Nairobi and, by extension, Kenya, is a very ‘special’ place. Special in the sense of being different from the usual. We are never ordinary.
For instance, our highways have rumble strips, sleeping policemen and zebra crossings which, by the way, increase pollution, as traffic travels in a lower gear using significantly more fuel per mile. Also, speed bumps are really just a compromise for more active enforcement of traffic rules. At the same time, however, we have very few pavements for the convenience of pedestrians, for whom these speed interruptions have been installed.
Meanwhile, the speed limit shifts from 50 km/h to 110 km/h in a matter of five to 10 metres, and there are scarecrow speed cameras all over the place. I call them scarecrows because, while they seem to have worked by preventing speeding, I didn’t hear of a single person who has been prosecuted for speeding on the basis of the blinding flashing lights above the road, which mimic the action of a camera. If they worked, there’d be no boda bodas or matatus left on the roads, let alone private motorists, and the NTSA would be one the wealthiest organisations in the land.
Then we have an international airport, where drivers are deemed to be incapable of acts of vandalism, let alone terrorism. I say this because while passengers in private cars, taxis and tourist vans are made to get out and cross the security barrier at the airport’s main entrance on foot, the drivers of said motor vehicles are allowed to coast through the aforementioned barrier with little more than a cursory once-over by the otherwise bored security personnel.
I have tried to find out why this mass disembarkation is necessary at JKIA and at no other international airport I’ve ever travelled through, but to no avail.
One clever clog of my acquaintance said most of the world’s important airports, and especially those with direct flights to the US, have a scanning mechanism that checks out all vehicles for arms and ammunition at certain points that you have to drive through, and there is no requirement for passengers to leave their cars as they go through the scan.
I figured, therefore, that in Kenya or at least at JKIA, this ritual is one way to cut these self-important domestic and foreign travellers down to size. Just because you can hop on an aircraft and go somewhere else doesn’t make you special.
It’s like the points through the airport, excepting the boarding gates, but including the entry to the food court area of the airport and the entrance to the check in desks, where the security officers on duty gleefully make passengers take off belts and shoes, empty their pockets and remove watches while zapping our laptops, iPads, mobile phones etc., with x-rays.
I get that terrorist attacks and devious bomb plots involving semtex heels and so on caused all this paranoia that criminalised all people who choose to travel by air, but seriously guys, there’s got to be a smarter way of going about it. Perhaps our tech wizards can help.