Earlier that cold October morning when I sat in my home office and began writing a few paragraphs of ‘Green Decisions,’ a book that am writing, it occurred to me that based on the confidence that I had seen rippling through La Reine’s eyes as she drove, time was ripe for her to drive the entire 17 kilometers from Donholm to Karura Forest. Yap, she could.
Two hours later, we drove into Shell Outering Road to refuel. I beckoned a plump, kindly looking fuel attendant who usually fuels my car. ‘Explain to her about the basic car components in the bonnet,’ I told him as his colleague fueled The Growler (my Subaru Forrester). He did so with quiet aplomb, gently explaining about the engine oil, gear oil, power steering oil, coolant container and more.
After the impromptu lesson, we drove off. The Growler’s gigantic exhaust pipe emitted generous steam behind us. Exactly two minutes later, I stopped by the side of Manyanja road, told her that it was her turn to drive and matched out. That smile of hers, not the playful one but the bring-it-on confident one, lit up her face as she jumped out of the co-driver’s seat. Side mirror, check. Hand-break check. Safety-belt, check. At this early stage in her driving, she still has to run this checklist that comes as second nature to seasoned drivers.
“I have a surprise for you today,” I told her when she turned left from Kayole Spine road into Kangundo Road. This prompted the playful smile. It always comes with a twinkle.
“What is it?”
“If I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
One hundred meters later at the roundabout that merges into Outering Road, I told her to turn right, not left as would have been the case if we were going home.
Lets pause here briefly and talk about Outering Road. This road, together with Jogoo Road, are the arteries of Nairobi’s Eastlands. Outering Road snakes its way from ThikaSuperhighway to the vicinity of Mombasa Road. More than a decade ago, Outering Road would meet with Jogoo Road at the Donholm Roundabout, where Jogoo Road would arrive after a five-kilometer journey from City Stadium Roundabout. These days, these two roads don’t meet at all since Outering Road sprints beneath Jogoo Road in the Donholm overpass.
She will have to know about all these roads because a good driver must have a proper awareness of the roads that she drives on.
When we arrived at the finish line of Outering Road at the All Soaps area, I told her to turn left. Then I told her what my surprise was all about.
“You are going to drive all the way to Karura Forest!” I said with my smile number five. The one reserved for special people.
“That’s the surprise I was talking about.”
A Volvo SUV, earthen in color, powered past her with a low growl.
“Indicate left and slide into the left lane,” I told her.
“Why?!” She protested.
“Am training you to change lanes.”
“Why can’t I just stick to one lane?”
That’s La Reine for you. She doesn’t just do stuff but will want to know why she should do that stuff. Or why you can’t do it yourself. Or why that particular stuff and not some other stuff.
In one of the corners at Muthaiga Road, she gave me a fright when she took a sharp corner at a rather high speed. For a split second, I was sure that we would smash into a beautiful, rugged tree that was standing guard at that corner. My right hand shot out and gently pushed the steering wheel to the right.
“Slowly!” I shouted, “never take sharp corners at a fast speed!”
Two minutes later, my right hand shot out again. This time, it was to stop her from turning right into the driveway that leads into Karura Forest.
She had indicated right and started making a right turn when I saw a black Range Rover racing towards us. We let it pass, in the process avoiding what would have been a resounding bang.
“But I had indicated!” She shouted angrily, “why would he just race by yet I had indicated that I was turning right.”
“Always use the side mirrors to decide whether its safe for you to make a turn or not.”
By the time she drove into Karura Forest’s Gate A, both our hearts were thumping loudly.
I was proud of her. Despite those two incidents - the sharp corner and near-fatal turn - she had driven with confidence and professionalism for the entire 17 kilometers.
She is La Reine (The Queen), so am actually not surprised that confidence runs in her veins.
When you embrace confidence, it will always drive you to a better place.