loud at the random joke in my head as I thought …If you hear Bob Marley playing from a combi know that, you jamming too.

The lady eyed me suspiciously, I guess trying to assess if I was that high or stoned obnoxious passenger no one wants to sit next to. I tried to smile benignly as I mentioned that I loved the song.

She said she loved Bob Marley too, her brothers had dreadlocks, smoked weed and listened to Bob Marley all day, she had acquired a taste for it; the music not the weed. I laughed, she was funny. She told me my hair was nicer than her brother’s hair and if I ever wanted to my locks retouched, she was a freelance hairdresser.

Welcome to Zimbabwe where everyone always has a side hustle to help put food on the table.

It was difficult to really talk, the radio was annoyingly loud, but Bob Marley is best listened to it at high volume anyway. A fellow passenger had asked for the volume to be reduced because they wanted to receive a phone call and the driver had bluntly informed them that this wasn’t a phoneshop, if they wanted to turn down the volume they could do that on the radio they left in their house.

Conversation was the usual, the rising cost of things, the cash shortage, the food shortage, disease outbreak, crumbling education standards and the things we did to survive. Crazy thing is this incident was possibly about 10 years ago and could have been yesterday.

People had just unilaterally decided to stop using the Zim Dollar which reached crazy denomination with trillion-dollar bills in circulation.

Ten Trillion Dollars

Combis cost 50cents(USD)  which was rated as a 5rand coin (South African currency) but getting that change was difficult and usually, the conductor would just bundle you together that; you two are now married find your own change. You usually ended up having to buy something like juice or biscuits to get change, vendors always had change but would never just give it to you, its business don’t hate the player..

The lady had asked me if my fare was changed since she had $5, the conductor had charged her $1 including an extra 50cents because she had luggage. I had a $2 note, which I passed her and she paid for the two of us with her five. Combi fare math is difficult but the bottom line was that the conductor had given her both our change and I would have to collect my $1.50 change from her after we disembarked.

 “Rasta Machata ne Simbi” he said meaning rasta you now married to this hot chick.

“Not to worry” she assured me that she lived at some flats nearby and had change at home.

Being the gentleman I helped her carry her luggage home, which was in a rather derelict hostel complex. The hallway was unlit and entering the complex was like day turning into night. I waited in the foyer as she dashed to her room which was just a few doors down.

Time ticked ever so slowly as I waited and a sneaky suspicion wormed its way into my head that I was never going to see her or my change again. I didnt even know her name. Welcome to Mbare

I walked haltingly down the hallway to see if I could.., I don’t know, maybe find her room which she had vaguely pointed at. The first doorway I passed had an ill-fitting curtain barely concealing the room, light spilling out into the corridor revealing a scantily clad lady who gestured suggestively at me, I walked on a bit faster.

I took a couple of more steps and peered down the length of the passage, everything looked ghostly in the dark gloom. A few yards from me, a red glow flared up briefly illuminating a couple of guys smoking a joint. I could sense I was a few seconds away from being mugged; faking a bravado I did not have I casually sauntered towards them.

Ndeipi maface, pane simbi yandiri kutsvakaa” What’s up guys there’s a lady I am looking for I had asked.

Simbi hamupedzi mari yenyu chete” Which meant that there were lots of ladies all that mattered was my money…

I asked for a smoke and took a long drag hoping I would not choke, as my eyes watered, thankful that in the dark no one could see me grimace.. I exhaled slowly passed back the joint and said I would be back but first I had to go tell someone outside that I needed about an hour here but they shouldn’t wait for me. One of them chimed in that rastas always needed more time than a quickie, I laughed and everyone laughed…

I walked back the way I had come heading back outside to day, light, fresh air and sanity

I never saw her again.

~B

22 Comments

      1. people talk of how life was better in the colonial era, i wouldnt know I am a born free post colonial child all I know is this and its been always going downhill
        ~B

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We can’t have it both ways; what we need to do as Africans is to man up, put people’s needs first, and bloody take responsibility for our continent. Gosh dang it! Endless corruption has made us a laughing stock on the world stage, come on!!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The part about you being dismayed to find that you where only one of a’ few passengers inside which meant we would be parked there for a long time’, made me chuckle to myself I remember first time it happened to me I had paid thinking I would be in Harare by noon Didnt happen everyone started disembarking soon as I paid. I was later told these place holders are called’zvitsiga or matombo’ Ahhh! my home country is on another level.
    ………..thanks for another brilliant read!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahahahaha that scam of “matombo” is super annoying… People get paid to literally beseat-fillers preteneding to be passengers only to start casually dropping off an that thing about forcing you to pay as soon as you get in so that now you cant leave… if you insist on paying when it starts moving it might even do that only to go park at a fuel station and say they need fuel and then force you to pay up so they can buy fuel hahahaha…..
      While you parked there you start thinking of the horror stories of those who wont take you where you are going but will end up robbing you or worse…

      ~B

      Like

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