As I write this, my heart is still racing. I just survived, yet again, being crushed by a train around Mukwano Road. Around 7PM, this evening, I was rushing for a meeting. I swear I was sober – unless the juice I took for lunch had, somehow, survived the acid in my tummy and fermented to produce alcohol. But I did not see the rickety thing coming my way. Suddenly, I saw lights coming from a distance. I knew I had to act fast. Traffic was slow and I was well set for a side direct hit from the monster. I had to ride the pavement to escape from the attack.
Ordinarily in this situation, I would be on my phone to reduce the stress jam brings, made worse by the ever escalating cost of fuel. I was a little more alert because of the recent accident, otherwise, I would have been the headline for tomorrow’s papers and tonight’s TV breaking news – or would I?
Anyhow, we might judge the lovers that died recently but this World War era monster in the shape of a train, has swept many over the years. Most are little known and go unannounced. I know we could say, all lives matter, but we know the truth, some clearly matter more than others to many, thanks to capitalism.
I remember many years ago, my bosses then at Red Pepper, escaped narrowly being crushed by a train at the Bweyogerere crossing. It’s then that I learnt that much as they don’t have sirens or police lead cars, trains have a right of way. Those monsters can’t be blamed for knocking you. Actually, if you got hit by a train, you are better off hiding your wreckage because you would be liable to compensate the train company.
I happen to spend some time around Katwe these days and I have seen that we have magicians there – literally. These artisans, many of whom have little to no formal education, provide functional solutions to everyday problems. In their raw ingenuity, I have seen these people fabricate things for literally anything. Someone shows up with a faulty engine of some archaic machine, guys take a good look and direct you to someone that can give you a fix. After a few days, your machine is up and running. Most mixers and cranes that contractors use on buildings are actually made in Katwe. Yes, they might get engines from China, belts from Malaysia, some parts from Japan but they use their hands and hand tools to come up with something that works amazingly well. And because they are the manufacturers of these machines, repair is very easy, which leaves one with durable products.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, we saw different machines they had come up with for various purposes. There were those that would pump and spray sanitiser, we had innovative ways of washing hands without touching the tanks or taps etc. They might not solve long mathematical equations or even find X in simple equations, but they are real scientists.
Back to the accident, I realised that using levels, there should be a possibility of an automatic gate opening and an alert system that probably uses pressure sensors or physical lever systems that these geniuses could fabricate to enable the gate preventing cars from crossing at the railway crossings, close when the train steps on the lever as it approaches road junctions. This can also turn on a switch for a string light to indicate to oncoming traffic that a train is crossing. Once the last coach passes, the same mechanism can turn off the light and open the gate. I have explained it to some artisans and they seem to think it works. I have learnt that new trains are capable of alerting motorists about their presence, but of course these are new, ours is a precolonial relic that probably can’t get spares.
There could be some technicalities but I am sure, those can be ironed out. Who does somebody approach to help in this situation?